San Francisco 49ers' 2014 Mock Draft: Round-by-Round Best-Case Scenarios
- Impact: So often, the 49ers draft players who have no influence or role on the team whatsoever. The team needs to find new, exciting talent that gives the 49ers a reason to get them involved right away.
- Addressing Needs: They may be deep, but the 49ers have needs to fill like any other team.
- Draft Philosophy: Looking at past drafts, we’ll pick players and execute moves that best suit this team’s true philosophical approach.
- Positional Consistency: The 49ers have had success picking cornerbacks, as well as undrafted free-agent linemen, in between Rounds 3-7. Their strengths will afford them the luxury of waiting on certain positions while picking others sooner.
The NFL draft is serious business.
Forget about free agency; this is how franchises and dynasties are built, particularly for the San Francisco 49ers, who have 16 homegrown starters on offense and defense, not including the team's lauded punter Andy Lee, who is the only All-Pro drafted in the sixth round since 2001.
This is a team with no shortage of talent—virtually on the cusp of running the table every single year—as its best players have been hand-picked at Radio City.
In the upcoming 2014 draft, the team is expecting to have 13 selections at its disposal, per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area. This will be for a second time in a row, making this general manager Trent Baalke’s time to shine, which he has done time and time again.
Sure, he’s had a few misses here and there, but he’s helped build a bully. And he'll look to amend his past blunders, so we can sort of gauge how the 49ers will approach the draft this time around.
With that many picks last year, San Francisco traded up three times in the first 88 picks and still over-drafted talented players (see Kansas City Chiefs' Marcus Cooper and Seattle Seahawks' B.J. Daniels). It’ll execute a number of trades again, likely near the front of the draft where the quality lies.
The 49ers are not looking to make other teams better by selecting too many names. They're still also adding bodies from the 2013 class.
With all their ammunition and how deep this draft is at positions they need, the 49ers are one of the clear threats to kill this draft at the top.
The following mock draft will take into account the possible free-agent losses of safety Donte Whitner and wideout Anquan Boldin, as well as others.
The identity of this draft presents too good of an opportunity for the 49ers to save a substantial sum of cap space while improving yet again.
Remember, the 49ers have to re-sign nearly the entire 2011 draft class, which potentially includes a $100 million quarterback, plus Michael Crabtree. With this draft, the 49ers look to save money, provide leverage in contract talks with current players and restock the offense for the future, while at the same time preparing for the loss of a couple key players on the defensive side.
Finally, as opposed to the 2012 draft, the 49ers picked up a lot of big-name talent in 2013, and it looks like one of their best classes yet. Most should expect the team to take a similar approach this year, putting together another high-quality draft that's perhaps even more talented with fewer players.
Mock Draft Outline
Round 1: Make a Splash
The Pick: Kelvin Benjamin (WR), Florida State
Currently pegged as a fringe first- or second-round pick, wideout Kelvin Benjamin will undoubtedly test off the charts at the combine, so mid- to late-first round seems like a reasonable spot to pick the colossal target from Florida State if you want him.
Dreadlocks and all, Benjamin is 6’5” and possesses 234 pounds of dazzling pass-catching ability.
In just 27 games played for the Seminoles, he had 80 receptions for 1,452 yards and 18 touchdowns (14 TDs in his final year, leading the ACC). That includes his drops for you skeptics out there.
Outside the scores, his whopping career average of 18.2 yards per catch is what the 49ers are looking at for their offense.
It's chunk yardage in the form of an overgrown matchup nightmare.
It's no secret that the 49ers need a deep threat and a basketball body to help generate more big plays in the passing game and to aid their eternal red-zone woes, which have long plagued this offense. The last thing this offense needs is another undersized slot receiver.
With his ostrich-like stride and ability to high-point the football, Benjamin can add an element the 49ers don’t have. He can make a difference from the get-go. And if he gets on the jugs machine and trains as a hands catcher with wideout Michael Crabtree, there may be a top-five receiver in Benjamin.
This pick gives the 49ers a potential NFL superstar on offense, and most importantly, a new dimension and complementary workhorse opposite Crabtree.
With the 49ers parked at the end of Round 1, Benjamin may fall right into their lap, which would allow them to conserve picks for the rest of the draft.
Alternative Plan: Trade up for Mike Evans of Texas A&M
Texas A&M WR Mike Evans declares for NFL draft; only FBS player with multiple 250-yard receiving games this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 2, 2014
In 2013, the 49ers moved up from No. 31 to No. 18 for LSU safety Eric Reid without batting an eye, and if they were faced with the decision again, they wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Again, this draft needs to be about quality, not quantity, and whoever the 49ers select must make an impact.
