The San Francisco 49ers look to make plenty of big splashes during the 2013 NFL Draft.
It is difficult to predict exactly what the San Francisco 49ers will do with just over one week remaining before the 2013 NFL Draft.
For starters, San Francisco currently holds 13 picks and seven of those are in the first four rounds (cbssports.com). Fortunately for the 49ers, their number of picks exceed their total number of definitive team needs. There are not a lot of holes to fill nor are there significant upgrades needed at a lot of positions. Simply put, San Francisco does not need to draft 13 prospects in 2013.
With that stated, the 49ers are in a tremendous position for this year's draft. It is reasonable to assume that they will not only draft a few top-caliber players with their high number of early-round picks, but also that they will trade up, perhaps even multiple times, during the draft. In addition, San Francisco is in excellent shape to trade picks in this year's draft for picks next season.
All are legitimate possibilities and open up the door for the 49ers to "shake things up" like no one has ever seen (NinersNation).
Yet San Francisco still has to take this draft seriously. For a team on the cusp of winning a Super Bowl, the 49ers are looking for the right pieces for the right price. They also need to be capable of preparing for their future, keeping in mind future contracts of star players who are due to get paid over the next few seasons.
Considering this, San Francisco has some legitimate questions to answer.
For starters, they need help in their defense. A pass-rusher, either at defensive end or tackle, is a top priority, as is a safety. The 49ers may be looking to add depth at cornerback. In addition, San Francisco needs to replace the loss of Delanie Walker at tight end. They may also be considering a wide receiver as well as depth at running back. There could also be special teams upgrades as well.
While it is nearly impossible to determine exactly how any NFL draft will fall into place, there are quality predictions based on the various factors that influence a team's draft decisions.
Here is a full seven-round mock draft prediction for the San Francisco 49ers, highlighting each move San Francisco may make during the draft.
Jordan Rodgers may compete for the 49ers depth chart.
Current SF Picks in the Seventh Round: No. 31 (237 overall), No. 40 (246 overall), No. 46 (252 overall)
Scenario: 49ers draft Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers with the 40th pick in the 7th round. 49ers then trade their 31st pick to the Buffalo Bills for a seventh-round pick in the 2014 draft.
Needs Addressed: San Francisco provides competition for the third spot on the quarterback depth chart. San Francisco also banks on Buffalo not being very good in 2013 and gets a higher draft pick in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.
There is not typically a lot of buzz surrounding seventh-round draft picks.
Yet San Francisco may utilize at least one of its picks to create an interesting situation for the team going forward in 2013.
The 49ers appear to already have their quarterback situation set for the upcoming year. Colin Kaepernick is the starter and future star of San Francisco's offense. He will be backed up by Scott Tolzien. In addition, the recent trade for former Browns quarterback Colt McCoy added depth.
However, San Francisco may still elect to draft another quarterback and Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of former MVP Aaron Rodgers, may be on the 49ers' radar.
Certainly not slated to be a top quarterbacking prospect, the younger Rodgers does have a lot of upside to his game. With a prospect ranking of 238 overall according to CBS Sports, the 49ers may elect to draft Rodgers to provide some competition with either Tolzien or McCoy on the depth chart.
There is a lot to like about Rodgers in spite of the fact he will probably not be drafted before the seventh round. He has tremendous leadership. On the field, he is an accurate passer as well as a threat on the run; something that would fit a system currently employed by the 49ers. Rodgers' arm strength is a bit of a concern and has certainly thwarted his chances of an earlier pick.
Yet being the younger brother of a MVP quarterback certainly does not hurt. He must have picked his older brother's brains for a plethora of football knowledge at some point.
The 49ers do have interest in the younger Rodgers and it would be entirely possible to see him drafted by San Francisco in the seventh round.
In a best-case scenario, Rodgers works his way into the third quarterback slot on the depth chart. At worst, he will at least provide some competition for both Tolzien and McCoy.
