San Francisco 49ers Draft Preview Part 2: Defensive Positions
In Part 2 of my article, I will focus on the defensive players the 49ers may have their eyes on in this year's draft.
The 49ers appear to have successfully addressed many of their gaps via free agency with their signings of Nnamdi Asomugha, a four-time All-Pro cornerback, former Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and free safety Craig Dahl.
As in Part 1 of my article, I am focusing on what I believe to be value players that many fans might not be considering as possible draft picks. I believe one or two of this year's defensive draft picks will become major contributors to the 49ers' continued dominance of the NFC West.
Shamarko Thomas: An Intriguing Prospect at Strong Safety
Despite his size limitations for the position at 5'9", Shamarko Thomas is an aggressive hitter that is said to play with reckless abandon. The 49ers, who are looking to replace Dashon Goldson at strong safety, would love to add a Ronnie Lott-style hitter to their defensive roster.
In his final season at Syracuse, Thomas started all 13 games at safety in 2012, He was the team's leading tackler with 88, and he had three forced fumbles and two interceptions, earning First Team All-Big East status.
Despite the scouts' concern with his size, Thomas was ranked No. 1 in the categories of 40-yard dash time, bench press reps and vertical jump. Many draft experts have him ranked as the fourth best strong safety available in the draft.
With a name like Shamarko, he has to be a tough player and would likely become an instant fan favorite, possibly earning the nickname of "The Shark" as he patrols the 49ers secondary. Thomas will likely be available in the second and possibly third round of the draft.
Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins Would Make the 49ers Defensive Front Fearsome
One of the most intriguing defensive lineman available in this year's draft is underclassman Johnathon Hankins out of Ohio State. At 6'3" and 320 pounds, Hankins is a BJ Raji type mountain of a man, yet offers fluidity and movement to drop back into pass coverage and roam the line.
He is disruptive against both the run and the pass. He is versatile in that he has played both defensive end and and defensive tackle, and the 49ers need someone who can spell players at various positions on their defensive front.
Hankins has a mean streak and has been often called for late-hit penalties. The 49ers may have to trade up in the first round to grab him.
Stanford's Chase Thomas Could Add to the 49ers' Impressive Linebacker Corps
Stanford's Chase Thomas is projected to go anywhere from the second to the fourth round of the draft. While lacking elite speed for a linebacker, Thomas brings savvy and aggression to the position. He is also a likely known commodity to the 49ers having played at Stanford.
Thomas is known to play with both discipline and aggression and would bring a high level of energy and leadership to the 49ers' linebacker corps.