5 Late-Round NFL Draft Prospects Perfectly Suited for 49ers
With free agency all but wrapped up, its time to shift our focus to the upcoming 2014 NFL draft. As much as I love the thrill of free agency, the draft is the nitty-gritty of championship-quality teams.
Think about it for a second. What championship team in the last five years was primarily built through free agency? If you're having a hard time coming up with an answer, I'm not surprised.
The answer is...none.
Championship teams are built through the draft, and teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks are the proof of the that. However, it isn't just about hitting on the first-round selections.
No, teams like the 49ers and Seahawks have success in the middle and late rounds, as well.
Of course, the draft isn't an exact science, so results can be mixed, even for teams like the 49ers. But that's the great part about late-round selections. The risk is so minimal with these selections. If you miss on a pick, the world moves on.
Let's take a look at five late-round prospects whom the 49ers should consider in the NFL draft.
Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame
The departure of both Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers leaves a big hole in the 49ers secondary. Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver will likely assume starting duties this season in place of both Brown and Rogers.
Brock and Culliver aren't slouches, but the 49ers need some quality depth at the position. The key word here is quality.
The 49ers have depth at corner—Trent Baalke signed cornerback Chris Cook and re-signed Eric Wright to low cost one-year deals. But will that be enough?
In all likelihood, the answer is a resounding no. The 49ers will address the position early in the 2014 draft, but Baalke has also had success with mid-to-late-round cornerback prospects.
Bennett Jackson could join that list.
Jackson is exactly what the 49ers want out of their defensive backs. He's physical in run support, durable and provides the necessary height and length to bother bigger receivers.
Now, Jackson isn't much of a burner, so I worry about his ability to recover. However, Jackson does possess elite short-area quickness, which should make him a solid nickel prospect.
Not to mention, Jackson is also fantastic in special teams coverage. For a sixth- or seventh-round pick, you could do far worse than Jackson.
L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri
L'Damian Washington could be the big-play receiver that the 49ers so desperately need in their passing offense. At 6'4'' 195 pounds, Washington provides great height and length at the receiver position, as well as excellent straight-line speed.
Washington displayed his excellent speed by running a 4.46 at the NFL combine. In addition, he is also a great blocker, which is required of 49er receivers.
Now, Washington is still rather raw as a receiver. He doesn't have great hands or short-area quickness. Washington could very well be a one-trick pony at the next level. For a 6'4'' receiver, Washington also doesn't play the ball very well. Coming down with those 50-50 balls can be a struggle for him.
Washington is a project at the position, but he is well worth the risk in the later rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Aaron Colvin is one of those prospects who will both amaze and frustrate you at the same time. He has the talent level of a second- or third-round prospect, but his inconsistent production at the collegiate level will scare teams away.
At 5'11'' 177, Colvin didn't impress at the NFL combine. He ran a 4.51 at the combine, which justified concerns of Colvin's limited athletic ability. Colvin also has a concussion history, which is concerning at the next level.
With so many weaknesses, why should the 49ers select Colvin? Well, Colvin seems to fit the personality and demands of this 49er defense like a glove.
Colvin is both physical and long to bother taller receivers, and he exhibits great field awareness to make plays on the ball. His physical nature at the position makes him outstanding in run support, and Colvin also is versatile enough to play in both man, pressure-man and zone schemes.
In the right system, Colvin could flourish. Heck, he could even compete for a starting gig, if the right team gets its hands on him.
That team could be the 49ers.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Logan Thomas is the kind of prospect that a team looking for a developmental quarterback drools over. At a towering 6'6'' 248, Thomas has all the physical tools you want from the quarterback position.
Cannon Arm? Check. Big-bodied? Check. Toughness? Check. Durability? Check. Not to mention Thomas's ability to make plays out of the pocket with his feet.
Even with those physical tools, I question if Thomas can make a successful transition to the next level? Yes, he has the athletic ability to succeed in the NFL, but Thomas is still developing as a passer.
Right now his accuracy isn't up to NFL standards. Thomas can't throw a deep ball to save his life, and his touch on intermediate routes still needs some work. He also has poor awareness for a quarterback, which explains his high interception totals in college.
Many of his issues likely stem from poor footwork, which can be refined with a good quarterbacks coach. Thomas's success at the next level will be dependent on the team and coaching staff that drafts him.
With a quarterback guru like Jim Harbaugh, Thomas would be an excellent addition. The 49ers could place him third on the depth chart behind Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert.
This would give Thomas the chance to develop without the pressure of being asked to start.
Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
Walt Aikens is one of my favorite prospects in the 2014 NFL draft. At 6'1'' 205, Aikens is exactly what teams are looking for in the cornerback position.
Teams want to emulate how the Seattle Seahawks built their secondary. They want big, strong and fast corners who can press and jam at the line of scrimmage.
Aikens fits that mold perfectly.
He doesn't have great speed, but Aikens is quick enough to keep up with most receivers. Also, he has long arms, which help him engage receivers at the line.
In a press-man scheme, Aikens could be an immediate contributor in nickel and dime packages. He also has the versatility to play some zone, as well.
Aikens could end up going earlier than many anticipated. I have him pegged as a sixth-round selection, but it wouldn't surprise me if he ended up somewhere in the third or fourth round.
His great performance in the Senior Bowl also didn't hurt his cause.
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