While not as flashy, San Francisco also trades a remaining seventh-round pick (31st overall) to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a seventh-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
The Bills, who have plenty of needs, do not currently have a seventh-round pick in this year's draft. While it might sound like trading "pebbles for rocks," the 49ers would at least be providing additional options next year while hoping that Buffalo's struggles continue in 2013.
That leaves the 49ers with their 46th pick in the round. Maybe they draft a kicker. Who knows?
Ace Sanders would contribute on special teams.
Current SF Picks in the Sixth Round: No. 5 (173 overall), No. 12 (180 overall)
Scenario: 49ers draft Wisconsin offensive tackle Ricky Wagner with their fifth pick in the round. San Francisco then drafts South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders with the 12th pick in the round.
Needs Addressed: San Francisco adds depth to its offensive line with Wagner. In addition, the 49ers get an explosive player with Wagner who can contribute as a kick-returner on special teams.
San Francisco has only one legitimate need on the offensive line and that is at center. The 49ers may look to replace the aging Jonathan Goodwin at some point, but they may not look towards this draft as a means to do so. Aside from that, the 49ers may be looking to only add depth on the line. Behind incumbents Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and Joe Staley, there is not a whole lot of depth.
The 49ers would be wise to add some depth and former Wisconsin offensive tackle Ricky Wagner would be a nice option. Ranked 202 overall by CBS Sports and projected to be drafted in the sixth round, Wagner would help fill the depth needs on the offensive line.
Wagner has some positive attributes that would make him attractive to San Francisco. While not considered an "elite" athlete, Wagner does play with grit and determination; something he learned from his days at Wisconsin. Wagner is also versatile. He played at both tackle positions and could fill in at guard if needed.
At best, Wagner provides the insurance policy to an already talented offensive line. San Francisco wants to keep it intact and Wagner could at least bolster the line if needed.
Later in the round, San Francisco would then draft South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders.
Sanders would be an awesome pick for the 49ers if they were able to get their hands on him. At 5' 7", Sanders' size is not exactly what teams would be looking for in a wide receiver. However, his game-play on offense is not what San Francisco would be looking at.
While the 49ers may elect to utilize running back LaMichael James, wide receiver Kyle Williams or recently signed wide receiver Marlon Moore as a kick-returner, San Francisco may also look towards the draft to address the position. James may be more involved in the offense as starting running back Frank Gore ages. Williams may not return totally healthy following last year's knee injury.
Sanders is a special teams "ace" to put it mildly. The 49ers are in need of a kick returner and Sanders fills that void. Projected as the 206th overall prospect by CBS Sports and slated to be drafted in the sixth round, Sanders could easily fall to the 49ers, who would not have to execute any trades to get him with one of their two picks in the round.
He is dangerous with the ball and his size makes him elusive. Sanders also has good speed and is smart with returns. Those are all attributes that would make him an exciting addition to an area of the 49ers that was lacking last season.
Marcus Lattimore could be the next Frank Gore.
Current SF Picks in the Fifth Round: No. 24 (157 overall)
Scenario: 49ers draft South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.
Needs Addressed: San Francisco adds immediate depth to the running back position as well as providing a potential long-term solution and replacement to the aging Frank Gore.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article stressing that the 49ers should steer clear of former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.
I noted that in spite of Lattimore's tremendous talent, the knee injury that thwarted his 2012 season was too significant for San Francisco to take a gamble on. The 49ers got away with a similar scenario when they drafted Frank Gore in 2005. Gore had a history of injury problems and yet San Francisco turned him into one of the best running backs in the NFL today.
Could they enjoy the same fortune twice with Lattimore? I did not think so.
As time has passed however, I realized that there is a lot to like about Lattimore and I now believe the 49ers would be wise to pick up the talented back.
At South Carolina, Lattimore totaled 2,677 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns over three seasons (sports-reference.com). Those stats alone are impressive. Yet what is even more impressive is Lattimore's "big play" potential, something that was revealed when he sat down with ESPN's Jon Gruden earlier this month (via ninersnation.com).
In addition, Lattimore's injury has its own silver lining. His recovery efforts have been exemplary and shows the workmanship that would benefit any team that drafts him.
