Who Are the Experts Predicting to the 49ers in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft?
The San Francisco 49ers have all the draft ammo in the world, which provides them with the flexibility to hone in on a single player and go get him without hesitation. But who is general manager Trent Baalke fixing to select in Round 1 of May's draft?
A lot of NFL media outlets have offered their two cents, but it's really anybody's guess.
Gauging scheduled visits or ignored prospects really doesn't help much, seeing as how this club has been known to stay clear of players it's interested in, as to not tip its hand. But given San Francisco's two obvious positions of need, namely wide receiver and cornerback, it narrows down the playing field just a little bit.
With that in mind, many have their theories as to who the selection will be at No. 30 overall. Now less than a month away from the 2014 NFL draft, let's take a look at the prospects the experts figure could be wearing red and gold this coming season.
Measurements and round projections provided by NFL.com, unless specified otherwise.
Jason Verrett, CB, Texas Christian
Analyst: Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network
In his latest mock posted at NFL.com, draft expert Daniel Jeremiah has the 49ers selecting Jason Verrett of TCU.
This is a strong pick if he happens to be there at 30th overall, which he might not be. But if he is, this is a no-brainer. Outside of Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) and Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Verrett is the consensus pick as the third-best cornerback in the 2014 class.
He’s a bit undersized at 5’9”, 189 pounds, but the playmaking and steadiness in coverage stands out.
Verrett was the 2013 Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, showing a natural ability as a defender. He also posted a 4.38 40-time at the NFL Scouting Combine, which tied for the second fastest by a cornerback. His 39.0” vertical jump was also third highest by a cornerback there.
Jason Verrett has the tools to be an elite cornerback, coupled with the versatility the 49ers are looking for.
49ers dir of college scouting Matt Malaspina was on hand today to see TCU CB Jason Verrett's workout. Malaspina was at Texas A&M Wednesday.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) March 6, 2014
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
This is another strong selection by the experts. Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar and columnist Andrew Pentis of the team’s official website were the two notables to peg Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller as the 49ers’ pick in Round 1. Again, this is a top-tier player at a position of need for San Francisco.
Fuller ranks in the top-five cornerbacks in this year’s class and has been ranked as high as the top-three at times, according to CBS Sports. With him, the size and versatility stands out, fitting the mold of today’s NFL cornerback, which needs to be able to mobilize pre-snap and bully the opponent at the line of scrimmage.
In that sense, Fuller (6’0”, 190 lbs.) is best in breed.
He can play cornerback, nickel or safety, and even had a strong game versus Georgia Tech, flashing his physicality by playing linebacker and blitzing. And instinctually, his game is off the charts, as Fuller consistently demonstrated exceptional read-and-react skills, breaking up potential completions at the catch point.
This would be an ideal pick if the 49ers stand pat at No. 30.
I've watched three Kyle Fuller games in a row and I haven't written a single negative thing yet.— SI_DougFarrar (@SI_DougFarrar) April 7, 2014
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Brandin Cooks is a very trendy draft selection for the 49ers on Day 1 and goes beyond the three names listed above. Bucky Brooks, Dane Brugler and Nick Kostos all like the speed and diversity that the Oregon State product would add to this offense, which has nothing but possession receivers.
Cooks, the 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner and consensus All-American, is the game-breaker the 49ers covet.
This passing offense has continued to evolve. With quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the receivers they have now, they move the chains fairly consistently. However, the unit lacks big-play ability. Very rarely does San Francisco take chunks out of the defense and opposing teams know this.
Therefore, opposing defenses have no problem playing up close. They don’t fear getting torched on the back end.
Cooks would change that in an instant. And with Kaepernick, who throws one of the best deep balls in the game today, there is a chance that Cooks sees his ceiling as a dynamic downfield weapon. The 49ers would be able to generate more big plays and it would open up the rest of the offense.
Cooks can line up inside at the slot position, outside the numbers, or as an H-back or sidecar weapon who can fire out of the backfield, very similar to how the Green Bay Packers have utilized wideout Randall Cobb. The potential is certainly there and its just one more player defenses have to account for.
With his unique set of skills, the 49ers would have reason to get Cooks on the field right away.
Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Analyst: Matt Miller of Bleacher Report
“The San Francisco 49ers need a wide receiver to stretch the defense. Davante Adams can be that guy and more,” Matt Miller said in his latest seven-round mock draft for Bleacher Report. Miller is right, too. While underrated to an extent, Adams is one of the most complete-looking receivers in this draft.
Aside from LSU’s featherweight baller Jarvis Landry, yours truly believes Adams is the most natural wideout in this class.
The drawback here is that Adams is very similar to the types of receivers the 49ers have right now. He’s not exceptionally fast (4.56 40-time), nor is he very tall (6’1”). And when you look at the tape, Adams' playing style is nearly identical that of Michael Crabtree or Anquan Boldin.
On the other hand, this is the smartest pick they can make for the future, seeing as how there is uncertainty surrounding Crabtree’s next contract and the fact that the 33-year-old Boldin is not going to be around forever. Adams would add a steady option this year and one that can evolve into a true No. 1 in the future.
As a route technician, incredible leaper and powerful receiver at the catch point, his game has the fewest defects. Truth be told, as far as wide receivers go, Adams is a safe selection in Round 1, even if its not sexy or doesn’t truly pay off until 2015 and beyond.
