Most expect the 49ers to trade up several times; after all, San Francisco doesn't have room for 13 rookies on its roster.
Will the Niners make a major splash by trading into the first half of the first round to take a dominant defensive lineman? Or will they stay put on Day 1 and focus on packaging picks on Days 2 and 3?
Before considering all the possibilities, take a look at this guide, which includes my best guess at the 49ers big board, my rankings of every position and a final five-round mock draft. In putting this together I studied mock drafts and analysis from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, CBS Sports and WalterFootball.com. I also watched highlights of dozens of prospects.
Will my efforts prove futile? Well, if general manager Trent Baalke is as unpredictable as he's been in recent drafts, we'll all be way off.
Once again, keep in mind that this is what I think the 49ers big board should look like. Although wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin will be incredible pros, I believe the Niners will not be interested in drafting them because they have bigger needs in other places.
San Francisco's biggest needs are defensive lineman, safety, cornerback and tight end. You'll find at least one prospect at each of those positions below.
Note: I took out Sharrif Floyd, Dion Jordan and Ezekiel Ansah because they are almost assuredly going in the top 10. The "Miller" column represents Matt Miller's rank for each prospect on his final big board.
|1||Star Lotulelei, NT||Utah||6'3"||311||7|
|2||Sheldon Richardson, DT/DE||Missouri||6'3"||294||9|
|3||Dee Milliner, CB||Alabama||6'0"||201||15|
|4||Datone Jones, DE||UCLA||6'4"||283||23|
|5||Kenny Vacarro, S||Texas||6'0"||214||10|
|6||John Cyprien, S||Florida International||6'0"||217||22|
|7||Cornellius Carradine, DE||Florida State||6'4"||276||5|
|8||Bjoern Werner, DE||Florida State||6'3"||266||19|
|9||Jarvis Jones, OLB||Georgia||6'3"||245||16|
|10||Desmond Trufant, CB||Washington||6'0"||190||17|
|11||Xavier Rhodes, CB||Florida State||6'2"||210||30|
|12||Margus Hunt, DE||SMU||6'8"||277||52|
|13||D.J. Hayden, CB||Houston||5'11"||191||65|
|14||Tyler Eifert, TE||Notre Dame||6'6"||250||32|
|15||Cordarrelle Patterson, WR||Tennessee||6'2"||216||6|
After trading for Colt McCoy, the 49ers have three quarterbacks already on their roster. They still might consider taking one in the middle or end of the draft.
Of the quarterbacks on this list, Matt Scott is one to keep an eye on. If he's available in the fourth round, the Niners might snag him. His dual-threat ability could make him the ideal backup to Colin Kaepernick.
|1||Geno Smith||West Virginia||6'3"||218||14|
|3||E.J. Manuel||Florida State||6'5"||237||50|
The 49ers already have a logjam at running back with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James. However, Gore is bound is to lose a step in the next few years, and Hunter and James have some durability concerns.
If Marcus Lattimore is available in the third or fourth rounds, the Niners might take a chance on him. Sure, Lattimore may not be fully recovered from his gruesome knee injury by the beginning of the 2013 season, but the Niners might need a workhorse running back down the road, and Lattimore fits that billing.
|3||Giovani Bernard||North Carolina||5'9"||202||80|
|4||Marcus Lattimore||South Carolina||5'11"||221||62|
|5||Le'Veon Bell||Michigan State||6'2"||230||93|
The Niners could use a high draft pick on a wide receiver if they believe A.J. Jenkins is a lost cause. My guess is they'll wait until at least the end of the second round to draft a receiver, which means most, if not all, of the players listed below will be gone.
If the Niners use one of their first two picks on a receiver, don't be surprised if Hopkins is the pick. The ex-Clemson receiver has the tools and athleticism to be a star.
|2||Tavon Austin||West Virginia||5'9"||174||11|
|5||Quinton Patton||Louisiana Tech||6'0"||204||48|
The Niners need a replacement for Delanie Walker, and either Tyler Eifert or Zach Ertz will likely be available at the end of the first round.
My guess is San Francisco will pass on those tight ends and take one later in the draft. Travis Kelce, Gavin Escobar and Vance McDonald could all be solid contributors in the 49ers offense.
|1||Tyler Eifert||Notre Dame||6'6"||250||32|
|4||Gavin Escobar||San Diego State||6'6"||254||72|
|5||Vance McDonald ||Rice ||6'4"||267||58|
Jonathan Goodwin is entering his contract year. If the Niners want to draft his replacement, they should look no further than Barrett Jones in the third round.
Jones' versatility—he also played tackle and guard at Alabama—would be ideal, especially for San Francisco's running packages that require an extra lineman.
|4||Khaled Holmes||Southern California||6'3"||302||160|
|5||Braxston Cave||Notre Dame||6'3"||303||214|
The 49ers will not be in the market for a guard or center early in the draft. None of these players will last until pick No. 31 anyway.
