Early on in the free-agent market, the San Francisco 49ers were quiet, as they endured uncontested departures by several key players.
But inevitably, once the market started to cool, the reigning NFC Champions pounced and have been progressively working the offseason ever since.
The Niners front office, led by Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke, orchestrated two trades and facilitated four unrestricted free agent signings.
All in all, San Francisco acquired a backup quarterback, strengthened the receiving corps, added to the defensive line, tweaked the secondary and upgraded the special teams. While most of these moves were unglamorous, they were necessary to fill out the roster.
Although, there is a silver lining.
With six Pro Bowls between them, the striking transactions involve the trade for Anquan Boldin and the signing of Nnamdi Asomugha (h/t NFL.com). The additions of Glenn Dorsey and Phil Dawson might also yield positive results.
Now all of a sudden, the 49ers’ depth at cornerback and wide receiver appears supreme, and yet they are still adding components. As they head into late April, San Francisco will have less and less to concern themselves with on draft day.
With a surplus of draft choices, Baalke and Co. can navigate the board at will, truly hand-picking their players of the future.
In the following slides, we’ll project San Francisco’s 2013 draft selections for all seven rounds.
At 6’4”, 283 pounds, Datone Jones is an appealing defensive prospect to combat the rapid proliferation of this passing league. The answer is almost always to form a potent pass rush.
Late in the 2012 season—with injuries to Justin Smith and Aldon Smith—San Francisco was exposed in that regard (via Pro Football Talk), and it cost them dearly down the stretch.
During his time with the Bruins, Jones made a name for himself as a penetrating lineman, constantly grinding to cut the play off at the head.
And with his intriguing build and position history, Jones brings immense versatility to a team, able to play interior line, end or even stand up.
Although he missed time with injury, Jones accrued 36.5 TFL in his last three seasons, which included 12.5 sacks. His game only ascended over time, as he saw career-highs across the board in final campaign as a senior (via Sports Reference).
At the next level, organizations around the league will be banking on his presence against the pass.
49ers question. Look for them to fortify DL. They can add youth to line now. Lots of DL available. Datone Jones/UCLA fits 34, as example.
— Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) April 2, 2013
Jones displays a natural ability to locate gaps, and possesses an array of pass-rush moves that he uses to exhaust offensive linemen. With his particular skill set, Jones has an abundance of value on the line because—no matter the situation—he can be relied on to win his one-on-ones.
In the NCAA, Jones shifted around quite a bit, having played the 5-technique, as well as lining up over the nose. In that respect, the in-state product was tailor-made for the 49ers.
Former starting 3-4 NT Isaac Sopoaga played only 34 percent of the snaps in 2012, via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area. San Francisco’s personnel needs to evolve with the schemes opposing offenses demand they play—particularly the nickel.
Jones could excel in the nickel—of which the 49ers see the majority of their snaps—but also play a role in the team’s base defense. He has the versatility to sub in for either Justin Smith or Ray McDonald, and can spell both OLBs.
This is also a player that’s game is characterized by his disruptive tendencies, which is what San Francisco needs. But even more so, he has the motor to go with it, as Jones can be frequently seen chasing the play down.
And when you turn on the film, you immediately see that Datone Jones is a no-nonsense player. The first thing onlookers may notice is how effective he is with his hands, rarely allowing himself to get tied up.
Coupled with his upper-body work, Jones also shows great burst off the line, which allows him to get behind the offensive line with some frequency. The 49ers should covet him on day one because he is a guy that can bust up the play in the backfield.
And while he is the definition of a tweener, Jones has the frame to add weight.
The great thing about Datone Jones is that not only can he put his hand in the grass, but he can also stand up and rush. In year one, his unique ability as a hybrid will add a dimension to an already daunting front seven.
This way, they can resolve needs without the board being subjected to too much activity in between.
After going D-line in Round 1, the 49ers select safety Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International. In his time with the team, this Golden Panther became the school’s all-time leading tackler, per FIU Sports.
In four seasons, Cyprien put together a solid resume; amassing 365 tackles, six interceptions and 28 pass deflections (h/t Sports Reference).
Finished studying 3 games on Jonathan Cyprien (safety-FIU)…Rock solid, well-rounded, day one starter. Fluid, athletic, tough, ball skills
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 17, 2013
His production was steady—as was his enthusiasm for the sport—and after undergoing much scrutiny, he now projects as one of the best all-around safeties available in the 2013 draft.