This is their game-changer on offense—the outside receiver they’ve coveted for years.
Bleacher Report's National Writer and Draft Analyst Matt Miller confirmed a possible fit for Evans and the 49ers, believing the A&M star can immediately shoulder the Anquan Boldin jump-ball role.
In a lot of ways, bringing in a weapon who possesses a skill set the 49ers have never had for Colin Kaepernick is a perfect marriage.
Furthermore, the move for Evans provides a safety net if the 49ers and Boldin can’t meet in the middle somewhere, if Michael Crabtree’s eventual asking price is in the top-10 receiver range (which it might be) and when the soon-to-be 30-year-old tight end Vernon Davis is looking for someone to take the weight off to help with his career longevity.
Here’s their guy on a silver platter, and all the 49ers have to do is execute a very similar trade to the one they made in April 2013.
By making this selection, they build to win now (times 1,000), allow for leverage in contract talks and solidify a contingency plan for the future with Evans and Quinton Patton.
This may be unlikely with how desirable a pick Evans will be, parked between the Jets and the Ravens, but it's a hot-ticket move the 49ers could easily execute on the opening night of the draft.
In doing this, they can auction off picks and trade up less in Rounds 2 and 3, or they can trade back out of the second round and stockpile thirds again after acquiring Evans. Any way you slice it, this is a very pursuable draft plan.
Round 2: Solidify the Big Four
The Pick (1): Deone Bucannon (SS), Washington St.
The 49ers replace a “Hitner” with a cannon—Deone Bucannon, that is.
Trent Baalke will have two second-rounders at his disposal already, via the Alex Smith deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, so they can move up to the top of the round and pick one of the top defensive players left on the board in the Cougars' safety.
Whatever route they go with safety Donte Whitner, either tagging the soon-to-be 29-year-old or letting him walk, the 49ers will need a game-ready safety with enough upside to succeed Whitner.
His game has shades of Whitner’s, but he's better in coverage, making him a perfect long-term fit next to Eric Reid.
Bucannon (6’1”, 198 lbs) is unanimously the No. 1-rated strong safety this year.
The four-year player for Washington State was not just a tenacious hitter, piling up 170 pad-cracking takedowns in 45 games, but Bucannon also accrued a whopping 15 interceptions, picking off more balls each season. This is an ascending player, and he is NFL-ready.
With that nasty streak, he’s got 49er written all over him.
The Pick (2): Bradley Roby (CB), Ohio State
This round expects to be littered with talented cornerbacks, and Ohio State Buckeye Bradley Roby is said to be the most gifted one in the draft.
Off-the-field issues project to keep him out of Round 1, and other questions about his character and latest season may even have him sitting there until the mid- to late-second round. Someone will select him, though, and whichever team does might be getting one of the steals of the draft.
Looking at it for San Francisco, the 49ers must acquire him for secondary coach Ed Donatell, who has chiseled every defensive back on the roster, consistently yielding optimal results.
Roby has all the tools in the world to become a marquee player for this secondary for years, and he’ll have time to hone his craft before he is thrust into a major role.
The first-team All-American brings world-class speed, magnet-like closing ability and instincts that make him a big-play threat on defense.
In a defense like this, Roby can really reach his ceiling.
With this pick, the 49ers add one of the most decorated players in college football to a cornerback group expected to feature Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver and Eric Wright. This No. 3-ranked pass defense will get a whole lot better for 2014.
The Pick (3): Davante Adams (WR), Fresno State
The 49ers were originally slated with three third-round picks, including a non-tradable compensatory pick, so near the end here, they elect to move back into the second, where there are still bound to be first-round caliber wideouts available. To reenter the second round, they will give up a third, a sixth and a seventh.
Enter the most productive college receiver in America: Davante Adams.
If the 49ers move up for Mike Evans, then this is a luxury pick they probably won’t make, but with Kelvin Benjamin being as raw as he is and the 49ers having two slots to fill at wide receiver, a natural-looking pass-catcher like Adams in the second round makes tons of sense.
In two years at Fresno State, he posted staggering numbers, much like the short-lived college career of a former Red Raider everyone knows and loves.
As a sophomore, Adams racked up NCAA highs of 131 catches and 24 touchdowns, with 1,719 yards (No. 2 in the nation). Simply put, he is the total package, even bearing a physical likeness to San Francisco’s own Michael Crabtree.