Considering the injury as well as his potential, the 49ers could draft Lattimore and place him into a unique situation where he would not find his way onto the 53-man roster in 2013.
David Fucillo of Niners Nation describes this:
You could argue the most favorable [situation] is placing him on the PUP list and letting him basically go through a medical red-shirt year, of sorts. It does not cost the team a spot on the 53-man roster, and it gives him some time to get his knee to 100%. And getting a chance to learn from Frank Gore is not a bad thing. Gore has established himself as one of the best running backs in 49ers history, and also has dealt with the medical issues Lattimore has dealt with the last couple years.
This gives Lattimore the chance to heal completely as well as learn valuable lessons from Gore. He also would not cost the 49ers a roster spot in 2013.
While most teams will probably be looking for players who can make impacts immediately, the 49ers could wait on Lattimore and give him the opportunity to contribute later on (ninersnation.com). That factor alone may result in Lattimore slipping to San Francisco in the fifth round.
That combination would provide Lattimore the chance to become a running back, similar in style and history to Gore. When Gore eventually reaches his last days as a 49er, Lattimore could be right behind him waiting for his chance to take over the reigns.
Chris Harper may be the answer to the 49ers' tight end dilemma.
Current SF Picks in the Fourth Round: No. 31 (128 overall), No. 34 (131 overall)
Scenario: 49ers trade their 31st pick in the round, along with another pick (to be described later), to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a future pick in 2014. San Francisco then drafts Kansas State wide receiver Chris Harper.
Needs Addressed: San Francisco acquires some receiving help and can potentially turn Harper into a future H back.
The trading of the 31st pick in the round shall be described in a later slide.
With the 34th pick however, the San Francisco 49ers elect to draft former Kansas State wide receiver Chris Harper.
Why would they do this? Well the reason is simple: San Francisco needs to fill a void at tight end. The loss of Delanie Walker hurts the 49ers more significantly than one may think.
Walker was more than just a receiving option for San Francisco. His versatility, especially in various formations, was critical to the 49ers' offense. He was also exceptional in both run and pass-blocking schemes. San Francisco will miss him.
Okay, so why would the 49ers draft a wide receiver instead of a tight end like Zach Ertz or Tyler Eifert? Well that logic is simple too. Either one of those options would cost San Francisco one of its early picks; one that they would probably intend to use on defensive needs. While they still may draft a tight end early, they might also consider a guy like Harper to fill the void. At 6' 1" and 229 pounds, Harper has the potential to be converted to a tight end.
I am not alone in this thought.
Grant Cohn of The Santa Rosa Press Democrat thinks that Harper can be the solution for the 49ers at a tight end position. Cohn 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.
Projected to be drafted either late in the third or early in the fourth round, the 49ers may elect to draft the talented receiver if he falls to them. While they may have to trade up slightly in the round, potentially using one of their late-round picks or a potential 2014 pick, it is possible that he will be on the board when San Francisco drafts.
It is a smart move for the 49ers and one that could guarantee their offense will be just as dynamic as it was with Walker in their services.
There is a lot to like about wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers.
Current SF Picks in the Third Round: No. 12 (74 overall), No. 31 (93 overall)
Scenario: San Francisco drafts Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers with their 12th pick in the round. 49ers trade their 31st pick in the round, along with their 31st pick in the fourth round, to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a second-round pick in 2014.
Needs Addressed: San Francisco addresses its needs at wide receiver as well as acquiring a future pick in 2014.
First, allow me to address the trading of two draft picks to the Indianapolis Colts.
As I have already stated, San Francisco has some excess with its picks. One team that does not have excess are the Colts. Currently, Indianapolis lacks picks in the mid rounds of the draft, and they want to have a solid draft class this year in order to return to the winning ways their fans enjoyed not so long ago.
By examining a chart that lists the value of draft picks, we can do the math and figure that San Francisco could afford to exchange a third and a fourth-round pick in this year's draft to the Colts in exchange for a second-round pick in 2014. This chart can be viewed here.