The two things the gurus love about Cyprien are: (1) He is a multifaceted defensive back and (2) He is a gamer. This is a player that does a lot of things well and seems to turn it up when the moment is big.
Cyprien has consistently played well against so-called "top" competition over his career, enjoying standout performances in past years against the likes of Texas A&M, Rutgers, Maryland and Louisville, among others.
And amongst elite competition, Cyprien emerged as one of the standouts at the Senior Bowl, earning DB honors that week in Mobile.
As a whole, Cyprien thoroughly enjoys the physical aspect of the position, but also possesses respectable ball skills. And in today’s league, teams are always on the lookout for dual-threat safeties that can run and cover, as well as drop tone-setting hits.
While Cyprien is not ultra-rangy, in a Cover 2, he can be extremely effective patrolling his part of the field. He is patient, cerebral and can bait a quarterback before breaking on the ball with his deceptive closing speed.
As a rookie, the FIU product can fill in as the full-time replacement for Dashon Goldson.
After four years of college ball, he is now NFL-ready, and can be a very effective safety early on in his career. And being the physical tackler that he is, Cyprien will not be a liability against the run.
On a fairly consistent basis, Cyprien will come downhill and stop the play at the line of scrimmage. He excels at charging up in the flat and locking down that side of the field altogether.
And with his physical prowess for the game, it is clear to see Cyprien takes pride when playing up in the box. He can adeptly blitz off the edge and be generally effective in short-yardage situations.
Plus, he has the athleticism to cover up the tight end or slot receiver and play straight man-to-man. This kind of ability also allows him to run with the speedsters and bruisers coming out of the backfield.
As one can witness from his inflated stats, Cyprien is one of those players that is always around the football. San Francisco should be comfortable leaning on him as a rookie because he tackles well and he’s a proficient coverage safety.
While his career at LSU was short-lived, it was electric, to say the least.
As a projected early-to-mid round selection, this former Heisman finalist has star potential at the next level, providing great value for whichever team decides to take a chance on him.
In his first NFL season, teams will be expecting Tyrann Mathieu to be an all-around X-factor and a weapon for their defense. He was a multidimensional player for the Tigers, becoming one of the most notorious playmakers in all of college football.
He immediately upgrades the S/T unit, both as a gunner and a returner. According to the scouts, Mathieu projects as a first-rate special teams player and nickel corner, which settles two needs for San Francisco.
The media and pundits have become infatuated with his story, as well as his naturally scrappy, high-energy style of play. On game day, Mathieu was never too far from the action.
He is ultra-athletic, and can shadow even the most agile slot receivers step for step. Aside from being incredibly instinctive, Mathieu has very fluid hip motion, which helps him stick with the play fairly consistently.
He possesses these preternatural read-and-react skills, having made a name for himself as a highly instinctive player that skillfully attacks the football. With his short stature, radically aggressive tendencies and raw playmaking ability, the ‘Honey Badger’ persona was born.
One of the knocks against him is that he is a risk taker by nature, but in hindsight, so was Barry Sanders.
And very similar to the likes of Asante Samuel or Ed Reed, the Honey Badger is a route-jumper. He yearns to take the football away, which is why there won’t be much hesitation on his part if he thinks he has a clear break on the ball.
And though he is undersized, Mathieu has the adequate leaping ability and timing to stretch out for the football. At the combine, scouts also discovered that he is awfully fast, bringing straight-line speed as well as short-area quickness.
Despite checking in at 5’9”, 186 pounds, Mathieu plays much bigger than his size, bringing a lot of thunder at the point of contact.
Again, he is scrappy—Mathieu can be seen upending receivers and backs, as well as chipping players at the line and disrupting the timing between quarterback and receiver. He does some of his best work within those first five yards, jamming WRs and being active with his hands.
Overall, his game is grounded on a constant pursuit to the ball.
Mathieu will be an active participant in run support, and has the speed and fire to chase down breakaway runs if need be. With his superb agility and unparalleled instincts, San Francisco lands a whale with their third draft selection.
By drafting Tyrann Mathieu, the 49ers fill multiple needs while adding yet another primetime performer.
Why Tyrann Mathieu is ptntl fit in SF: Good v. slot WR (bugaboo for 49ers), returns punts, 49ers have good mentors (Rogers, Brown, Whitner).
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) March 29, 2013
Considering the void left by Delanie Walker (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle), the 49ers need a capable No. 2 behind Vernon Davis in their tight end-friendly offense.
