49ers Mock Draft: Instant Contributors San Francisco Can Find in Every Round
You wouldn’t know it judging by their wealth of capital, but the San Francisco 49ers have one of the tougher roads in the draft. This is because their A-plus roster stipulates that they find as many blue-chip players as possible, or else the selection might be wasted when that player doesn’t make the final roster.
And if they can’t find a top-tier talent, the players they do take better do one or two things exceptionally well.
That’s a tall order to fulfill for seven straight rounds. That is why for the most part the mock drafts we’ve done here at Bleacher Report have included trade ups for the 49ers.
They also have so many picks and so few roster spots to hand out that it seems inevitable on draft day. But for the sake of this article, we’re going to go with San Francisco’s 11 set picks through Rounds 1-7, identifying fits that will not only make this roster, but also have a defined role and help this team right away.
The following will profile nearly a dozen players by round that the 49ers could use in 2014 and beyond.
Round 1 – No. 30 Overall
The Pick: Kyle Fuller
School: Virginia Tech
Ideally, the Day 1 pick would be spent on a burner of a wide receiver like Odell Beckham Jr. or Brandin Cooks, which may very well happen come May. One element this team has to have is some horsepower on offense. For the most part, all they have is possession-type receivers.
But if the 49ers can’t find a trade partner at a fair price and do stand pat at 30th overall, they may go in a different direction. And in that case, Hokies cornerback Kyle Fuller may be the best selection they can make. On the surface, he is a long-bodied corner with good press ability that instantly fills a need.
With former starters Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers now gone—and Chris Culliver’s future in limbo following a recent arrest—there is quite a gaping hole in the secondary.
Fuller (6’0”, 190 lbs), who is a top-rated player at his position, would not only help to replenish the position, but he’d upgrade it for the long-term. He’s tall, fluid, plays fast, displays good instincts and route recognition and is generally disruptive at the catch point.
These collective attributes give him a high ceiling.
Overall, Kyle Fuller’s strengths are ideal for the corner position and exactly what the 49ers are looking for.
Round 2 – No. 56 Overall (from the Kansas City Chiefs)
The Pick: Lamarcus Joyner
School: Florida State
FSU’s Lamarcus Joyner is a playmaker—a real hawking, hard-hitting versatile weapon on the back end. While small in stature (5’8”, 184 lbs), the Noles’ former captain and tackle leader plays a much bigger game and is, pound-for-pound, one of the best defensive players in this draft class.
Coming in, Joyner will be San Francisco’s third-featured cornerback, assuming the responsibility in the nickel. In that spot, which demands sharp instincts, speed and hip flexion, Joyner is best in breed. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about his upside there.
Joyner will break on routes and take the ball away in transit.
Coverage-wise, he moves incredibly well and can run with the most athletic receivers around. Added to which, a college matchup versus first-round prospect Mike Evans of Texas A&M also proved that Joyner could be physical and problematic with even the most mega-sized pass-catchers.
From Day 1, Joyner will be a movable defensive weapon for San Francisco, not only covering from the slot, but crowding the line of scrimmage and blitzing from that spot.
With his straight-line speed and impressive range, he can also drop back and play the deep part of the field situationally. And if it just so happens that Joyner excels on the back end, there is a chance he takes over at safety for the long term, relieving Antoine Bethea as soon as 2015 or 2016.
Round 2 – No. 61 Overall
The Pick: Jarvis Landry
The 49ers need to thicken this corps of wide receivers, which has been shorthanded for the past three Super Bowl runs.
They’ll be seeking out toughness, dependable hands and a fundamental player that fits their ‘No Coast’ attack. Most would be hard-pressed to find a better fit than Louisiana State livewire Jarvis Landry, who bears an uncanny likeness to the undersized, but ever so dangerous, Victor Cruz of the New York Giants.
Stylistically, Landry possesses the twitchiness to give the lengthier corners fits, which is imperative in the NFC West. He’s as fluid a route-runner as they come and has a knack for breaking cleanly off of his routes and finding soft spots in the defense. This translates to him creating separation on a fairly consistent basis.
And when he doesn’t, Landry is one of the best competing for the ball in flight.
He is aggressive attacking the football, making tough grabs and displaying strong hands. Landry also comes with the spectacular-catch factor, which is a unique element. That’s a rare quality that not only translates to the next level, but also gives him the aura of a dominant receiver.
He’ll kick in and compete as a No. 3-4 option along last year’s fourth-round pick Quinton Patton, giving this team strong depth.
