Margus Hunt is a track star, but can he play football in the NFL?
Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper has tabbed Margus Hunt as the 49ers' selection with the 31st pick in the first round. Hunt is a defensive end who played all four years at SMU.
Hunt burst into the top tier of the draft based largely on his extremely impressive showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. Prior to that showing, Hunt was likely a Day 2 draftee, but now has a chance to be selected in the first round.
Hunt has impressive size at 6'8" and 277 pounds. He is also very fast and has the ability to chase quarterbacks down from the backside of the defense.
Who would you draft if your were the 49ers' GM?
The 49ers definitely need to bolster their defensive line. Their two starting nose tackles from 2012, Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois, both departed via the free-agent market. In addition, the injury to Justin Smith proved how the Niners also lack quality depth at the defensive end position.
Even though the 49ers have major needs along the defensive line, Hunt is not the answer. He should be considered as the 49ers' later pick in the second round, number 61 overall.
With their first two selections, number 31 and 34 overall, the 49ers need to find players that can contribute immediately. Hunt is a longer-term project and the 49ers are built to win now.
The biggest concern with Hunt is his actual production on the field. In his four seasons at SMU, he had only 16.5 sacks, the most coming in his senior year, when he had eight.
As a senior, Hunt had only 31 tackles for the entire year. These are not numbers worthy of a first rounder. In addition, SMU, in Conference USA, did not face top-notch competition. This is another major concern.
Hunt may look fantastic doing drills and running sprints in shorts and a T-shirt, but can he actually play football at the highest level?
His past performance does not provide a positive answer to that question. The 49ers and GM Trent Baalke must look at substance over style and with Hunt, the substance is lacking.
Hunt could turn out to be a great player, but at this point, he is still a track star playing football. The 49ers cannot afford to gamble with their first two selections, they need a player who can come in and contribute right away.
Based on Kiper's mock draft, there are five players available when the 49ers make their first selection that would be far better options. Two of these players are defensive linemen. Nose tackle Jesse Williams, from Alabama and defensive end Datone Jones of UCLA.
The 49ers also need help at the safety position and based on Kiper's analysis, three top safeties, Jonathan Cyprien, Matt Elam and Eric Reid should be available. Any one of these three would be a better selection than Hunt.
McShay has the 49ers selecting Stanford tight end Zach Ertz. Although this is a far better option than Margus Hunt, it is still not the right pick for the 49ers.
The 49ers do need a quality tight end to replace Delanie Walker, and Ertz would fill that role quite nicely. However, the 49ers also have Vernon Davis and just acquired Cameron Morrah, the former Seattle tight end.
Ertz has excellent hands and decent, though not blazing, speed. As a junior at Stanford, he caught 69 passes for 898 yards and six touchdowns. Ertz is a very solid player, just not the right option for the 49ers' first-round selection.
The 49ers' most glaring needs are on the defensive line and at safety. Based on the latest mock draft from McShay, the 49ers would be able to select the aforementioned Williams, Cyprien or Reid.
The 49ers have 13 picks in the upcoming draft and it's highly unlikely they will make that many selections. Look for Baalke to bundle picks to move up in the draft on Day 2 to get players the 49ers truly covet.
Baalke may also make some trades to move out of 2013 and back to 2014, to stockpile more assets for the future. Expect the 2013 draft to be a wild ride if you're a 49ers fan.