49ers general manager Trent Baalke has developed a skill for acquiring picks.
No, of course not!
Mock drafts are fun and are a great way to take a look at specifically what each team around the NFL needs to do during the offseason.
The 49ers are no different. In spite of being one of the most talented and deep teams in the NFL, San Francisco still has needs. Some were made apparent this season. Others will become a priority at season's end.
While it is still very early to break down a detailed look at the 49ers' plans in this upcoming draft, we can determine a variety of needs the team has, as well as projecting what future investments would most benefit the franchise.
According to Bill Williamson of ESPN, two of San Francisco preeminent needs are a wide receiver and a cornerback. It is reasonable to assume the 49ers go for each this draft.
There are still plenty of factors that can change the 49ers' approach during the 2014 offseason—where they eventually wind up drafting, free-agent departures and acquisitions, etc. Many of these possible facets shall be described herein.
Let's dive straight into it.
For starters, the 49ers currently have 13 picks to utilize in the 2014 draft, per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
Simply stated, there is no way that 13 prospects find their way onto San Francisco's roster next season. There just are not enough holes to fill regardless of any pending free-agency departure or trade.
Yet the plethora of picks once again lends credence to general manager Trent Baalke's ability to stockpile picks. Having too many picks is never a bad thing and, as a result, we can expect the 49ers to either trade up in the draft at times—much like they did in 2013—or even trade away current picks for future considerations.
Here is the list of picks from Maiocco:
1. First round: Own pick
2. Second round: Own pick
3. Second round: Kansas City pick in 2013 Alex Smith trade
4. Third round: Tennessee pick in 2013 draft day trade
5. Third round: Own pick
6. **Third: Compensatory
7. Fourth round: Own pick
8. Fifth round: Own pick
9. Sixth round: Own pick
10. Seventh round: Carolina pick from 2012 Colin Jones trade
11. Seventh round: New Orleans pick from Parys Haralson trade
12. Seventh round: Indianapolis pick from Cam Johnson trade
13. Seventh round: Own pick
**-The 49ers are in position to gain at least one compensatory pick due to a net loss of qualifying 2013 free agents. The pick, resulting from Dashon Goldson's departure, is expected to be a third-round selection.
Knowing the 49ers will finish with a draft slot between Nos. 29 and 32, we can estimate roughly where San Francisco will draft during each round with the exception of traded picks. As a note, compensatory picks cannot be traded.
In determining the value of picks—in case San Francisco elects to either trade up, or trade this year's picks for picks next season—we will use the draft pick value chart supplied here by David Fucillo of Niners Nation.
Let's take a look at an early seven-round mock draft for the 49ers.
Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver
School: Florida State
Height/Weight: 6'5"/242 pounds
Florida State wideout Kelvin Benjamin could be that key factor that impacts San Francisco's offense for many years to come.
For starters, just look at the physique of this player—a 6'5" stature and 242 pounds of receiving muscle. That is a physical specimen that alone could strike fear into the minds of defenses around the league.
Benjamin totaled 54 receptions for 1,101 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in 2013 for Florida State—No. 1 in the ACC for touchdown receptions.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com had this to say about Benjamin:
Few have Benjamin's blend of size and speed, a potential matchup nightmare for defensive backs at the next level. He has long arms and does a nice job full extending to create an enormous catching radius for cornerbacks to try and defend. Benjamin needs to show more development and focus at the catch point to complete catches and do a better job finishing with the ball. He is still raw in several areas, including his route running, but his long strides and natural tools makes him a very attractive prospect early in the draft. Benjamin caught the game-winning touchdown in the BCS Championship game and finished the 2013 season with several career-bests.
One could imagine that type of talent in San Francisco and the needs Benjamin would address within the offense.
While he still has some areas to improve in, Benjamin's assets are too good to overlook. His raw weaknesses are coachable, yet the 49ers would have no need to coach his size. That alone gives him tremendous prowess.
49ers fans know all too well that their passing game was far from adequate during the 2013 season. With San Francisco's pass attack ranking 30th in the NFL in total passing yards (2,979), the addition of a bona fide wideout could pay huge dividends.
