Top 5 Trade Scenarios for San Francisco 49ers in 2014 NFL Draft
Imagine for a moment that you are the crafty general manager of one of the best teams in the National Football League.
Your team is already loaded with talent, and you have only a handful of positions to address in the upcoming NFL draft. Fortunately, those positions feature a draft class that is deep—very deep in fact.
On top of that, you have way more draft picks than you know what to do with, which gives you the ability to do almost anything you wanted en route to making big splashes on draft day.
Sounds like an enviable situation doesn't it?
This is exactly the position that San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke finds himself in heading towards the 2014 NFL draft.
Fans and pundits already know this 49ers team is laden with talent. They also know that Baalke has developed a reputation for stockpiling draft picks.
The result for 2014—11 total picks per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
San Francisco has relatively few needs. In the humble opinion of this author, the top two needs are for a cornerback and a wide receiver. Additionally, the 49ers could look to add depth along the defensive front, grab a late-round quarterback to compete for the No. 3 job and perhaps add some role and developmental players as necessary.
With so many picks and relatively few needs, Baalke and the 49ers are in a unique position.
They have the luxury to be aggressive if they so choose—perhaps electing to execute a trade-up in the first round, like they did last year to acquire safety Eric Reid. The number of picks the team has makes it possible for the 49ers to perform similar moves throughout the draft as well.
Or San Francisco could be patient with its picks, counting on the fact that this year's draft class is very deep, and the team could elect to draft multiple prospects at each position of need—banking on the hope that it strikes gold with at least one of its positional selections.
Even still, the 49ers could elect to send off some of their picks this year in exchange for picks in 2015—a year when free agency could hurt the delicate salary-cap situation San Francisco finds itself in. That year's draft class may not be as deep, which also could affect Baalke's decision process.
All of these are possibilities for the 49ers in the upcoming draft and we cannot rule out any of them entirely. It is a position of strength for San Francisco and one that the team's brass hopes to utilize to the best possible extent.
In this slideshow, we shall take a look at the five best trade scenarios that the team could make come the draft. To do this, we assume that the 49ers will make trades and not simply sit on their 11 picks.
To determine the value of draft picks, we shall refer to Walter Football's draft value chart, which assigns a point value to each pick throughout the draft—the first-overall pick being the highest value and the last pick being the lowest.
Not all of these moves will be executed. In fact, none of them are a sure thing.
Still, we have to consider that San Francisco is in a powerful position, and we might as well bounce a few ideas off of the proverbial draft wall in order to predict what Baalke wants to do.
Let's have a look.
Trade Down or out of the Later Rounds of the Draft
Scenario: The 49ers trade down, or completely out of, Rounds 4 through 7 or execute similar move(s) at any point therein.
Does the above scenario make sense? If not, let us look at the explanation.
Hopefully by this point, you have understood that San Francisco does not need to fill a lot of voids in this draft. There are not enough holes to fill on the team's 53-man roster to justify using all 11 picks. While the first few rounds will obviously provide some impact, the later rounds have much lesser value.
This is not to state that late-round picks are completely expendable. The 49ers do not want to draft players strictly to compete in training camp before an impending release or practice squad demotion. Last year, players like Marcus Cooper and B.J. Daniels found their way to new teams after learning the 49er way.
Yet, the 49ers may not be so inclined to simply take the best player on the board when the team's name is called in the later rounds.
Instead, we should expect to see Trent Baalke trade down or out of any of Rounds 4 through 7. None of these picks are compensatory and can be traded.
The 49ers own five of their 11 picks in those rounds, and chances are they have already grabbed their targeted prospects by this point. Any utilized picks in these later rounds are likely spent on supplementary or developmental players, of which the 49ers have plenty.
They can also target additional developmental players through the undrafted free agency process.
Let us take a look at some detailed possibilities.
For starters, let's assume San Francisco trades its fourth-round pick (No. 129 overall) along with its fifth-round pick (No. 170 overall) to a team short on picks in 2014. Teams like the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles come to mind and can sometimes act desperately when faced with this scenario.
San Francisco would hope to find a way to get into the third round in 2015 with this deal, and a player buried on the depth chart may sweeten the deal a bit. At worst, the 49ers would hope that they could move up in the 2015 draft by trading with a team not projected to perform well this season.