Round 3 – No. 77 Overall (from the Tennessee Titans)
The Pick: DaQuan Jones
School: Penn State
This is a player who worked inside at PSU but displayed the characteristics that would help him to project as a 3-4 end. DaQuan Jones is a wide-bodied lineman that can hold the point and play multiple techs on the line. He can stack tall offensive linemen and shed blocks to penetrate.
On tape, this is a guy that is generally disruptive; pass rushing, stopping the run and leaping to bat down passes.
With Jones (6’4”, 322 lbs), the 49ers instantly enhance their depth on the defensive front, bringing in a high-caliber player to compete with backups Demarcus Dobbs and Tony Jerod-Eddie. In all likelihood, he’d oust one in training camp and give the unit a solid rotational option.
It’s also imperative that the team finds someone worthy of grooming behind Ray McDonald and Justin Smith, who are both entering their twilight years as 49ers. McDonald was often injured last year and is entering the final two years of his contract, which will see him earn $10 million over 2014-15.
That’s a high figure, and it may cause the 49ers front office to reevaluate his status.
Smith, the heartbeat of the defense, is also a player who will take a well-laid plan in order to replace. He has two years left on his deal and is the club’s eldest of 22 starters at 34 years old. For those reasons, adding Jones makes a ton of sense. He can develop for a year under these vets and be ready by 2015.
Round 3 – No. 94 Overall
The Pick: Bashaud Breeland
The 49ers select their third cornerback in the top 100. Why? Because they’re rebuilding the secondary and they’re empty at the corner position. Not to mention, if one of their guys gets hurt or doesn’t pan out the way they had expected, the defense would be in a tough spot. It’s necessary, and there’s also tremendous upside if they all play to their potential.
Clemson’s Bashaud Breeland is a perfect value pick to cap off the trio in Round 3.
This is another athletic cornerback with good size and long arms, which makes him disruptive at the line of scrimmage and at the catch point. He’s also one of the most fluid striders of the tall defensive backs, which goes a long way. Breeland won’t be fighting against his own build and it makes him versatile.
He can learn to work inside in the slot, but projects well as a boundary corner in a press-friendly scheme. And over his career, Breeland flashed shrewd instincts and ball skills, totaling four interceptions and 10 pass breakups in his final year with the Tigers, so this is the type of threat the 49ers want in the lineup.
Round 3 – No. 100 Overall (compensatory)
The Pick: Martavis Bryant
Offensively, this team is actively looking for a dynamic field-stretching weapon and an intimidating red-zone threat. Now, one might assume they’d need to draft two players to acquire such traits, but Clemson’s Martavis Bryant brings them in one complete package.
Albeit a little raw for some teams to take a chance on early, this is a player who can bring maximum value as a role player, while also offering a high ceiling for the future if he takes to coaching and finds a fit in the right system. And most relevant to the 49ers here is that he’s the type of weapon they don’t have.
At 6’4”, blazing a 4.42 40-time, Bryant is the prototypical height/weight/speed receiver.
The 49ers, who have been conservative offensively, will have a reason to get him on the field early. Bryant can help manifest more 20- and 40-yard plays, which this team greatly lacked, and enhance the scoring production. He also seems compatible in every way.
With the booming arm of quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the need for size in goal situations, Bryant has an opportunity to thrive in San Francisco. It’s clear that they need him and they just so happen to have the tools in place for him to see his potential. This is a pick that makes a lot of sense.
Round 4 – No. 129 Overall
The Pick: Zach Mettenberger
The 49ers are in the market for a quality backup quarterback—a good decision-maker that can rip it, and that’s Zach Mettenberger.
At 6’5”, 224 pounds, he’s a heavy-footed pillar that stands tall in the pocket, but one that can survey the field and fully enable the playmakers around him. Since a pure playmaker or elite passer is not going to fall to them or settle for a No. 2 role, Mettenberger has just the kind of qualities the 49ers need there.
If the starting quarterback is unable to go, they'll need somebody to plug in and simply keep the ship afloat.
Coming into this class, Mettenberger might’ve been a late first- or second-round pick, but with the ACL tear, he’s likely to be around in between the third and fifth rounds. This is a smart pick for the 49ers because it’s good value and QB guru Jim Harbaugh can wave his magic wand over the rookie.