The Colts get some ammunition to help them win immediately. San Francisco gets a 2014 second-round pick in return, providing some additional insurance to guard against future scenarios that may affect the team after 2013.
It is a simple, yet smart move for 49ers' general manager Trent Baalke.
For the more attractive part of the round, San Francisco drafts former Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers.
I have been following Rogers for months now and there is so much to like about his potential.
CBS Sports' Rob Rang had this to say about Rogers:
Despite playing in the ultra-physical SEC, Rogers proved too strong for most teams to consider pressing. He's also versatile, showing the ability to line up outside, as well as in the slot. While it is easy to get excited about Rogers' size-speed potential, one of his greatest attributes is simply his toughness, as he absorbed several big collisions on games viewed and never dropped a pass due to a hit while at Tennessee. Rogers is a powerful runner who fights for additional yardage and has the agility and speed to run away from the pack for explosive plays.
49er fans would love to imagine Rogers and his attributes in a San Francisco uniform. Not only would he be a great fit as either an outside or slot receiver, but his size and speed fill a need that the 49ers currently need to address.
The wide receiver situation in San Francisco is not as clear-cut as it may seem. Certainly the addition of veteran receiver Anquan Boldin helps the 49ers' offense immensely. Michael Crabtree is the real deal as well. Yet there are questions behind those two, both immediately and in the long-run.
First, Boldin is only signed through 2013. He is also 32 years old. Will San Francisco retain him after the season? That is hard to say. In addition, both Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are returning from significant knee injuries suffered last season. Will they be able to return at 100 percent? Both are also free agents after 2013 as well.
There is also A.J. Jenkins, who was the 49ers' first-round pick during the 2012 draft. After a disappointing rookie season, San Francisco still has a lot to expect out of the young receiver. Will he live up to their expectations or become a first-round bust? That remains to be seen.
I am sure many 49er fans would love to see a top prospect like Tavon Austin drafted by San Francisco. I would love that too, but there would have to be a significant trade-up executed by Trent Baalke and the 49ers to accomplish this.
Instead, San Francisco can draft Rogers.
The 49ers have already shown some interest in the talented receiver. Sure, he has his share of off-the-field issues, but he has also demonstrated the tremendous work ethic that is necessary for someone to overcome the adversity.
CBS Sports has him ranked as the 84th prospect overall and projected to be drafted in the third round (cbssports.com). San Francisco could easily grab him and make him a definitive part of their offense for years to come.
Johnthan Banks may be the long-term solution at corner.
Current SF Picks in the Second Round: No. 2 (34 overall), No. 29 (61 overall)
Scenario: 49ers draft Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short with their 29th pick in the round. 49ers draft Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks with their 34th overall pick in the round.
Needs Addressed: San Francisco adds a pass-rushing defensive tackle who can replace the aging Justin Smith after the season. In addition, the 49ers add a potential top-tier corner to solve some of the problems in the secondary.
The second round of the draft is where San Francisco will address two of its most critical needs.
First, the 49ers need to examine the situation of their defensive line. Fans already know how big of a stud defensive end Justin Smith is. They also know he is getting older. At 33 years old, Smith is likely entering the final years of his NFL career. In addition, Smith is in the final year of a six-year, $45 million contract. Will San Francisco retain his services, especially considering their salary cap situation?
Instead, the 49ers are likely looking to the future. While Smith had generated the pass rush over the past two season, San Francisco needs to examine options to fill his eventual void.
One excellent option would be former Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short.
CBS Sports' Rob Rang has Short being selected by the 49ers with their 61st overall pick (cbssports.com). Short possesses all of the attributes necessary to become an elite pass-rusher at the NFL level.
Rang elaborates by saying:
Short is a large human being with a huge wingspan, using his long arms to bat down passes (11 pass break-ups) and make plays on special teams (4 blocked kicks). Short can be an immovable object in the middle of the field when he plays disciplined and generates power from his lower body. However, he too often gives streaky effort and doesn't consistently play with leverage. While Short will still be an attractive pro prospect because of his natural size and tools, he needs to prove he can be consistently more than just a plugging space-eater to cement his top-50 status.
