5 2014 NFL Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Interest 49ers

Phil GCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2014

5 2014 NFL Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Interest 49ers

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    Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    In the middle of a thrilling postseason for the San Francisco 49ers, it's nice to sit back and wonder what exciting talent will join this team in the upcoming offseason. Believe me, game-changing talent is everywhere in what should be a very deep draft. 

    For such a talented team, what could the 49ers possibly need? Well, general managers tend to throw this type of thinking to the wayside. 

    As much as we want to believe the 49ers are going to contend for the next six or seven years, you just never know in the NFL. From injuries to old age, a team's window can close very quickly. 

    Luckily for the 49ers, they'll have the picks and resources to dictate the draft once again. After having 13 selections last year, the 49ers could potentially have 13 draft picks once again (including compensatory picks) in 2014. 

    Here are five players who could interest the 49ers come draft time. 

Marqise Lee, WR (USC)

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    Marqise Lee is a first-round talent who may end up going somewhere in the mid-to-late second round. In terms of a pro comparison, Lee reminds me of San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen.

    Like Allen, Lee could have the dreaded injury tag, which will hurt his draft stock come May. In a injury-plagued season for the USC Trojans, Lee finished with 57 catches and just four touchdowns.

    In his sophomore season, Lee was a terror against opposing defenses. He put up a monster season, securing 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    Which Lee will pro teams get?

    For the 49ers, they can gamble with the Lee pick, especially if he ends up dropping past the first round. Remember, the 49ers have two second-round selections, with one of the two coming from the Kansas City Chiefs in the Alex Smith deal last offseason.

    At 6'0'' and 195 pounds, Lee doesn't have the physical body type teams covet in a receiver. Everyone wants the next Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones.

    What he doesn't possess in height, he makes up for in speed and length. In addition, Lee is an excellent route-runner, which should help him see the field early.

    Now, would I move up to take Lee in the first round? Absolutely not! However, if Lee can stay healthy, he should be an instant contributor in the NFL.

Mike Evans, WR (Texas A&M)

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    Get accustomed to seeing receivers on this list. Mike Evans is a big reason why. 

    Listed at 6'5'' and 225 pounds, Evans is the most physical receiver coming out of the draft. In all honesty, Evans is an absolute bully when it comes to fighting for those 50-50 balls.

    In the NFC West, the 49ers would love to add a physical presence on the outside. Not to mention Evans' straight-line speed on go routes.

    He can struggle to create separation at times, which is largely due to his average burst and short area quickness. However, I still feel certain areas in his game can be corrected if the 49ers can improve Evans footwork. 

    When the 49ers decide to use three-receiver sets, which isn't often, pairing Evans opposite Michael Crabtree would be a dangerous proposition for opposing defenses. If the 49ers can find a suitable partner opposite Crabtree, it should allow Anquan Boldin to play his more natural slot position. 

    In all likelihood, the 49ers will have to move up in the first round to acquire Evans. Now, if some team takes Evans in the top 10, then forget about it. 

    However, if Evans falls anywhere near the 13 to 17 range, he could be in play for the 49ers. 

Zach Mettenberger, QB (LSU)

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    With Colin Kaepernick in the fold, the 49ers aren't actively looking for potential franchise quarterbacks. However, Zach Mettenberger could fit that label of a franchise quarterback and still be had somewhere in the third or fourth round. 

    Mettenberger took a giant leap this year, and so did his draft stock. At one point, I thought Mettenberger could sneak into the first round if a team was desperate for a quarterback. 

    Of course, everything went down hill when Mettenberger tore his ACL and couldn't play in the Outback Bowl this year. In the process, his draft stock likely took a huge hit. 

    This should help contending teams like the 49ers that are in need of a suitable backup. 

    Now, Mettenberger isn't Kaepernick. In fact, I would probably say Mettenberger is the complete opposite of the mobile Kaepernick. 

    Mettenberger is strictly a pocket passer. At 6'5'' and 235 pounds, he has the size and arm teams covet in a franchise quarterback. Also, his accuracy has improved greatly since his porous junior season at LSU. 

    Now, the bad part. 

    Mettenberger is slow. I mean Peyton Manning slow. Even worse, he isn't quick within the pocket either. 

    At least with other slow quarterbacks like Manning and Tom Brady, they can move around in the pocket. Mettenberger looks like a giant trying to play in a confined space. 

    Nevertheless, Mettenberger is worth a look in this draft. With Colt McCoy likely departing after this season, the 49ers could use a pro-ready type of quarterback as insurance. 

    If developed properly, Mettenberger could resemble quarterback Ryan Mallett from the New England Patriots. Should be a good value pick in the third or fourth round. 

Darqueze Dennard, CB (Michigan State)

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    Starting cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers may depart after this season, which leaves some holes in the 49ers secondary. The return of Chris Culliver should help, though the fourth-year defensive back is coming off a serious injury. 

    The 49ers know how to draft defense. We all know how the Eric Reid selection from last year turned out. I think the 49ers can find a similar talent in this year's draft. 

    The best corner in this draft is Darqueze Dennard. Some might point to Justin Gilbert for this label, and while the Oklahoma State product is unbelievably athletic, his technique and physicality is lacking compared to Dennard. 

    Dennard can play effectively in man, press-man and zone coverages. His versatility should allow the 49ers to play him outside and in the slot. 

    In addition, Dennard is fantastic against the run. If you want to see the field for the 49ers, you better play the run effectively. 

    While Dennard brings some physicality to the table, he isn't an overly gifted runner. I have my concerns with Dennard against deep-threat receivers at the next level. 

    Currently speaking, Dennard is a surefire first-round pick. He could go anywhere from 10 to 20 in this year's draft, depending on the need at quarterback. 

    Should the 49ers bring the house to acquire Dennard? No, but he is worthy of a top-15 selection. 

    If the 49ers decide to re-work Roger's deal or re-sign Brown, Dennard would likely be out of their range unless he somehow slips to the end of the first round.

    We'll see.

Sammy Watkins, WR (Clemson)

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    Now, some might say if the 49ers were to acquire Sammy Watkins, the sky would fall, and the world as we know it would end. Watkins is projected to go in the top 10 in this year's draft

    Of course, this could all change come May. 

    Watkins has rare speed, burst and quickness at the receiver position. In space, he's an absolute terror to opposing defenses. 

    At 6'1'' and 205 pounds, Watkins is not a physical receiver. Like Lee, he doesn't have the ideal height teams covet, but you just can't teach speed.

    He is far more developed as a receiver than Cordarrelle Patterson, the designated "flash" of last year's draft. In addition, Watkins has sure hands and the ability to win jump balls.

    Surprisingly, at his height, Watkins has excellent awareness when it comes to tracking the football in the air. This gives him the upper edge when it comes to 50-50 balls, especially in the red zone. 

    Watkins is the type of player who could help the 49ers in the NFC West, especially against the Seattle Seahawks secondary. 

    The Seahawks can struggle against deep-threat receivers. Just imagine a lineup with Watkins, Boldin and Crabtree in three-receiver sets, with Vernon Davis lurking near by. 

    Based off recent history, I wouldn't bet on general manager Trent Baalke moving up nearly 20 spots to draft a receiver. However, in this case, Watkins could be the game-changing receiver the 49ers desperately need. 

    Tough decisions await the 49ers.