Walker was very engaged in their offense, operating as a blocker within a high-volume rushing attack, while also providing a receiving threat. Given his vast job criteria, the Niners will require a suitable, multifaceted tight end to fill in.
Since the 49ers expect functionality from their TEs, Gavin Escobar is a fit in that he would offer a hybrid weapon that can do a lot within their system.
At 6’6”, 254 pounds, this former Aztec is a multilayered receiver, able to line up at TE, slot or flanker. He was also often utilized in motion, taking on creative blocking assignments in the run game.
With his frame, Escobar can feasibly add 15 lbs. of muscle and start dominating as an every-down player in the pros. In the Aztec’s ground-and-pound, the TE revealed himself to be a selfless, team-first guy.
Escobar was often pulling attention away from the play or sacrificing his body to create lanes for the running back.
He attacks the unglamorous aspect of the position with enthusiasm, and if he gets broader, Escobar can really knock guys off the football. With some hard coaching and weight training, he could emerge as one of the best blocking TEs in the 2013 draft.
However, it is his upside as a receiver that makes him a particularly intriguing option for Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers.
Escobar is a big, strong athlete with the agility and short-area quickness to create space, giving his quarterback a clean target. He is also lengthy, looking the part of the Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski prototype.
During his time in the NCAA, Escobar ran all the routes, was clean in and out of his breaks and showed he can get vertical. He was often commended for his sure-handedness, coupled with his above average coordination.
He was also effective without the ball in his hands, selling his route-fakes and controlling the catch zone with his size.
In addition to that, he possesses the height, leaping ability and hands to go up over the defender and secure the catch. Escobar will bring great range as a receiver, proving to be an asset when it comes to situational football (red zone/third down).
With his well-rounded physical ability, he would not only replace Delanie Walker as a rookie, but he would be an upgrade—perhaps even a successor to Vernon Davis one day.
Gavin Escobar/TE/San Diego St; dinner w/San Francisco 49ers last night & lunch w/Tampa Bay Bucs today-most feel he cemented himself as a 2nd— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 20, 2013
A bit underrated, this 6’1”, 335-pound stocky defensive lineman has a moderately high ceiling for a mid-rounder.
As a Division II player, Brandon Williams was recognized as a three-time first-team All-American with the Lions, all but shedding the “small school” questions as we head into the 2013 draft.
And to emphasize his point, Williams competed at a high level with the best talent in the nation at the Senior Bowl, showing that he belonged (h/t CBS Sports).
After watching the tape, star of the day was Missouri Southern DT Brandon Williams. Destroyed OG Brian Winters repeatedly. #SeniorBowl
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 24, 2013
In order to acquire Williams, the 49ers jump up into Round 3, trading the No. 93. (Rd. 3), No. 157 (Rd. 5) and No. 227 (Rd. 7) picks to get near the middle of the round. With Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois out, the team must replenish the depth and competition along the defensive front.
A solid fit for the Niners, Williams is a wide-bodied defensive tackle that appears to play with leverage fairly consistently. He is able to explode from underneath the protection, either controlling the line of scrimmage or penetrating gaps.
Looking back at his collegiate career, Williams exhibited the ability of an all-pervading lineman, pushing the pocket as a force against the run and the pass.
And even though he is a capable space-eating body at DT, he can certainly pass rush when he has to.
At Missouri Southern, Williams crushed the school record with 27.0 career sacks.
When it comes to his upper body, he has savant-like technique, displaying excellent use of his hands. Williams has a powerful club-and-rip move and shoves blockers aside, using his quickness to shoot the gap.
He also deploys an effective swim move, which helps him get behind the line with some zip. Of course, Williams supplements that with his energetic footwork, navigating his route to the ball carrier.
Overall, Williams sheds blockers well, and can blow up plays in the backfield.
As a rookie, he will bring versatility along the line, making sure there is a fresh body in there without a devastating drop in performance.
Moreover, he can be an overly disruptive presence, which should ultimately benefit the All-Pro linebackers roaming behind him.
Player to watch from D-II rank is 4th yr jr DT Brandon Williams from Missouri Southern. 6-3 - 325 with excellent short area explosiveness.— Mel Kiper Jr. (@MelKiperESPN) October 28, 2011
128. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
The 49ers were productive in free agency, which will give them significant flexibility on draft day.
The team locked down a few key needs—at least for the year—which will allow them to take on a luxury like Marcus Lattimore. A lot of other clubs that are looking for contributors this year will have to pass on this potential Cinderella.
