The San Francisco 49ers look to have a dominant draft in 2013.
Following the March 12 trading of quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, the 49ers boasted 15 total draft picks, one of which was then traded to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for wide receiver Anquan Boldin. San Francisco then solved its backup quarterback dilemma by trading a fifth- and seventh-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for Colt McCoy and a sixth-round pick.
That leaves San Francisco with 13 picks going into the 2013 NFL draft.
The 49ers are talented enough not to need all 13 picks. There are simply not enough holes to fill or upgrades needed to warrant a deep San Francisco draft class.
Instead, there is plenty of speculation that the 49ers will trade some of their picks to move up in the draft as they see fit. With all of those picks, San Francisco is in perfect position to "shake things up" like never before.
The 49ers must address some needs in the draft. The loss of safety Dashon Goldson, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and tight end Delanie Walker are considerable. San Francisco may also be looking to broaden the depth at the wide receiver position, considering how injuries took a toll last year. They also may be looking for upgrades at cornerback.
CBS Sports' Rob Rang has the 49ers selecting LSU free safety Eric Reid with their first-round pick while Dane Brugler has them drafting Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams (cbssports.com). Both would address immediate needs in San Francisco. The 49ers also currently have two picks to use in the second round, perhaps to address needs at the wide receiver, tight end or cornerback positions.
While the first and second rounds of the draft create plenty of buzz and attention, the later rounds could also present proverbial "diamonds in the rough" for San Francisco. The 49ers would obviously love to be able to use their plethora of late-round picks to trade up higher in the draft, yet they still may be compelled to use their picks as slated, examining and drafting talent to suit their needs and depth.
Here are five potential late-round prospects San Francisco may be targeting on draft day.
Quarterback Jordan Rodgers could compete for the 49ers' depth chart.
Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt
Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 212 lbs.
Even after San Francisco traded for Colt McCoy, it is still plausible to assume they would look at a potential quarterback to at least compete with McCoy and current backup quarterback Scott Tolzien.
Jordan Rodgers could be that guy.
For starters, being the younger brother of former MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers cannot hurt. He must have been able to pick his older brother's brain for all his football knowledge. While he is not as touted as Aaron, Jordan still possesses a lot of skills and potential worthy of closer examination.
In his senior year at Vanderbilt, Rodgers passed for 2,539 yards and 15 touchdowns (sports-reference.com). He is also a threat to run, amassing 420 yards his junior year.
While he settled into more of a pocket passer his senior year, Rodgers was still able to maintain his effectiveness. Playing against the tough competition in the SEC, Rodgers took the challenge and blossomed in 2012.
CBS Sports' Rob Rang had this to say about Rodgers:
Short, but otherwise possesses a reasonably stout and athletic build for the quarterback position. Boasts the same quick-strike release that has helped his brother compensate for his lack of elite size. Rifles in-breaking routes, showing the confidence to throw receivers open against tight press coverage. Consistently hits his receivers in stride, giving them opportunities to make yardage after the catch. Buys time in the pocket, showing some slippery moves to escape and keeps his eyes downfield. Sets up pass rushers, showing the ability to pump-fake and get defenders off their feet to run around them or help his receiver break open. Plays with a chip on his shoulder and isn't intimidated by the size/speed of SEC competition. (via cbssports.com)
Rodgers will most likely be selected in the seventh round. While the 49ers do not have a glaring need to add to their quarterback depth, it would not be a surprise to see San Francisco take a look at the younger Rodgers (ninersnation.com).
If anything, head coach Jim Harbaugh is known for developing young quarterbacks. Rodgers could be another case example. At worst, he at least would provide some competition for Tolzien and McCoy on the 49ers' depth chart.
Offensive tackle Ricky Wagner would provide depth to the 49ers' offensive line.
Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin
Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 308 lbs.
The 49ers have very few concerns with their offensive line. Aside from aging center Jonathan Goodwin, San Francisco's offensive line is young and intact. Boasting stars like Alex Boone and Joe Staley, the 49ers are in good shape moving forward.