The 6’2”, 216-pounder is a terrific hands catcher who can innately find open space, and even when he can’t, he can make contested grabs.
Round 3: Complete the Offensive Line
The Pick: Bryan Stork (C), Florida State
Center Jonathan Goodwin, 35, is in the final year of his three-year contract with the 49ers and may very well walk away from the game of football after this season. The team’s veteran offensive lineman told Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News that he has indeed contemplated retirement, admitting to thoughts of it here and there.
In all likelihood, the 49ers will be looking to replace the starting center in the draft.
Florida State’s Bryan Stork is the picturesque candidate for this team, given his round projection, gritty playing style and pedigree. He started 39 games for the nation's No. 2 scoring offense, emerging as a team leader and top player in the nation at his respective position.
Before his tenure was up at FSU, Stork won the Rimington Trophy, given to NCAA football’s best center, and he also won a BCS National Championship.
This past season, he earned 2013 All-ACC first-team recognition as one of the best players for one of the better offensive lines.
At 6’4”, 300 pounds, Stork will become a harrier at the eye of the line, proving to be an upgrade in the long term.
With this team and how they like to pound the football, it’s a position that necessitates tenacity at the nucleus of the offensive front, which Goodwin, for all his positives as a center, did not possess. San Francisco likes to ram it between the tackles, so there is value with Stork, who was also quarterback Jameis Winston's guy during a Heisman-winning season.
From day one, Stork has the upside to be the brain of the O-line and make this a meaner ground team, while also giving it some bite in pass protection.
Round 4: Continue Adding Developmental Talent on the D-Line
The Pick: Josh Mauro (DL), Stanford
This is a thick, high-motor bull that can make a seamless transition from 3-4 defensive end at Stanford to San Francisco.
At 6’6”, 282 pounds, Josh Mauro is a diamond in the rough that 49ers line coach Jim Tomsula can turn into the next blue-collar, bare-knuckle bruiser in the trenches.
It was a late rise in his stock, but it was warranted nonetheless. Mauro stepped into a starting role late in his career and thrived, really busting some heads. After three years as a spot player, he racked up 47 tackles, 10.5 for a loss and four sacks in his final 11 games as a starter.
It was a clinic. If he had a chance to do this for consecutive seasons, we might be talking about a first- or second-round pick. And if his brute force weren’t enough, Mauro even flashed his situational awareness and freakish athleticism, picking up an interception that was returned for 25 yards.
Here are recent notes from NFL draft scout Matt Miller on Mauro:
Injuries allowed senior Josh Mauro more playing time at defensive end in the Stanford 3-4 scheme, and with that opportunity he has flourished. Mauro, at 6'6", 282 pounds, has the ideal length and strength to play as a 5-technique in the NFL. And after his production and impact were on display during the second half of the season, Mauro has shot up my board.
A one-time seventh-round prospect, Mauro is now inside my top 100.
After taking Tank Carradine last year, the 49ers bring in Stanford’s Josh Mauro as a possible pairing for the long-term. He can learn from Tomsula and the player he will inevitably draw comparisons to in 3-4 tackle Justin Smith.
#Stanford Josh Mauro has been a nice riser this year. The big DE prospect got his NFL Combine invite today.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 6, 2014
Round 5: Lock Down a Backup Quarterback
The Pick: Aaron Murray (QB), Georgia
University of Georgia captain Aaron Murray was a four-year starter for the Bulldogs, sprucing up his resume and equipping him with a tremendous pedigree (51 games). In that time, the quarterback threw for over 13,000 yards and 121 touchdowns.
During his tenure, Murray procured a number of SEC passing records and was a part of several valiant wins against the toughest defenses.
Still, as he recovers from knee surgery, he only projects to be a fourth- or fifth-round draft choice.
While he is not very big, at 6’1” 208 pounds, and doesn’t possess the ideal arm strength, Murray is an intelligent quarterback that executes well. Between his mechanics and ability to grasp a pro-style offense and operate within it, there is certainly value with Murray, especially if his job is to be a backup.
Looking to part ways with Colt McCoy in the offseason, the 49ers draft Aaron Murray in a late round to be their No. 2 behind Colin Kaepernick.
Round 6: Revamp Cornerback Depth
The Pick: Deion Belue (CB), Alabama
After trading their sixth earlier, the 49ers move up again, auctioning off two of their three remaining sevenths to get back in Round 6.
With their selection, they add another physically gifted cornerback with polish to their already well filled-out unit in Deion Belue.