Easily one of the most prolific players in the NCAA over his career, the former All-American running back was a virtual first-round lock before suffering a gruesome injury against Tennessee.
He simultaneously tore his ACL, LCL and PCL, severing four of five ligaments in his knee, per Robert Klemko of USA Today.
Since the incident, Lattimore has been vigorously rehabbing and has made remarkable progress, hoping to physically contribute as a rookie. This is an aggressive approach, but he has been monitored, receiving first-rate care the whole way.
Fortunately, with the 49ers, Lattimore would be in a position to sit, properly heal and absorb the playbook. Given the depth on San Francisco’s roster, there would not be a rush to get him into the lineup right away.
With 15 picks and loaded roster, is any team more capable of drafting and stashing injured South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore than the 49ers— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 19, 2013
131. Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky
After selecting Datone Jones and Brandon Williams, the 49ers have certainly beefed up the D-line, finding guys to complement the run-stopping ability brought on by the Glenn Dorsey signing.
Jones and Williams are players that can be efficient in the trenches, both sharing a knack for pass-rushing. The Niners complete the trifecta by adding DE/LB Quanterus Smith, who will list as an outside linebacker.
With unproven commodities in Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson, the 49ers need to light a fire underneath the returning ’12 picks. There must be competition at every level, and Smith can provide that with his unique measurables and attacking style of play.
He brings tremendous ability as a natural rusher, highlighted by his raw explosion off the edge.
Man Crush DE: Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky.Injury aside, he is a versatile pass rusher who gives OTs a TON of problems.Contributor.— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) April 1, 2013
In the sixth round, the 49ers select their second NFL hopeful from South Carolina in wide receiver, Ace Sanders.
It is well documented that his draft stock solely rests on his abilities as a returner, which is all San Francisco should truly depend on him for.
With Kendall Hunter and Kyle Williams returning from season-ending injuries (h/t Pro Football Talk), and Ted Ginn Jr. now a member of the Carolina Panthers, the Niners need to infuse competition in the return game.
Along with adding Mathieu in the second-round, Sanders can step in immediately and provide a spark on special teams.
After looking at the landscape around the league—eying electric returners like Trindon Holliday and Jacoby Jones—the sixth-round choice would be well spent on Sanders; if not just to find out what he is made of in training camp.
— Scott Kegley (@ScottKegley) February 28, 2013
246. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt
Why not, right?
The 49ers did trade for Colt McCoy but that will not stop them from acquiring fresh competition. Preparing for the worst-case scenario, San Francisco has to make sure there is a suitable backup behind their starter.
Since the Niners are prohibited from trading their compensatory selections, it would be wise to bring in a QB with one of them.
As the younger brother of league MVP and Super Bowl champion, Aaron Rodgers, this former Commodore would be an intriguing prospect to have at training camp in Santa Clara.
While he lacks the arm talent that brother Aaron shows on Sunday, there could be a place for Jordan in the league. He has a similar fire, plays with a chip on his shoulder and will likewise go overlooked in the draft.
Also, with Jim Harbaugh being the QB guru he is, San Francisco can develop Rodgers and potentially flip him for draft picks in a couple of years.
Also still think Jordan Rodgers has late rd value for teams not in need of rifle arm.Quick release, anticipation, tough and mobile— Todd McShay (@McShay13) March 23, 2013
252. Dalton Freeman, Clemson
Jonathan Goodwin is entering the last year of his three-year deal; a contract signed back in 2011, per Spotrac.
The 49ers are going to be keeping their options open for a long-term replacement to partner up with Colin Kaepernick for the next decade.
Dalton Freeman might not be that guy, but in Round 7, he can provide a body in training camp. At 6’5”, 285, this athletic lineman was a four-year starter at Clemson, starting 48 games with the Tigers from 2008-2012.
And while Freeman was not invited to the scouting combine, he blew up his Pro Day (h/t CBS Sports):
Freeman's numbers in the skills and drills would have turned heads at Indianapolis. Eight centers were there. Two offensive linemen - at any position - were faster in the 40 than his 4.88. His 114-inch standing long jump was third to two tackles. Eight players overall, including three linemen, had more than his 34 reps in the bench press. The best was 38. "It was one of those things I say I was glad I did it (only) once," Freeman said.
Coming out of high school in South Carolina, he was listed as a four-star recruit, according to Rivals.com. Although he isn’t flashy, Dalton Freeman can potentially grow into a very effective interior lineman.