A.J. Jenkins was the 49ers' first round draft pick in 2012. They need to do better this year.
The San Francisco 49ers and GM Trent Baalke have had a very active and productive offseason. There have been several acquisitions and departures that will give the 49ers a much different look in 2013.
Heading into the draft, the 49ers believe they have addressed the need for a No. 2 wide receiver, with the trade for Anquan Boldin. In addition, the deals for Colt McCoy, Nnamdi Asomugha, Craig Dahl, Glenn Dorsey, Dan Skuta, Marlon Moore and Phil Dawson have bolstered the 49ers' roster.
The 49ers lost several players to expensive free-agent contracts. Baalke opted not to pay the high salaries commanded by veterans Dashon Goldson, Delanie Walker, Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois.
As the 49ers prepare for the draft, we could still see another deal or two. The 49ers have 13 selections. Look for Ballke to do some wheeling and dealing, as it's extremely doubtful the 49ers will stand pat with all of those picks.
This is a very deep draft, and with five picks in the first three rounds, the 49ers should be able to land some impact-caliber talent. If the draft were to occur tomorrow, let's take a look at an ideal scenario for the 49ers.
All information pertaining to the NFL Scouting Combine is courtesy of www.nfl.com.
The departure of Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson created a big hole in the 49ers' defense. With the 31st pick in the draft, there are three top-caliber safeties who could be available. They are Eric Reid, Matt Elam and Jonathan Cyprien. All have a bright future in the NFL.
Elam is probably the most polished of the three, and both he and Reid are big hitters. Elam and Reid are bigger than Cyprien and can also be groomed as strong safeties.
Cyprien has the speed and athleticism to be the better free safety. He is the most athletic of the three and has the greatest upside. He is the ideal fit to fill the opening at free safety.
Cyprien played at Florida International, so he did not always face top competition, but he did perform well at the Senior Bowl. In the 2012 season, Cyprien had 91 tackles and four interceptions.
Jesse Williams is excellent against the run.
Trent Baalke was able to acquire this pick from the Kansas City Chiefs in the Alex Smith deal. Early in the second round, the 49ers will be able to address the nose-tackle position.
Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois played there in 2012, but both have departed via free agency. The 49ers kept third-string nose tackle Ian Williams, but he is unproven. In addition, former first-round pick Glenn Dorsey was also signed as a free agent.
Dorsey is more of a tackle in a 4-3 alignment or an end in the 3-4. Although Dorsey can be an adequate nose tackle, he is best suited as a rotational defensive lineman, spelling defensive ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald.
Jesse Williams is a big, physical defensive lineman from Alabama. At 6'3" and 323 pounds, Williams has the ideal size and girth to play over the opposing center in the 49ers' 3-4 defensive alignment.
Williams is extremely tough against the run, but he will need to improve his pass-rushing techniques. He has the strength to occupy blockers and collapse the pocket. Williams has the potential to be the 49ers' nose tackle for the next decade.
Gavin Escobar would be a fine replacement for Delanie Walker.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman love to create matchup problems for opposing defenses. Employing two or even three tight ends is one way they have been able to do that.
With the departure of Delanie Walker, a void was created at the backup tight-end position. Gavin Escobar, from San Diego State, would be a perfect addition for the 49ers.
Escobar is a physical specimen at 6'6" and 254 pounds. He has the speed and ability to get down the field and has good hands to make tough catches. More of a threat in the passing game, Escobar is not a strong blocker. The 49ers have a third tight end in Garrett Celek, who can be used in blocking situations.
Escobar made himself eligible for the draft following his junior season at San Diego State. In his last two years, Escobar had 93 receptions for 1,323 yards and 13 touchdowns.
A combination of Vernon Davis and Escobar would give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares.
Robert Woods hauls in this touchdown pass.
Robert Woods left USC for the NFL after his junior season. In his three years at USC, Woods electrified the Pac-12, catching 250 passes for 2,933 yards and 32 touchdowns.
The 49ers have two solid wide receivers in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. After those two, however, the receiving corps has question marks.
Mario Manningham is coming off major knee injury and will not be ready when the 2013 season begins. There is a question whether Manningham will ever return to the form he displayed prior to his injury.
Slot receiver Kyle Williams has shown some positive flashes, but he has not been able to stay healthy. He has had injury issues in all three of his seasons with the 49ers. He also never played a full season at Arizona State for the same reason. So he is not someone you can count on to be there over the course of an entire season.
A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers' 2012 first-round draft pick, played in just three regular-season games and caught no passes last year.
The 49ers are hoping that Jenkins will improve enough to at least contribute as a No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver in 2013, but he needs to make substantial improvement.
Last year, when both Manningham and Williams were injured, Jenkins was unable to beat out undrafted free agents Chad Hall and Ricardo Lockette tor playing time.
Out of Manningham, Williams, Jenkins, Hall, Lockette or Joe Hastings, there is no proven and reliable third and fourth wide receiver on the 49ers' roster.
The selection of Robert Woods would give the 49ers a dynamic receiver who has decent speed, good hands and the ability to run precise routes. Even though he is passing up his senior season, Woods is a very polished receiver and would be a big asset to the 49ers.
Tyrann Mathieu impressed at the scounting combine.
Tyrann Mathieu is a top-flight talent, but his off-field problems have hurt his draft stock dramatically. With the addition of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the 49ers can afford to take a gamble on Mathieu.
Mathieu performed well at the scouting combine, but it was his interviews with the various teams that will be the most telling aspect of his draft status. If the 49ers believe he has grown on a personal level and has the maturity to compete in the NFL, Mathieu would be a good addition.