The 49ers coaching staff should be able to handle Short's shortcomings on the field. His size and potential, however, are something that they can undoubtedly utilize.
In four seasons at Purdue, Short totaled 186 tackles and 19.5 sacks, seven in his senior year (sports-reference.com).
Short should be able to transfer that talent over to the NFL level and benefit from playing alongside Smith for at least one season. Having Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman will also be a boon to the young lineman.
To address an area of need in the secondary, the 49ers will then elect to draft former Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks with their 34th overall pick.
In four years at Mississippi State, Banks totaled 221 tackles and 15 interceptions (sports-reference.com).
The 49ers need a ball hog in the secondary. San Francisco incumbents Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver have a lot to prove in 2013, especially following an embarrassing performance during last season's playoffs and Super Bowl. In addition, Brown is set to be a free agent after the season. San Francisco is taking a small gamble on former Pro Bowl corner Nnamdi Asomugha after signing him to a one-year, $1.775 million contract during the offseason. Yet will Asomugha emulate his playing days with the Oakland Raiders or look more like the bust he was with the Philadelphia Eagles? Only time will tell.
With Banks, the 49ers can count on a long-term addition to their secondary. He would help generate the turnovers that were lacking so much last season and be able to provide the skill sets necessary to compete with rival teams like Seattle and St. Louis.
The interest and need are both there and the 49ers would be wise to use this early pick in the second round to make the move.
His height and strength will give San Francisco an advantage in the backfield and make opponents think twice about passing in his direction.
Current SF Picks in the First Round: No. 31 overall
Scenario: 49ers draft Florida International strong safety Jonathan Cyprien with their 31st overall pick.
Needs Addressed: San Francisco solves its need at safety and provides added strength in the secondary.
"With the 31st overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select..."
Jonathan Cyprien out of Florida International.
Cyprien is a stud and his stock has been steadily rising over recent weeks. Initially projected as a second-round draft pick, some experts have now predicted that Cyprien can make it into the first round.
CBS Sports' Rob Rang has San Francisco drafting Cyprien with their 31st overall pick.
He backs up the claim by pointing out some of Cyprien's attributes:
Well-built defender who certainly looks the part of an NFL safety. Aggressive playing style and active demeanor. Took advantage of the Senior Bowl opportunity, standing out with his full-speed effort from the first practice. Enjoys the physical nature of the position. Meets the ball-carrier with a pop and refuses to let up. Good ball skills. Shows the ability to extend and snatch the ball out of the air. 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.
After an impressive career at Florida International, Cyprien hopes to transfer his skill set over to the NFL.
The 49ers would love to have his services.
For starters, San Francisco lost a big part of its secondary when Dashon Goldson left the team via free agency. The 49ers immediately answered back, signing former Rams safety Craig Dahl to a 3-year, $5.2 million contract. Yet Dahl is not the type of player Goldson was and San Francisco is certainly looking to add bulk at safety through the draft.
Cyprien has been drawing plenty of interest from the 49ers as of late and it is entirely plausible to see them draft the talented safety with their first-round pick.
His intimidating hits would emulate the style of play similar to Goldson, making his departure less significant. In addition, Cyprien is excellent in man coverage, something that he would experience plenty in San Francisco. Filling that void would make Cyprien a good fit for the 49ers' defense (ninersnation.com).
Considering the loss of Goldson during the offseason, it is likely that San Francisco will have to start a rookie safety in 2013. Fortunately, Cyprien seems ready to go and should be able to make an immediate impact at the NFL level.
In all, it is hard to predict exactly how the 49ers will approach this draft. There are some glaring needs, albeit few, and San Francisco is known for keeping their cards close and not revealing their true intentions and plans.
On draft day, the 49ers may still shake things up, and execute trades that may seem inconceivable. It is entirely possible that San Francisco drafts none of the players on this mock draft. Yet by examining the situation the 49ers find themselves in as well as the potential to grab certain players that will fill specific needs, San Francisco will probably execute a draft similar in nature to what has been seen here.
It is speculation at best, but that is what makes this part of the NFL season so intriguing.
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