Don't get too hung up on Davante Adams 40. Big plus is winning at catch point. Creates separation with footwork/change of speed in route— Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom) February 23, 2014
Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
Analyst: Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN
This may be a might early to pull the trigger on Lamarcus Joyner. But seeing as how the Florida State product is among the best nickel cornerbacks in the draft—with the versatility and leadership to play safety—this pick does make sense for the 49ers.
Mel Kiper Jr. has been a draft analyst for 30 years and can justify the pick. He also seems to have a strong grasp on San Francisco’s need for a defensive back who can cover the slot receiver. Furthermore, they have the coaching and 11 defensive starters to take a gamble on a high-ceiling player like Joyner.
The 5’8”, fly-around defender was FSU’s second-leading tackler and an unheralded playmaker.
Joyner demonstrated the versatility to cover the shiftiest receivers in college ball, as well as to stand up to mega men like Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans. He’s awfully physical—never shying away from contact—and will do absolutely whatever the coaches ask of him, whether its playing the deep part of the field all alone or blitzing off the edge.
The 49ers could take full advantage of Joyner’s skill set, deploying him as a defensive weapon.
Lamarcus Joyner will measure under 5-8 at the Combine but plays so much bigger. Overcomes size limitations. Explosive athlete. Instinctive— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 18, 2014
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
For the record, this seems like a terrible pick. Reaching for a receiver in the late first round—one who should go in the second round—seems like a mistake the 49ers don’t want to make again. Frankly, nobody’s draft stock at wide receiver is plummeting faster than Marqise Lee’s.
People have begun to realize that he doesn’t possess great size or impressive speed, which can be a detriment as Lee transitions to the NFL where nearly everyone is big and/or fast. Lee also has noted durability issues coupled with a history of dropping passes. This is just a player with too many questions.
Furthermore, even when discussing Lee’s game in a positive light, his strengths are not what the 49ers need, nor is he compatible with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. This is a finesse player with good breakaway speed who is best when thrown to when he is in the open. That is still an area of Kap’s game that needs improvement.
Kaepernick trusts his receivers, puts the ball on them—sometimes at a standstill—and lets them compete for it. Very rarely does he hit his guy in stride where it leads to a big gainer after the catch. Usually it is the basketball moves and effort of his receivers that break for extra yardage.
Marqise Lee drop rate, courtesy of @NU_Gap: 12.31%. Sammy Watkins: 4.49%. That's where my major concern comes from.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 2, 2014
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
In terms of upside, Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby has the potential to emerge as the best player at his position in this draft class.
Unlike a lot of other corners, he possesses elite physical tools, blazing a 4.39 40-time and measuring in at just under 6’0”. World-class speed and a natural ability to blanket all types of receivers make him a highly coveted prospect. If Roby happens to be available at the end of Round 1, the 49ers can’t go wrong here.
With his smooth hip flexion, fluid backpedal and recovery speed, he can immediately take on slot responsibilities.
He also has the ability to move outside the numbers and cover true split ends and flankers. All in all, he looks to have a very promising NFL career if he takes to coaching and plugs into an adequate defense. Under the tutelage of San Francisco’s esteemed secondary coach Ed Donatell, Roby can become one of the best in the game.
Ohio State's Bradley Roby had impressive day...ran sub 4.40, showed ball skills and competed hard.— Phil Savage (@SeniorBowlPhil) February 26, 2014
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Analyst: Will Brinson of CBS Sports
We mentioned the declining stock of Southern California’s Marqise Lee, but Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State is another player who falls into that category. But in his mock selection, it is very likely that CBS Sports analyst Will Brinson understands wideout is a San Francisco need and that the former Seminole brings a unique element of size the 49ers don’t have.
As a role player, situated as a No. 4 man getting situational reps, there is room for Benjamin.
As a gigantic target with an unfathomable catch radius, Benjamin can immediately improve the Niners as a scoring offense, particularly with what he can do on third-and-long and in the red zone. These are two areas where the team has consistently struggled, having to settle for field goals.
After witnessing the frequent stalls in such situations, Sacramento Bee reporter Matt Barrows cosigns on the Benjamin pick, saying there’s probably a certain level of interest.
That's the ceiling you draft with Kelvin Benjamin. Big redzone target you can throw it up too. Box-out artist.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 7, 2014
Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
Analyst: Todd McShay of ESPN
Louis Nix III is a superb, big-bodied clogger who perfectly fits the zero-technique in a 3-4 defense. However, it’s hard to figure out what Todd McShay is thinking here, using a first-round selection on a position of strength. The 49ers are already going to have a tough enough time picking a starter between Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams.
Both Dorsey and Williams signed multi-year deals with the team last year. Williams, the undrafted free-agent from Notre Dame, was anointed the starter in the 2013 camp and was looking sharp on first- and second-down situations before he was hurt in Week 2.
After he was lost for the season, Dorsey stepped into the starting lineup, playing exceptional ball on a three-down basis.
San Francisco has two starting-caliber interior defensive linemen for a scheme that requires only one.
It’s hard to figure out where Nix fits into the picture, now that the 49ers will have both Dorsey and Williams healthy this year. It seems like McShay should go back to the drawing board on this one. This pick makes as much sense as NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread mocking Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde to San Francisco (yes, that happened).
Louis Nix's rounded measurements: 6'2/331 lbs. 33" arms and 9 7/8" hands.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 22, 2014