For starters, the 49ers understand that veteran receiver Anquan Boldin could be on his way out after his one-year contract expires after this season. While it would be nice for Boldin to stay, will the asking price be too much?
Rookie Quinton Patton could still be a nice complementary receiver and Michael Crabtree is signed through 2014. If Crabtree's contractual asking price is too high, that may force San Francisco's hand. Having a tremendous talent ready to go by 2015 might be the very thing this team needs.
Yet the 49ers will likely be seeking an impact player that can contribute right away. Benjamin has that ability. His red-zone abilities are something that would be a huge asset to the 49ers offense. Having a player aside from Crabtree, Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis to make plays in the end zone would be of great value.
It may also put an end to San Francisco frequently relying on red-zone field-goal attempts.
According to Brugler, Benjamin is slated to be the No. 23-overall pick in the 2014 draft and is rated as the No. 2 wide receiver, according to NFL Draft Scout.
While it is possible Benjamin slips to the 49ers with their late first-round pick, do not be surprised to see the 49ers trade up a few picks to ensure they get their hands on him. Teams like the Patriots, Panthers and Chiefs could all be eye-balling a receiver in this draft.
San Francisco has plenty of chips with which to play and assuming Brugler is correct, the 49ers may elect to trade up to the 22nd slot.
How would they do this?
The 49ers trade their own first-round pick along with the 77th-overall pick—acquired from Tennessee—to move up to 22nd overall. San Francisco then drafts Benjamin with their first-round selection.
San Francisco did something similar to this to acquire Eric Reid in 2013. Do not be surprised if it makes a similar move in 2014.
If drafting Benjamin is too lofty of a goal, the 49ers could consider targeting Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who was the recipient of the 2013 Fred Biletnikoff Award, which would give San Francisco two recipients—the other being Crabtree.
While Cooks is not the biggest receiver in the draft—5'10" and 186 pounds—he does have speed to burn, per his profile on CBS Sports.
With the 49ers having a need for a receiver to stretch the field, Cooks could be that vertical threat. He is also slated to go late in the first or early in the second round, per NFL Draft Scout, close to where San Francisco would be drafting.
Thanks to the trade that sent former-49ers quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco will enjoy having two second-round picks at its disposal in the 2014 draft.
The team has already addressed a pressing need in the first round—drafting a wide receiver by the likes of Kelvin Benjamin or Brandin Cooks. Now, it is time to solidify the secondary.
Bradley Roby, Cornerback
School: Ohio State
Height/Weight: 5'11"/192 pounds
There are plenty of things to like about Ohio State corner Bradley Roby. While his size is not exactly something that bodes well for the position, Roby is more than capable of using his speed to make plays. This facet was made clear by his prospectus on NFL Draft Scout.
That type of speed would fit well into the press-based scheme employed by San Francisco's defense and should benefit the team when it takes on some of the faster receivers within the NFC West.
In 2013, Roby amassed 54 tackles and 15 assists in limited action while ranking third in the Big Ten with 13 passes defended.
There are two things that have thwarted Roby's draft stock to date.
First, he has had some off-the-field issues, per CBS Sports, which likely will drive this first-round talent deep into the second round of the 2014 draft. This could make him available late in the second when the 49ers are looking to spend the pick acquired from Kansas City.
If properly coached, Roby has the potential to be a stalwart member of San Francisco's secondary for years to come. He has the tools to do so and should be considered a viable asset.
The 49ers secondary played surprisingly well in 2013—ranking seventh in the NFL in passing yards against (3,536). Thanks to stellar play by veteran corner Tarell Brown and the emergence of Tramaine Brock, San Francisco's backfield looked solid for much of the regular season.
Yet Brown is set to become a free agent after this season, as is fellow corner Eric Wright.
While it is yet to be determined whether or not the 49ers will entertain re-signing one, or both, of these cornerbacks, it is safe to assume San Francisco wants to solidify its secondary with the addition of a talented corner it can keep on roster for years to come.
There is no questioning the importance of a vaunted pass rush in today's pass-first NFL. But a gifted secondary complements that element and considering the possible departure of two veteran corners, the 49ers would look to go after a player like Roby in the second round.