Yet San Francisco could afford to add some depth to its offensive line. Behind Staley and Anthony Davis, the 49ers do not have a lot of depth at the offensive tackle position. Given how much they utilize the run, it would be crucial to have a decent insurance policy if one or both of the tackles were injured (rantsports.com).
Enter Ricky Wagner.
Projected to be drafted in the fifth or sixth round, Wagner probably does not have the abilities to become a top-tier offensive lineman. Yet he does have good versatility, playing at both left and right tackle. He is also good at both pass- and run-blocking which is also a bonus. His size and skill sets, combined with his versatility make him an ideal choice for a late-round pick (cbssports.com).
Wagner is not known for being an elite athlete. His reputation is also clouded by an alcohol-related incident that occurred during his senior year of high school. Yet Wagner used the incident to his benefit, playing with drive and determination to compensate for his reputation and apparent lack of athleticism.
Wisconsin's offensive line coach Bob Bostad praised Wagner's efforts by stating:
I think at a position like offensive line, there’s not a lot of glory in it. It’s hard work, it’s physical, it can be painful. The way he has taken it on, obviously, he’s got some internal drive to want to play here, to play football and be a good player. (via host.madison.com)
That drive is something Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers' coaching staff would like to employ. Wagner will probably not be a Pro Bowl lineman, but he would at least fill a need backing up one of the most potent lines in the NFL.
Kick returner Ace Sanders could return punts for the 49ers.
Ace Sanders, South Carolina
Height: 5' 7"
Weight: 173 lbs.
When Ted Ginn Jr. signed with the Carolina Panthers during free agency, the 49ers found themselves in need of a kick returner. True, San Francisco will likely employ the kick-returning services of Marlon Moore, running back LaMichael James or wide receiver Kyle Williams, but they may want to look towards the draft to find someone to fill the void.
As starting running back Frank Gore ages, James will likely be more involved with San Francisco's offensive game plan. In addition, Williams may not return 100 percent from last year's knee injury. That opens up the need for a kick returner on special teams.
Ace Sanders would fill that void nicely.
At 5'7", Sanders is not exactly the biggest option. Yet his skill sets are much more than just those of a receiver.
In 2012, Sanders totaled 429 return yards and two touchdowns, averaging 15.3 yards a return (sports-reference.com). Those numbers would assist an area of the 49ers needing improvement.
San Francisco could use a kick returner considering the lack of production at the position last year. Sanders would fit into that role and make the return game that much more potent. If he is able to contribute on the offensive side of the ball, Sanders would only be that much more beneficial.
Sanders is dangerous with the ball and displays the patience and breakout speed that kick returners need in the NFL. The only significant shortcoming to his game is his lack of size (cbssports.com).
Slated to be drafted in either the fifth or sixth round, San Francisco would be wise to use one of its numerous draft picks to obtain the services of one of the most dynamic and exciting return men in the game.
David Bass, Missouri Western State
Height: 6' 4"
Weight: 262 lbs.
While the 49ers have been rumored to have interest in Jesse Williams, they may also be looking at later rounds in the draft to address the need at the defensive end position.
There is no doubt that San Francisco needs to evaluate its future at defensive end. Incumbent Justin Smith is in the final year of a six-year, $45 million contract and will turn 34 next season. The 49ers saw what their defense was like, both before and after, his Week 15 injury against the New England Patriots.
It is safe to assume San Francisco will be forward-looking regarding the need for a pass-rusher and an anchor on the defensive line. While the 49ers may elect to use an early-round pick to address the need, they may also evaluate other options deeper within the draft.
Coming out of a Division II school, Bass excelled at the outside linebacker position. Over a 50-game collegiate career, Bass totaled 56 tackles for loss and 39.5 sacks (cbssports.com). One of his best accolades was his ability to defend against the pass, a skill set that San Francisco is looking to find in the upcoming post-Smith era.
Bass is also known for having a tremendous locker-room presence and a work ethic that will assist him in the transition from linebacker to defensive end.
There are concerns that Bass has not played against the toughest competition in college and the transition to the NFL may be more than he can handle. Yet Bass feels that he has what it takes to take his game to the next level.