Round 5 – No. 170 Overall
The Pick: Trai Turner
The 49ers continue to make strong value selections in each round at positions of need, taking a big bubble of a guard in LSU’s Trai Turner. The 6’3”, 310-pound mauling interior lineman is a great developmental selection for a unit that needs to replenish its depth right away and is likely also going to need a replacement for Pro Bowler Mike Iupati in 2015.
Like Iupati, Turner is a powerful lineman that excels in run-blocking assignments, packing quite a punch.
The lateral agility isn’t quite there, which is the reason he is not a first-round prospect, but that’s where line coaches Mike Solari and Reggie Davis come into play, as well as head strength and conditioning coach Mark Uyeyama.
Collectively, the staff can mold Turner into a more agile thumper that can execute the pulls this unit relies on to get their run game off of the ground. And they'll have the time to do so.
Turner also can stand to improve a little in pass protection, but it's worth mentioning that that was never really a strength of Iupati’s either. It’s something they’ve been wiling to sacrifice for the sake of their offense. So, obviously the 49ers value the qualities that Trai Turner would innately bring to the guard spot.
Round 7 – No. 242 Overall (from the New Orleans Saints)
The Pick: Avery Williamson
The 49ers are in a tough spot with All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who suffered a late-season ACL tear, which will endanger his chances of playing in 2014. They do have Michael Wilhoite, who has developed into quite the reserve player—and he may have the inside track—but he’ll need some competition.
In Round 7, the Niners bring in the tackle leader from Kentucky, Avery Williamson.
He is not an elite physical specimen from a big school, or one with an overly impressive body of work, but the 49ers can turn him into something. And the strengths he flashed with the Wildcats were something that would pop out to a team that has a solid track record of developing linebackers.
Williamson (6’1”, 246 lbs) is an alert player who has a tendency to dig through traffic, not because he’s exceptionally strong, but because he’s slick and gets off of blocks well. In his games with Kentucky, he charged the run, had experience in coverage and really stood out in short-yardage and goal situations.
And even though he played in a 4-3 scheme there, the lack of straight-line speed makes him a better fit in a 3-4 defense, next to a player like Patrick Willis. He would have a legitimate chance to make this roster, while pushing Michael Wilhoite for the opportunity to fill in while NaVorro Bowman is healing.
Round 7 – No. 243 Overall (from the Carolina Panthers)
The Pick: Gabe Ikard
There was a shakeup on the offensive line with center Jonathan Goodwin’s contract expiring and Daniel Kilgore’s being extended. Even though the 49ers staff has a good idea of what will take place, they now have uncertainty at starting center and backup guard. This is why they need to bring in players there.
The 49ers must have someone to come in and compete with Kilgore in training camp. And if and when said player comes up short in camp, he must be worthy of being a backup center. This is where Oklahoma Sooners center Gabe Ikard comes in.
Unlike some of the higher-rated prospects at his position, he is not a lock to take the job over but is talented enough to push Kilgore, who is currently the frontrunner. Ikard can also start in case something happens to Kilgore down the line, so the 49ers are not in any sort of bind.
Ikard, a polished starter, is a top-five player at the position on the boards of many. But because of the position he plays, he will likely be around in the late rounds, which could be a steal for San Francisco. The 6’4”, 304-pounder has a good head on his shoulders and is a big, broad muscleman that can knock defensive tackles off of the ball.
Gabe Ikard does need some coaching and NFL weight training but has the functional strength and intelligence to compete as a rookie.
Round 7 – No. 245 Overall
The Pick: Colt Lyerla
Oregon’s Colt Lyerla is one of the most physically gifted players that may go undrafted this year. There is not a lot of tape on him and he has off-the-field issues and character concerns, having left his teammates dry at Oregon, which was followed by a felony arrest for possession of cocaine.
If he does drop to the seventh, one way to look at it is he is going to land in an NFL training camp one way or another. The 49ers might as well spend a pick to secure his rights and make sure it's in Santa Clara.
At 6’4”, 242 pounds, with great speed and explosiveness, Lyerla is an athletic marvel that could be an amazing chess piece in an innovative offense. His extra gear, soft hands and toughness make him an ideal joker tight end—a player the 49ers can move around pre-snap to exploit mismatches.
He also has a great deal of strength and blocking experience in a run-heavy Oregon offense.
Colt Lyerla seems like the perfect high-ceiling candidate who would come at a low-cost to come to camp and compete with backups Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek. In all likelihood, he would be able to supplant Celek as the No. 3 TE, while also fulfilling duties as a fullback in case Bruce Miller gets hurt again.