San Francisco drafts Roby with the No. 24 pick in the second round (acquired from Kansas City). Then it looks to its next second-round pick to continue its bolstering of the defensive backfield.
Ahmad Dixon, Strong Safety
Height/Weight: 6'0"/205 pounds
Having patrolled the backfield for Baylor for the better part of four years, strong safety Ahmad Dixon is a player that the 49ers should keep their eyes on come draft day.
He has good height and weight for the position and excellent speed, per his draft portfolio on NFL Draft Scout, which ranks him No. 2 out of 167 strong safeties.
Here is Dane Brugler's description of him from CBS Sports:
Strengths: Extremely fast downhill and loves to get his hands dirty in the run game, striking through his target with strong hands to finish. Dixon has an accurate first step with the quickness and range to play both sidelines with an alert, active mentality. Displays the feet and overall body coordination to hold up on an island if needed. Excellent size/speed athlete with the fluidity and natural speed to cover the entire field, making plays behind the line of scrimmage and in the deep half of the field. Works hard to shed blocks to make open-field stops and is a physical tackler. He is confident in coverage to jump routes and aggressively go after the ball.
Weaknesses: He still needs some technique and recognition work when it comes to coverage. Needs to consistently wrap up and not just hit his target with body shots.
The size and speed is something to consider and would fit well into San Francisco's backfield. Stopping the run should also be paramount to the 49ers scheme. In addition, coverage skills can be coached over time—look no further than how the 49ers were able to coach up Donte Whitner in this regard.
According to CBS Sports, Dixon is slated to be drafted either late in the second, or early in the third round.
Dixon supplies an immediate need if, in case, the 49ers elect to part ways with current strong safety Whitner.
Whitner will finish the final year of his three-year, $11.65 million contract this season and is set to become a free agent. Given his accolades, including being named to the Pro Bowl in 2012, it is likely that Whitner will command a lofty contract this offseason.
Whether or not the 49ers elect to retain Whitner's services, the fact remains that San Francisco will likely be looking for their strong safety of the future. Here is where Dixon's stock is something of value.
In many ways, Dixon emulates Whitner, including his size. As a rookie, Dixon would be a much more affordable option.
San Francisco uses its own second-round pick (between Nos. 29 and 32) to draft Dixon.
Pending how the 49ers trade their picks to this point, the 49ers could also consider either trading up for strong safety Deone Bucannon, who is ranked as the No. 1 strong safety in this draft class, per CBS Sports. Again, there are plenty of trade chips to make this happen and, similar to Dixon, drafting Bucannon would give the 49ers an answer to a potential Whitner departure.
San Francisco's other second-round pick may also be used on an additional wide receiver like Jordan Matthews—cousin of 49ers great Jerry Rice.
While the 49ers have likely tabbed a wideout in the first round, a second receiver should be another strong target.
This might require a trade-up, although Rob Rang of CBS Sports has the 49ers drafting Matthews in the second round.
Brian Stork, Center
School: Florida State
Height/Weight: 6'4"/312 pounds
Florida State center Bryan Stork is currently ranked as the No. 3 center, according to NFL Draft Scout. As a 2013 All-ACC first-team center on one of the best offensive lines in collegiate football, Stork would be a vital piece to shore up any offensive line at the NFL level.
Stork received the Rimington Trophy in December 2013, per Kevin McGuire of NBC Sports. The accolade, which is awarded to the best collegiate center in the country, is something that bodes well for Stork's prospects in the upcoming draft.
According to CBS Sports, Stork is projected to go in the third round, where the 49ers will likely be drafting toward the bottom of the round. Yet his gritty playing style, combined with the accolades received over his collegiate career, make him a prime candidate for general manager Trent Baalke.
At 35 years old, it is safe to assume that incumbent center Jonathan Goodwin is winding down a long NFL career. He is also in the final season of a three-year, $10.9 million contract.
Goodwin also told the media, via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News, that he is considering retirement following this season. He stated:
There have been (retirement) thoughts here and there, but I definitely haven't made that decision. I feel I'm still playing at a pretty high level. These guys around me bring up the best in me. I feel like my play hasn't fallen off but, being that I will be a free agent, I still need a contract to be able to still play. We'll see what happens in the offseason.