In 2011, as a sophomore, Mathieu was the top cornerback in the SEC. He is only 5'9" and 176 pounds, but is strong and has good leaping ability. He plays a lot bigger than his size and is also a sure tackler.
The risk with Mathieu is that he will regress, and his off-field problems, which included substance abuse, will crop up again. The upside is tremendous, as Mathieu has the skills to be an elite player.
The 49ers have an exceptional group of professionals, such as Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Justin Smith, Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin, Carlos Rogers, Nnamdi Asomugha and Donte Whitner. These quality individuals and head coach Jim Harbaugh can guide Mathieu and help him stay on track.
William Gholston had a mediocre season at Michigan State.
Heading into his junior season, William Gholston was one of the top defensive-line prospects in college football. A subpar season and average showing at the scouting combine have dropped his stock.
Gholston could have benefited from staying at Michigan State, but opted to enter the NFL draft. His decision will cost him a lot of money.
Ghoston has impressive size, standing 6'6" and weighing 281 pounds. He has great potential as a pass-rusher, and with the addition of Glenn Dorsey, the 49ers have the luxury of giving Gholston a year to develop and improve his technique.
As a sophomore in 2011, Gholston had five sacks. His sack total fell to 4.5 in his junior year. His total tackles also declined from 70 to 59.
Justin Smith will not be able to play forever, and if Gholston can develop, he can be a valuable player in a year or two for the 49ers.
Jonathan Goodwin, the 49ers' starting center, is likely in his final year in San Francisco. Goodwin is 34 years old and is making roughly $4 million this year.
The 49ers could use a young center they can groom to take over for Goodwin. Brian Schwenke is just that player.
The 49ers also have Daniel Kilgore, who will likely compete with Schwenke for the backup center job. Both Schwenke and Kilgore have experience at guard and center, so their versatility is of value to the 49ers.
Schwenke had problems with shotgun snaps while at Cal, which he will need to improve. He is ideally suited to be a center, while Kilgore can shift over to guard without missing a beat.
Marcus Lattimore was a top tier running back until he tore up his knee.
In 2005, the 49ers drafted a young running back who had endured two knee surgeries while in college. His name was Frank Gore.
Now heading into his ninth NFL season, Gore is a superstar and will someday see his uniform number retired by the 49ers. Gore had an outstanding 2012 season, rushing for 1,214 yards, his sixth 1,000-yard season.
Gore will be 30 years old when the 2013 season starts, and he will not be able to go on forever. By drafting Marcus Lattimore, the 49ers would have the luxury of allowing him to completely heal while learning the system.
Prior to his second devastating knee injury, Lattimore was a lock as a first-round pick. With Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon, the 49ers can be very patient with Lattimore.
In the nine games of his 2012 season, Lattimore had 142 carries for 662 yards, a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. He also scored 11 touchdowns prior to his injury and finished with 38 over his three-year collegiate career.
Steve Greer will add depth to the inside linebacker corps.
With Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, the San Francisco 49ers are blessed with the best inside linebacker tandem in the NFL. Backup Larry Grant will not return, so depth could be an issue if Willis or Bowman miss any time due to injury.
The 49ers signed free-agent linebacker Dan Skuta and are hoping 2012 draftee Darius Fleming can make a successful return from a knee injury that cost him his entire season.
Steve Greer, a linebacker from Virginia, is a solid, though unspectacular player. He finished 2012 with 122 tackles, his second consecutive year with more than 100. Greer can provide depth and will be a good special-teams player.
Jamoris Slaughter has excellent football instincts.
Jamoris Slaughter is the type of player who does everything pretty well, although nothing truly outstanding. He has been well coached and was very productive against good competition while playing for Notre Dame.
With Donte Whitner likely in his final year in a 49er uniform, Slaughter could develop into a solid strong safety and compete for that job in 2014.
At 6'0" and 185 pounds, Slaughter is a bit small as a strong safety, but his excellent football IQ can make up for that. Slaughter is simply a "football player," and you can always use those type of players.
Manase Foketi is a big, tough offensive tackle from a small school. Foketi began his career at Kansas State, then transferred to West Texas A&M. At 6'5" and 318 pounds, Foketi has the size to play the tackle position in the NFL.
Foketi needs work on his footwork and technique, but he's a good athlete and can improve. His is an ideal candidate to improve with good coaching from 49er offensive line coaches Mike Solari and Tim Drevno.
Quinton Dial could join Jesse Willaims on the 49ers' defensive front.
Quinton Dial has played inside as a tackle and outside as an end on the Alabama defense. At 6'5" and 318 pounds, Dial is fairly athletic and has a decent upside.
Dial could also develop into a pass-rushing specialist, similar to how the 49ers used Aldon Smith in 2011.
Demetrius McCray rounds out the 49ers' draft haul. He is a cornerback from Appalachian State who has good speed and size. McCray is 6'1" and 187 pounds.
McCray needs to gain strength as he can get overpowered at times. His showing at the scouting combine was good, except that he was only able to do four reps on the 225-pound bench press.
In his final year of college, McCray had 55 tackles and four interceptions. He can also contribute on special teams, as he learns the nuances of the NFL.
The 49ers have a lot of assets to work with.
The 49ers have seven picks in the first four rounds of the draft. With 13 selections, GM Trent Baalke will be busy trying to turn his picks into either players they covet or more picks in 2014.
After getting past the first three or four rounds, the draft is always a crapshoot. Expect Baalke and the 49ers to make several deals moving up, moving back and deferring picks to 2014.
This should be the most interesting 49ers' draft in recent history.