San Francisco 49ers: NFL Draft Big Board, Post-Free Agency
A month is an eternity in the NFL, especially during the beginning of the offseason. Since that article, the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days have drastically changed the value of some of prospects. Players considered first-round picks a month ago may not be considered as such today.
Similarly, teams needs have changed since the beginning of free agency. The 49ers, for example, no longer have such a pressing need at safety due to the signing of Antoine Bethea. That would depress the value of players like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, at least as far as San Francisco is concerned.
With all that in mind, let’s update the top 30 players in the draft from the 49ers perspective. As a refresher, both positional need and overall talent are considered. The idea of the list is such that the 49ers would take the highest-ranked player when they go on the clock, no matter if they sit back at No. 30 or trade up into an earlier selection.
You can also use it as a handy cheat sheet as to the likelihood of a 49er trade. If a player ranked highly starts dropping, the 49ers might jump up to grab him. Conversely, if a large portion of the list remains when the 49ers are slated to make a pick, they could opt to trade back and pick up more picks next season.
Without further ado, the list.
- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (Last month: 2)
- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State (Last month: 1)
- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (Last month: 8)
- Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo (Last month: 11)
- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (Last month: 5)
- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State (Last month: 3)
- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn (Last month: 13)
- Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (Last month: NR)
- Marqise Lee, WR, USC (Last month: 4)
- Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech (Last month: NR)
- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State (Last month: 24)
- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (Last month: 19)
- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (Last month: 16)
- Jason Verrett, CB, TCU (Last month: 12)
- Odell Beckham Jr, WR, LSU (Last month: NR)
- Blake Bortles, QB, UCF (Last month: 23)
- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (Last month: 26)
- Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State (Last month: 10)
- Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA (Last month: 9)
- C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama (Last month: 21)
- Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson (Last month: NR)
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State (Last month: 22)
- Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State (Last month: NR)
- Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri (Last month: 25)
- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (Last month: NR)
- Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh (Last month: NR)
- Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville (Last month: 14)
- Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State (Last month: 18)
- Jerry Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech (Last month: NR)
- Dee Ford, DE, Auburn (Last month: NR)
Here’s the full draft board. We’re using 30 names because the 49ers are scheduled to draft 30th. In a worst-case scenario, then, they should still be able to get someone on this list.
Also included is the player’s rank when we did this a month ago; you can see which players have moved up or down over the past month of consideration.
Dropped off: Louchiez Purifoy, CB, Florida; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama; Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame; Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida; Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State; Marcus Martin, C, USC; Dominique Easley, DE, Florida; Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M; Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
12. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
16. Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
The 49ers traded a sixth-round pick to Jacksonville for Blaine Gabbert. That might be too high of a price for someone with Gabbert’s track record, but it does indicate the 49ers may be set at their backup quarterback slot for 2014.
They still haven’t extended Colin Kaepernick’s contract, however. It’s bound to happen sooner or later, but until both sides come to an agreement on Kaepernick’s value, there remains a possibility, no matter how slight, that the team could consider a Plan B.
If, somehow, Bridgewater or Bortles fell all the way down the board, the 49ers could grab one as leverage in their negotiations with Kaepernick. Neither will get out of the top ten, however, so it’s a moot point. It would be interesting to see what coach Jim Harbaugh could do with one of them, but it won’t happen.
1. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
3. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
9. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
11. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
15. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
22. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
25. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
28. Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
With safety addressed with the Bethea signing, it seems almost certain the 49ers will use their first-round pick on either a cornerback or a wide receiver.
Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton would be an acceptable starting three for the 49ers in 2014, but that’s a short-term solution, at best. Boldin’s turning 34 this season, Crabtree’s only signed through this season and Patton is an untested question mark. A top-flight receiver would be an excellent addition to the squad.
If the 49ers were sitting with the top pick in the draft, Watkins would be the selection. There seems to be no chance he falls out of the top 10, so dreams of the A.J. Green-esque game-changer lining up in the red and gold simply aren’t very realistic.
Similarly, trading up for Evans or Ebron would require giving up a lot of valuable draft ammunition. The 49ers did move all the way up to No. 18 last year and surrendered only first- and third-round selections to do so, but to go up and grab Evans, they might need to vault past the St. Louis Rams at No. 13.
As good as Evans is, that’s too much to give up for any one player.
Lee and Beckham, on the other hand, are targets the 49ers could possibly trade up and go get. Though neither is likely to fall all the way to No. 30 thanks to receiver-needy teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, it’s likely that at least one of them will fall into the 20s, which is well within San Francisco’s range. Lee might well be worth it—he’s got good speed and vision and would be an immediate weapon.
Sitting at No. 30, the 49ers could see Cooks and Benjamin fall to them. I’m a big fan of Cooks; he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine and has a great burst. He’s undersized, but not injury-prone, as he’s never missed a game. The team has possession receivers; what they need is a player like Cooks to add a home-run threat.
The last name, Davante Adams, would be a good addition talent-wise, but not a great value with the 30th overall pick. If the 49ers go in a different direction with their top selection, they could trade up into the top half of the second round to grab Adams.
7. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
13. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
17. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Tackle is not a position of need for the 49ers. With Joe Staley and Anthony Davis manning the starting positions, the team is set for 2014. They may not have a great need for depth, having just added Jonathan Martin to go alongside Carter Bykowski and Luke Marquardt.
It’s a deep draft at tackle, though, with as many as five possibly going in the first round. CBS ranks Robinson, Matthews and Lewan as among the top 10 players in the entire draft, so if one of them somehow fell all the way to 30th, the 49ers would have to be nuts not to take him.
Of the three, only Lewan might fall out of the top-10, and thus be in any range for the 49ers to go get. The misdemeanor assault charge he is facing could dampen his draft stock and he could fall to San Francisco or to a range that might entice the 49ers to go get him.
5. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
24. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
26. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
30. Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
The defensive line has been a popular pick for the 49ers in mock drafts this offseason. With Justin Smith turning 35, it’s not an entirely unwarranted choice. However, the team does have Tank Carradine coming in from last year’s draft class, making the selection a lower priority.
If there’s a massive run on cornerbacks and receivers, I could see the team going with a top defensive lineman, though they’d make a move in such a scenario to land a player.
They won’t get Clowney, who won’t get out of the top three selections in the draft. Donald, who would help patch up the nose tackle position, also would require a significant number of picks to go get, moving him out of San Francisco’s range.
In most draft scenarios, Ealy and Ford are going somewhere in the mid-20s—New Orleans at No. 27 might be in play for either prospect. The two pass-rushers could slide back to San Francisco if there is a run on the skill positions, and neither would be bad additions. Ford missed the combine thanks to a back injury, so if you’re looking for a position to medically redshirt, ala Carradine or Marcus Lattimore, he could be a potential option.
All in all, however, I don’t think the 49ers will end up with a lineman with their first pick. If the receivers and corners start to vanish from the board, they’ll either trade up to grab one at the tail end of the run, or trade back and wait to get one of the best names in the second tier.
Staying put and taking a lineman seems a bit unlikely.
4. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
19. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
20. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
23. Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
29. Jerry Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
With three Pro Bowlers and Aldon Smith in the starting lineup, you could be excused for thinking linebacker is the last thing the 49ers need. There are a couple minor causes for concern, however.
NaVorro Bowman suffered a horrific injury in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game. He may miss the beginning of the 2014 season, and knee injuries are always hard to recover from. Meanwhile, Aldon Smith could eventually end up missing time as he continues his course through the legal system. He faces a court date on April 11. Also, his contract only goes through the 2015 season.
While most teams would love to have the 49ers’ troubles at linebacker, it’s not entirely out of the question that the team could add some depth to the lineup.
It won’t be Khalil Mack, who won’t make it out of the top 10. Anthony Barr also seems poised to go too early for the 49ers to make a legitimate move at him.
In a situation where a run goes on corners or receivers, I could see Mosley or Shazier dropping down to No. 30. Mosley’s the top interior linebacker in the draft—a tough, athletic leader with great instincts. Shazier has been very productive at the college level with great overall speed and first-step quickness.
In most situations, I’d expect Mosley and Shazier to be gone by the time the 49ers would be on the clock at No. 30. Not so with Attaochu, who has impressed me as a rusher off the edge. Attaochu didn’t appear at the combine because of an injured hamstring. But when healthy, he has shown speed and natural pass-rush ability.
If the 49ers got him in the first round, it’d be a bit disappointing. He’s a name to watch in the second and third rounds, however, as he would be an ideal fit in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme.
2. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
6. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
8. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
10. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
14. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
18. Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
21. Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
27. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Considering the second-tier depth at the wide receiver position in this year's draft—as well as comparing the starting experience of Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton against that of Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver and Chris Cook—cornerback is still the most logical first-round selection for the 49ers.
None of the players here are fully out of San Francisco’s range, but both Gilbert and Dennard are likely to go in the first half of the first round, making the effort required to grab one of them cost prohibitive. If either was a guaranteed no-fail prospect, the 49ers could make the move, but it’d severely cripple their ability to do anything else in the draft.
The team would need to be about ten spots higher to really have a shot at the best corners. CBS has five mock drafts up right now, with the next batch of corners all falling just before San Francisco picks at No. 30. Both Roby and Fuller have a median pick of No. 25 to San Diego, while Verrett’s median is to Carolina at No. 28 overall.
In three of the five drafts, at least one falls to San Francisco at No. 30; Dane Brugler and Will Brinson see all three prospects going before then. With the 49ers holding double-digit picks, it would make sense for the team to repeat the strategy from last year, moving up ten or so slots and taking the player of their choice.
Any of the three would make a great addition to the secondary.
If they choose to go with a receiver instead of a cornerback, they could still trade up to the top of the second round and take Joyner or Breeland.
Breeland might even fall all the way to their second pick. He needs some work on his technique, but his size and athleticism are ideal. Using a first-rounder on him isn’t ideal from a value perspective, but I like him a bit more than some other players who are considered locks for first-round selections.