For the 49ers, getting younger and cheaper is paramount at this point.
Drafting Stork would be a nice way to usher out the Goodwin era and turn the reigns over to a young and talented prospect.
Stork would have the ability to develop alongside one of the best offensive lines in football, much like he was able to do at Florida State.
Since the 49ers have already traded away one of their third-round picks—as described in the first round—their prime target in the third would be Stork. They may have to trade up pending how the draft trends are going, but it is feasible that Stork would fall to the 49ers late in the third.
As a result, San Francisco grabs him with its compensatory pick in the round, which cannot be traded.
San Francisco then trades its own third-round pick along with a fifth-round pick to grab the No. 89-overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Justin Britt, Offensive Tackle
Height/Weight: 6'6"/315 pounds
Offensive tackle Justin Britt is one of those players that could supplement any offensive line in the NFL.
In 2013, he represented Missouri on the SEC first team and was an anchor on an offensive line that helped Missouri's offense become one of the most improved in the nation that year, per NFL Draft Scout.
Britt has experience both at left and right tackles, which would give him the flexibility to be a solid backup, and potentially even start at the NFL level for a team seeking his services.
The fact that Missouri's rushing offense thrived this past season also bodes well to his possible future with a run-first team like the 49ers.
As the 49ers get into the latter rounds of the draft, their needs no longer encompass immediate impact. Rather at this point, San Francisco is looking for depth and developmental players.
In 2013, the 49ers saw a bit of attrition on the offensive line. Fortunately, the team was able to employ backups like Adam Snyder to take over much of the depth needs when called upon. San Francisco can also hope that former Azusa Pacific offensive tackle Luke Marquardt makes an impact in future seasons.
Still, the lack of depth along the O-line can prove disastrous if a team is not prepared for it.
Here is where drafting a player like Britt makes some sense. San Francisco would consider drafting Britt—who is slated to go in the fourth or fifth round—with the immediate hope of him being a solid backup for the 49ers' incumbent tackles Joe Staley and Anthony Davis.
The fact that Britt can play either position also lends to his value.
The 49ers draft Britt with their own pick in the fourth round and give him the chance to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster during training camp.
As mentioned in the third round, the 49ers trade away their fifth-round pick in addition to a third to supplement their total number of picks in the 2015 draft.
As many 49ers fans can attest, general manager Trent Baalke is a genius when it comes to stockpiling picks year after year.
This ability has earned him the moniker "draft ninja" as described further by David Fucillo of Niners Nation.
While Baalke has certainly had his fair share of "gaffes" in previous drafts—take 2012 as a good example—there is no questioning Baalke's ability to generate a plethora of picks year after year.
These picks have subsequently been used to either trade up in drafts, much like what San Francisco did in 2013, or as stock to invest in future draft picks in subsequent years.
As a result, Baalke has to receive plenty of credit for putting the 49ers into a position to continuously add talent in spite of the difficulties associated with salary cap and free agency.
Logan Thomas, Quarterback
School: Virginia Tech
Height/Weight: 6'6"/254 pounds
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas is another one of those physical specimens the 49ers would love to see develop into something worthwhile.
Thomas combines a cannon of an arm along with great speed and rushing prowess—sound familiar to San Francisco's incumbent quarterback?
As stated on his profile page on NFL Draft Scout, Thomas was the lifeblood of the Hokies offense and combined both his passing and rushing abilities to a great extent.
In four years at Virginia Tech, Thomas accumulated 9,005 passing yards and 1,359 rushing yards. Add 77 all-purpose touchdowns to those stats and Thomas is worthy of some praise.
Such praise was given to Thomas by Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, who wrote, "[Thomas] has a big-league arm with the athleticism to make plays with his legs and move the offense up and down the field."
There was a time where Thomas—as indicated by Brugler—may have been considered a first-round pick, similar to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. While those comments are no longer, his accolades and physique are worthy enough to garner plenty of interest.