That being said, keep an eye on how many tackles are taken before the Miami Dolphins' No. 12 pick. If they don't like the available offensive line talent, they may want to trade back, which could give the Niners an opportunity to move up if they so desire.
|1||Luke Joeckel, OT||Texas A&M||6'6"||306||1|
|2||Eric Fisher, OT||Central Michigan||6'7"||306||3|
|3||Chance Warmack, G||Alabama||6'2"||317||2|
|4||Lane Johnson, OT ||Oklahoma||6'6"||303||13|
|5||Jonathan Cooper, G||North Carolina||6'2"||311||18|
If the Niners do trade to the middle of the first round, they'll likely be targeting the first three players on this list. Star Lotulelei, Sharrif Floyd and Sheldon Richardson are strong enough to play nose tackle and athletic enough to play some 3-4 defensive end. Floyd should be a top-10 pick, but Lotulelei may fall due to a heart condition (he's been reportedly cleared by many teams).
I'd be surprised if the Niners took Jesse Williams. Sure, he has the potential to be a great nose tackle, but he lacks pass-rushing skills. I believe the Niners will be looking for a more versatile defensive lineman, such as defensive end Datone Jones (see next slide).
|4||Sylvester Williams||North Carolina||6'3"||313||51|
One could argue that Alex Okafor, Cornellius Carradine and Bjoern Werner would fit better in a 4-3 defense. This is one of the reasons I have Datone Jones ranked as the top defensive end.
He's strong enough to be a solid run-stuffer and he's quick enough to be a quality interior pass-rusher. Carradine might be available late in the first round because he's coming off a torn ACL in November.
|1||Datone Jones ||UCLA ||6'4" ||283 ||23
|2||Cornellius Carradine ||Florida State ||6'4" ||276 ||5|
|3||Bjoern Werner ||Florida State ||6'3" ||266 ||19|
Note: Dion Jordan and Ezekiel Ansah are listed as OLBs.
If any of the top three on the list below were to somehow fall to the 31st pick, the Niners would have to seriously consider taking him even if they're already set at outside linebacker. Of the three, Jarvis Jones has the best chance of falling because of medical concerns.
Expect the Niners to draft a defensive lineman and a safety before taking a linebacker. They have too much money already committed to their linebacker corps to spend another early-round pick on one.
|5||Alec Ogletree ||Georgia ||6'3"||242||21|
The 49ers will have to trade up if they want Dee Milliner. Any of the other corners on the list could be available at the end of the first round.
Although safety is more of a pressing need, the Niners don't have much long-term stability at cornerback. It wouldn't surprise me at all if one of these five players is drafted by San Francisco.
|3||Xavier Rhodes ||Florida State ||6'2" ||210 ||30|
|5||Johnthan Banks ||Mississippi State||6'2"||185||20|
To land Kenny Vaccaro, the Niners would need to trade up, but he's probably not worth the potential price. Sure, he has experience in man coverage against slot receivers and he's a fearless hitter, but he's not the can't-miss safety prospect Earl Thomas was when he entered the draft out of Texas.
If John Cyprien is available at the end of the first round, I'd be surprised if the Niners didn't take him. Matt Elam reminds me of a younger, more talented version of Donte Whitner, and considering Whitner is in his contract year, the Niners might take him to be the strong safety of the future.
Eric Reid had a few miserable games in 2012, but if he's available at the end of the second round, the Niners should draft him without hesitation.
|1||Kenny Vaccaro, FS||Texas||6'0"||214||10|
|2||John Cyprien, S||Florida International||6'0"||217||22|
|3||Matt Elam, SS||Florida||5'10"||208||44|
|4||Eric Reid, FS||LSU||6'1"||213||56|
|5||D.J. Swearinger, S||South Carolina||5'11"||208||47|
I predict the 49ers will trade the 34th pick, 93rd pick and 128th pick to the Minnesota Vikings for the 25th pick. From there, they'll take Datone Jones, the versatile defensive lineman they need.
Will John Cyprien still be on the board at the end of the first round? Will the 49ers consider Tyrann Mathieu? Fortunately, we'll know for sure by the end of the week.
|1||Datone Jones, DE||UCLA||6'4"||283||25|
|1||John Cyprien, S||Florida International||6'0"||217||31|
|2||Darius Slay, CB||Mississippi State||6'0"||192||61|
|3||Barrett Jones, C||Alabama||6'5"||306||74|
|4||Dion Sims, TE||Michigan State||6'5"||262||131|
|5||Ace Sanders, WR/KR||South Carolina||5'7"||173||157|