While his college career was short lived, Belue has done enough to land with an NFL team so they can see what he’s made of. In 2012, he started 14 games opposite current New York Jets cornerback Dee Milliner, but then returned as the No. 1 man at Alabama for what would be his final campaign, and actually put together a commendable season.
In 20 starts over two years, Belue accrued 54 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, three interceptions and 12 pass deflections.
The Tide went 18-2 during that time. The truth is, at 5’11, 183 pounds, running in the 4.4s (low 4.38), Belue models an electric playmaker. He can improve as a tackler, but there is potential here. He was a defensive leader for one of the hardest teams in college football, which will give him a callus coming to the 49ers, who are on another level.
As a No. 4 or 5 cornerback in 2014, he’s got a chance to hone his craft, while exhibiting promise for the future.
In the SEC, Belue had to handle some of the most grizzly and ultra-athletic playmakers in college football. Strong, fast physical specimens that most quantify as genetic freaks. But he consistently held his ground, which speaks to his own physical ability and what he might be able to do with good NFL coaching.
Deion Belue is a technician, the recovery speed is good, the instincts are solid and he’s got the fortitude to play ball in the NFC West.
Round 7: Add a Specialist
The Pick: Dri Archer (RB), Kent State
Just ask Antonio Gates—revolutionary playmakers come from Kent State.
In the last round, with the last pick, having auctioned off the others, the 49ers decide to gamble on that small sample size by grabbing a return specialist here in WR/RB Dri Archer. But if this 5’8”, 175-pound dart winds up becoming the next Devin Hester or Dante Hall, the 49ers will not regret making this pick.
In four years with the Golden Flashes, Archer was an all-purpose grinder, finishing with 3,356 yards from scrimmage and 36 touchdowns (46 games played). But he doubled as a return man, and really broke through over his past two seasons. He piled up 1,436 kick return yards in his career, with all four touchdowns coming in his past 24 games for the team.
According to NFL Draft Scout, Archer runs a low 4.26 in that miniature physique of his, and sometimes, he is just impossible to capture.
This could be a real shot in the arm for the return team.
With All-Pro legs in Andy Lee and Phil Dawson, and this coverage squad, all this team needs is a dynamic returner that can make the entire special teams unit as equally a threatening phase of their team as any. Archer can provide that. The focus should also be to wean LaMichael James from special teams to the offense in 2014.
There’s not a lot of room on this roster and this team has more draft picks than anyone, so the San Francisco 49ers need to take players that can compete for time, offer a specialty or potentially develop into something down the road.
In the first two rounds of the draft, Trent Baalke establishes the big four in this class—wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, safety Deone Bucannon, cornerback Bradley Roby and wide receiver Davante Adams—which is the cement that holds this class together, providing flexibility to add specialists and draft-to-develop in the later rounds.
And it knocks out their top needs, providing another layer on offense and defense for coach Jim Harbaugh’s team of the future.
The reason for taking Davante Adams in the second round is because Kelvin Benjamin is such a raw player, but worth the gamble with his extraordinary upside. The three most fluid receivers would be Michael Crabtree, Quinton Patton and Davante Adams while Benjamin contributes and develops into a mega-freak.
But again, don’t rule out a move for Mike Evans, which could mirror the Eric Reid trade in 2013.
The 49ers can tailor this receiving corps however they please, while saving money by doing it in the draft. And with how strong they are on defense and special teams, as well as on the ground on offense, if the 49ers load up like this in the passing game, they’ll be nearly unstoppable.
When it comes to their opponents, they’ll take the phrase, “they can’t match up,” to a whole new level.
Add in the under-the-radar selection of Dri Archer, and you can see this draft is about enabling the 49ers to score more points on Sunday. What else do they really need to do?
Moving on down the list, aside from the move for Bucannon, the 49ers are smart in the secondary and grab two very talented cornerbacks in this class, too, which provides a safety net if someone happens to get hurt at any time or if there are any bumps in the road for Chris Culliver in his return from his ACL injury. Lineman Josh Mauro is also a great depth pick with potential to start one day, perhaps for Ray McDonald opposite Tank Carradine.
As for the positions left out, well, the 49ers don’t need running backs or a fullback, so no surprise there.
They’re also overloaded at outside linebacker and Michael Wilhoite looks a lot like the backup inside linebacker of the future, so no needs there. Center is also addressed and the organization doesn’t need to spend any extra picks on OL with Adam Snyder at swing tackle and Luke Marquardt in the works.
If they need to replace guards Alex Boone or Mike Iupati because of contracts, they can do it in 2015.
And there you have it: the 49ers are a better team than they were in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and they’re built for the long haul.