Bass has tried to model his game after another 49er standout, Aldon Smith.
Bass stated about his comparison to Aldon:
He came in about the same size as I was, and was very productive. I see myself as having a lot of the same skill set as he has. (via stltoday.com)
Bass has watched Aldon’s combine workout on tape, and also his Mizzou games. He tries to catch the 49ers on TV whenever possible (stltoday.com).
Yet Aldon was a first-round draft pick and Bass is predicted to go in the fifth or sixth round. However, if Bass can live up to his own hopes and some of the scouting reports that have been generated, San Francisco may indeed find a tremendous pass-rusher who can make the departure of Justin Smith not as painful as it may appear.
The 49ers may take a late-round flier on wide receiver Chris Harper.
Chris Harper, Kansas State
Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 229 lbs.
There remain a number of legitimate questions surrounding the 49ers' receiving corps.
Michael Crabtree emerged as the favorite receiver last season and the recent addition of Anquan Boldin will help San Francisco's passing game. Both Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are also expected to return from injury and contribute. Last year's first-round draftee A.J. Jenkins also hopes to play a much bigger role in 2013.
Yet the future for 49ers receivers is still uncertain.
San Francisco will be looking to extend the contract for Crabtree after the 2014 season. Boldin however, is only signed through 2013 and may become a free agent after the year is over. At 32 years of age, it is uncertain how he fits into the 49ers' long-term plans. In addition, both Manningham and Williams' contracts expire at the end of 2013. Jenkins remains a work in progress, but it is safe to assume San Francisco is examining future options at the position.
One option worth consideration is Kansas State wide receiver Chris Harper.
At 6'1" and 229 pounds, Harper is a physical beast. His collegiate career began in Oregon where he initially played at quarterback and then switched to wide receiver. After a year with the Ducks, Harper transferred to Kansas State and played out the remaining three years of his college career.
At Kansas State, Harper totaled 122 receptions for 1,725 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns (sports-reference.com).
CBS Sports analyst Dane Brugler highlights Harper's abilities by saying:
Harper is a coordinated athlete with above average body control and focus, tracking the ball beautifully and snatching it out of the air with his reliable hands. Harper isn't overly explosive and is more of a one-speed player, but has been improving each game as a route runner and is an effective perimeter blocker with a strong core for the position. While not a track star, Harper has good-enough football speed and is one of the more underrated receivers for the 2013 class. (via cbssports.com)
Harper is slated to go in the fourth or fifth round of the draft and would be a nice addition to the 49ers. San Francisco saw how a diminished receiving corps affected them last season and drafting Harper would not only give them depth, but provide a long-term insurance policy in case the 49ers were unable to retain Boldin, Manningham and/or Williams.
David Fucillo of Niners Nation feels Harper would be an excellent addition. After Harper's combine workout, Fucillo considered Harper a "sleeper" pick, similar in many ways to Crabtree when he came out of college (ninersnation.com).
What may be more intriguing for the 49ers is Harper's size.
Following the loss of Delanie Walker via free agency, San Francisco needs to fill a substantial void left by the "Swiss Army Knife" in the 49ers' offense (ninersnation.com). While not a traditional tight end, Harper may be called upon to take on some of the work in Walker's absence.
Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat feels he can. Cohn wants the 49ers to draft Harper with their fourth-round pick (No. 131 overall) and states:
Harper will be the 49ers’ H-back of the future. He’s fast like Delanie Walker, but Harper has much better hands. Once Harper gains 10 pounds, he can line up next to Colin Kaepernick and Bruce Miller in the 49ers’ Diamond Formation. Harper also can play slot or outside receiver, and he has experience playing quarterback. He could be the 49ers next “Swiss Army Knife. (pressdemocrat.com)
Indeed, the versatility that Harper has shown would be a tremendous benefit to the 49ers' offense. At worst, he would provide some competition for Jenkins on San Francisco's depth chart. At best, he can fill a void left by Walker's departure.
In any case, the 49ers would be interested in drafting the young wide receiver and make him an integral part of their future plans.