More of a possibility is that San Francisco trades down from some of its later picks.
To do this, Baalke could trade out of the fourth round by sending that pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for their first of three fifth-round picks and another late-round pick in 2015.
This author is positive that you all have come up with almost any possible scenario in relation to this idea.
The one thing they all have in common is that the 49ers would be gearing up for the 2015 draft. They have an excess that other teams may want and for which the 49ers have an immediate need.
Why It Makes Sense
When I used to make trades like this in EA Sports' Madden Football, a friend of mine told me I was "trading pebbles for rocks." Yet, I was always able to use those extra picks as trade bait throughout the season and in later drafts.
As things currently stand, the 49ers have eight draft picks for 2015, per David Fucillo of Niners Nation. Compensatory picks and trades will obviously affect this number.
Yet, with a number of pending free agents like Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati potentially leaving due to cap considerations, having even more picks next season may be prudent.
It would not be a bad idea to invest in San Francisco's long-term future.
Trade out of the First Round Entirely
Scenario: The 49ers trade their first-round pick (No. 30 overall) to the Washington Redskins in exchange for Washington's second-round pick (No. 34 overall) and a third- or fourth-round pick in 2015. The 49ers then grab the best-available cornerback or wide receiver on the board.
This is a slightly different scenario involving the exchange of draft picks than the previous slide.
Okay, it is vastly different.
Before you start questioning my sanity about potentially trading out of the first round, let me lay out a few things for you.
First, we have established that San Francisco has two pressing needs in this year's draft—wide receiver and cornerback. Hopefully by this point, we can assume both draft classes are deep at each of these respective positions.
This is not the first time I have made this argument. I recently wrote a piece talking about the best possible scenarios that the 49ers could enjoy at the 2014 draft. One of those highlighted trading out of Round 1.
The argument, also made by fellow Bleacher Report columnist Joe Levitt, states that since the draft class at wide receiver and cornerback is unusually deep, San Francisco does not need to be aggressive when it comes to its No. 30 pick.
Instead, it can afford to trade back while not missing out on a lot of positional talent and it would get another draft pick in the process.
Forget the idea of Rounds 1 and 2 for a moment. The 49ers are simply trading down four spots.
To do this, the 49ers would enact a trade with general manager Bruce Allen and the Washington Redskins. As it stands, Washington does not have any picks in the first round (the Rams currently own Washington's pick, No. 2 overall).
With the myriad of problems the Redskins endured last season and heading into the offseason, the team would love to get back into Round 1 to try and address some of their pressing needs. San Francisco could be the perfect trading partner.
Baalke could land another pick in 2015 from the Redskins to sweeten the deal. Depending on how desperate the Redskins' brass is, they could be willing to ship something in the realm of a third rounder—not bad from the 49ers' vantage point considering that they only moved down four spots.
Then, with the 34th-overall pick, San Francisco would look at whichever wide receiver or cornerback was ranked atop their big board and then make the selection.
There are plenty of fringe first rounders meeting either one of these two needs.
Why It Makes Sense
In all reality, the 49ers would only be trading down four spots. We should also assume that the 49ers are going to target either a wide receiver or a cornerback with their first pick. There are plenty of talented players at each position that should be available at either pick No. 30 or 34.
The trade would not leave the 49ers out of the discussion for an impact player at the respective positions. In addition, the team would net a nice mid-round pick for next season, when the 2015 draft class may not be as deep.
If we forget about the round titles and focus merely on the numbers of the picks, it would not be a bad move at all.
Trade Running Back LaMichael James for a Late-Round Pick, Then Trade Up Again
Scenario: The 49ers trade running back LaMichael James to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a fifth-round pick (No. 162 overall). 49ers then trade the 162nd-overall pick and a third-round pick (No. 77 overall) to move up to, or around, the 73rd-overall pick.
At this point in his two-year NFL career, it is safe to say LaMichael James is not a significant part of the 49ers' long-term plans.
During that span, James has appeared in a mere 14 games and has logged only 39 carries for 184 yards.
Most of James' services have come on special teams as a returner, and the 49ers may still be interested in retaining him for that aspect.
Yet, one cannot overlook the fact that San Francisco's backfield is crowded and will continue to grow in 2014. Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter will receive plenty of touches this season and Marcus Lattimore—who was redshirted all of 2013—also figures to get in on the action.
