Scouting Mid-Round Wide Receivers for the San Francisco 49ers
Now that the NFL has officially awarded 49ers general manager Trent Baalke with a third-round compensatory pick, per Andrew Pentis of 49ers.com, the team has 11 total selections. By Pentis' count, that leaves the team with six picks out of the first 100 in the 2014 draft.
As noted by Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk, this compensatory selection cannot be traded, but it does offer more options for the 49ers. While ESPN.com's Bill Williamson suggests the team should trade up, San Francisco also has the option of adding multiple blue-chip prospects in the early rounds.
Wide receiver and cornerback look to be key needs for the 2014 draft, but Baalke could be well-served by adding multiple players at each position. Coming off a season that saw a sluggish passing offense for most of the year, multiple receivers from the college ranks could provide a spark.
Beyond the top-tier prospects, it would not be a surprise to see San Francisco scoop up an under-the-radar project in the middle rounds. Taking their skill sets into account, these potential second- and third-day picks could make a lot of sense wearing red and gold next season.
Robert Herron, Wyoming
According to Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, a 49ers team scout was on hand for Herron's pro day in Wyoming, but his 5'9" frame is tough to ignore. Barrows offered Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton as a comparison after Herron ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds at his pro day.
While Hilton is a name that is sure to raise some eyebrows, Herron's level of competition also left much to be desired over his college career.
Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma
Listed at just 5'9" and 157 pounds, Saunders' size is concerning at the next level. NFLDraftScout.com's Dane Brugler (via CBSSports.com) notes that Saunders brings potential as a return man, but that need is far from priority No. 1 in San Francisco.
As Bleacher Report's Matt Miller notes in the video above, Saunders is best in a scheme that creates space with specific play designs. Considering the lack of use for current 49ers running back LaMichael James, that could be little more than wishful thinking.
Mike Davis, Texas
B/R's Matt Miller speaks well of Texas wide receiver Mike Davis' speed and size in the video above, and he's far from alone in praising this potential playmaker. NFLDraftScout.com's Dane Brugler (via CBSSports.com) is a fan of Davis' catching radius, as well "speed and acceleration to gain a step and beat defenses deep."
However, Brugler is also wary of his work ethic and toughness, which don't mesh with the identity of this 49ers team on the surface. San Francisco is in need of speed on the outside, but an apathetic rookie will have a hard time getting playing time on this veteran squad.
Another concern could be found in his well-publicized "cheap shot" against Iowa State last season, as seen on Yahoo! Sports. While the episode could be an isolated incident, it's hard to see coach Jim Harbaugh tolerating that type of behavior on the field.
At the end of the day, Davis' ability as a deep threat could prove worthy of a flier in the middle rounds, but only if the team thinks it can reel in a more consistent product.
Cody Latimer, Indiana
According to Tony Pauline of WalterFootball.com, the 49ers met with Indiana receiver Cody Latimer at his pro day. Coming off a foot injury in college, he was limited in his workout and could slip in the draft as a result.
Pauline indicates that a healthy Latimer grades out with third-round potential, which could put the 49ers in play with three selections in that area.
He posted 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns in his junior season, backing up a 6'2" frame with good length. His NFL.com scouting profile reviews favorably his catch radius and blocking ability, which would help on a physical team such as the 49ers.
On the flip side, however, the NFL.com profile projects him as no more than a "West Coast possession receiver." The 49ers already have two such similarly sized players in wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, which limits Latimer's ability to offer something different for this offense.
Devin Street, Pittsburgh
When it comes to a mid- to late-round draft pick, Pittsburgh's Devin Street could be worth a look for the 49ers. Currently projected to fall between Round 4 and 5 by NFLDraftScout.com, his 6'4" frame would provide the offense with a much-needed target in the red zone.
Nick Chiamardas of NinersNation.com is also a believer in him, citing his consistent college career and underrated speed. His NFLDraftScout.com report also discusses his solid focus and smooth athleticism but knocks his ability to serve as a true breakaway target in the passing game.
In the video above, B/R's Matt Miller expresses concern over Street's acceleration but does not take away from his ability to gain separation. With his favorable size and the ability to get past defensive backs, true top-end speed could be unnecessary in the role the 49ers are looking to fill.
Receivers failed to get open for quarterback Colin Kaepernick on a consistent basis last season, which could leave Street as a worthwhile gamble.
Martavis Bryant, Clemson
Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins may get most of the predraft buzz, but his college teammate would provide an excellent target for the 49ers. Realistically available as a second- or third-round pick, per Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com), Martavis Bryant brings the most raw talent to this list.
Even after hauling in seven touchdowns and 828 yards in his final collegiate season, he has been overshadowed by his dynamic former teammate. With his 6'4" frame and long range, however, he has the ability to fight for a jump ball, which Brugler loves.
B/R's Tyson Langland considers Bryant as a match for the 49ers as well, albeit with a few reservations: "Without a doubt, Bryant has a ton of skill, but he doesn’t always play like his 4.42-second 40-yard dash suggests he does. Additionally, he needs to work on catching the ball cleanly and running crisp routes. In 2013, he dropped way too many easy passes and looked stiff coming in and out of his breaks."
If the 49ers elect to take a cornerback with their first pick, Bryant could offer a high-potential option toward the end of the second round. Although he has work to do, his ability as a red-zone target with favorable size and speed could be too much to pass up.
Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
Standing at 6'6" and 225 pounds, Rutgers receiver Brandon Coleman has a pure physical presence that few players can match. While he lacks truly elite speed, Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com) compares his skill set to current 49ers receiver Jon Baldwin.
To say that Baldwin's tenure in San Francisco has been quiet would be an understatement, but the team saw something in his style to bring him in. This would speak to Coleman's potential fit in the system, bringing solid possession tendencies while towering over current players on the roster.
His ability as a red-zone target has also been documented by Turron Davenport of BaySportsNet.com, who compares him to former NFL receiver Plaxico Burress. B/R's Dylan DeSimone also speaks highly of Coleman as a fit for the 49ers, especially as he slides through the rounds.
Projected by Rang as a fourth- or fifth-round selection, Coleman is largely viewed as a project pick. DeSimone believes that Coleman can contribute from the get-go, however, especially in a limited role that San Francisco would provide.
Assuming that the team utilizes a top draft pick on a wide receiver, a middle-round flier on a player like Coleman is realistic.
While he may not be the most polished player on this list, his availability and style could make him attractive for Baalke and Harbaugh. His abilities translate to the West Coast system, while his imposing presence offers a unique wrinkle.
As a secondary option on an already loaded roster, what more can you ask for from a third-day pick?