Slated to go either in the fifth or sixth round, per CBS Sports, Thomas is one of those quarterbacks that could very well be a project in the making.
While 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick continues his maturation, San Francisco has to look at the necessity of having a reliable backup under center.
In 2013, there was an array of various quarterbacks that were competing for this role. These included Scott Tolzien, Colt McCoy, B.J. Daniels, Seneca Wallace and others.
McCoy eventually won out as Kaepernick's backup, although he will be a free agent following this season.
Will he stay in San Francisco? Perhaps, but the 49ers would be wise to invest in a quarterback that fits the mold of their current starter.
Here is where drafting a player like Thomas makes sense.
Thomas' abilities, while no longer worthy of first-round consideration, make him an attractive target for San Francisco given the fact that he would be a similar product to Kaepernick.
In addition, head coach Jim Harbaugh can once again show his knack for developing quarterback prospects.
Spending a sixth-round pick is not too much to ask in order to accomplish this.
The 49ers draft quarterback Logan Thomas in the sixth round with their own pick and put him in competition for Kaepernick's immediate backup.
The 49ers trade up to draft Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in the fifth round by dealing their sixth-round pick and remaining seventh-round picks.
The seventh round of most NFL drafts is always a curious one.
On one hand, it garners little interest from fans. Furthermore, the 49ers have likely reached the point of addressing their immediate needs.
Still, there are always gems to be found this late in the draft. Let us consider some possibilities.
Barring trades, the 49ers will have four picks in the seventh round—three of which were acquired by trades.
L'Damian Washington, Wide Receiver
Height/Weight: 6'4"/205 pounds
L'Damian Washington is one of those receivers that can do a lot of things for you if put into the right situation.
According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Washington has not developed as the best route-runner and will need to fight for the ball if he ever expects to play at the NFL level.
Yet Washington does have excellent straight-line speed which, combined with his size, could make an excellent deep threat for any offense looking to spread the field.
His senior year at Missouri resulted in 10 receiving touchdowns on 1,735 yards, averaging 17.9 yards per reception.
He is slated to be either a sixth- or seventh-round pick, making him a decent target late during the draft.
The 49ers need a deep threat on the field. Currently, San Francisco's lone deep threat is tight end Vernon Davis with receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree eating up the yards on intermediate routes.
Pending San Francisco's receiver situation after this season, the 49ers must be looking for players who can fill this void and stretch opposing defenses down the field.
Here is where a player like Washington could make a difference.
If San Francisco can coach up his shortcomings, his raw talent and physique would be something notable to watch.
San Francisco spends a seventh-round pick on Washington.
Marcus Williams, Cornerback
School: North Dakota State
Height/Weight: 5'11"/197 pounds
North Dakota State cornerback Marcus Williams will fit a couple of needs at the NFL level.
Aside from providing some depth at cornerback, Williams' services as a kick returner could also help his draft stock, which has him projected as a sixth- or seventh-round pick.
While the 49ers could very well be happy with the return game provided by LaMichael James for the foreseeable future, a player like Williams may be something worthy of an investment.
Not only will he provide some added depth in the secondary, but his returning skills are something worth evaluating—perhaps only to provide competition in this area during training camp.
San Francisco spends another seventh-round pick on Williams.
There are two other picks not mentioned in this round that San Francisco could elect to spend during the draft. It is unlikely that the 49ers will have all four picks heading into this round as some could very well be used to bolster a trade.
Thus, the final scenario for the remaining two picks is that they are either packaged in previous trades—some of which have been described—or dealt to other teams in exchange for NFL-ready players to add continued depth.
Mock drafts, being what they are, are merely educated guesses as to what each NFL team plans to do on draft day.
The 49ers are no different.
Sure, the needs of each NFL team can shift over time and the rising and falling of said prospects is also likely to change as draft day draws near. There are still plenty of contingents that will affect how the 49ers approach this year's draft.
Consider this a mock draft version 1.0 for the 49ers. It gives us some indication of which direction San Francisco will move during the draft and allows us to evaluate some of the players Trent Baalke may target.
The needs are there and fortunately, San Francisco has plenty of chips to make notable acquisitions.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.