The 49ers spent a second-round pick on James in 2012, so at least he still retains some value there, even if it is limited. In addition, getting something in return may not be all that bad of an idea.
While I will not go as far to say that James is expendable, I will state that James is an extra commodity that deserves a larger role somewhere else. He was once the cornerstone of a powerful Oregon offense and could figure into some head coach's plans somewhere.
A plausible destination?
The Philadelphia Eagles. Even though Philadelphia already have a dynamic back in LeSean McCoy, it is worth evaluating a reunion with former Ducks, turned-Eagles head coach Chip Kelly as he continues to implement his offensive scheme.
Simply put, Kelly should easily be able to find practical use for James on a regular basis, and James would relish the opportunity.
Even though the Eagles acquired Darren Sproles to fill the role of a No. 2 back, the Eagles could still benefit from the likes of James.
James would be a bona fide No. 3 back with practical NFL experience and tutelage underneath Kelly. While the competition could be fierce—as described further by NJ.com writer Eliot Shorr-Parks—a dynamic, fast-paced offense could be the place where James is best suited.
So would the 49ers be willing to trade James?
General manager Trent Baalke has previously stated that the team is not interested in trading James per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area. Yet, we all know that Baalke and the 49ers rarely show their hand when it comes to executing deals, and this talk could be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
In exchange for James' services, the Eagles would send off a fifth-round pick. This would give the 49ers an added late-round pick.
But the 49ers would not be done there.
Baalke could then package up some of those picks—let's say Nos. 77 and 162 overall—to move up to the 73rd-overall pick.
I know what you may be thinking. Why would San Francisco give up a former second-round pick to move up a mere four spots in the third round?
Well, the answer is simple—it beats cutting the player and receiving nothing but cap space in return. Not to say the 49ers are yet interested in cutting James, but at least they could guarantee a slightly better draft position in Round 3.
Round 3 does have a lot of talent the 49ers would be interested in.
Why It Makes Sense
There are those—including this author at times—who would like to see James exchanged for the highest possible pick available. In reality however, this probably will not happen.
David Ochoa of Golden Gate Sports writes that James' trade value is at the lowest it could possibly be considering how little the 49ers have used him over the previous two seasons. At best, he suggests, the 49ers would garner nothing more than a sixth-round pick.
But he also does not rule out the possibility of Baalke executing a brilliant move to land a pick worthy of note. Consider it a lofty target, but if the 49ers could land a fifth rounder for James, Baalke would have even more to work with during the draft.
If the 49ers were able to pull off a move like this with the Eagles, the compiled picks would give San Francisco even more ammunition to be aggressive in a trade-up scenario.
Trade Up with the Ravens in Round 1 and Draft Cornerback Darqueze Dennard
Scenario: The 49ers trade their first-round pick (No. 30 overall) and a second-round pick (No. 56 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for pick No. 17. 49ers then draft Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
At this point in the slideshow, we can talk about specific players the 49ers should target in the first round. After all, if San Francisco wants to make a big splash, this would be the round in which to do it.
We should understand the 49ers' need for a cornerback given what happened at the position during the offseason. Gone are cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. Chris Culliver is returning from a season-long injury and off-the-field issues, and Chris Cook hopes to climb the depth chart.
In this author's opinion, the cornerback position is the weakest on San Francisco's vaunted defense, and it has not exactly been upgraded thus far in the offseason.
So, general manager Trent Baalke will turn to the draft in all likelihood, and thankfully, this year's draft class is full of talented prospects.
One man who should be on the team's radar is Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard.
At 5'11", Dennard is not exactly the tallest of cornerbacks, but his 197-pound frame is excellent considering his physical style of play, per his draft profile page on CBS Sports.
Dennard also posted four interceptions his senior year at Michigan State, which would give San Francisco another defensive back with a ball-hawking mentality.
It's no wonder CBS Sports has him ranked as the No. 2 best-available corner in the 2014 draft.
Currently, CBS Sports has him projected to go in the middle of Round 1—perhaps as early as the 15th-overall pick.
With the 49ers needing an elite, shutdown cornerback, they would have to execute some sort of move to get up to the middle of the first round. In addition—as described by this scenario—Dennard may have to slip by a couple of cornerback-needy teams for the 49ers to land him.
To make a deal possible, however, the 49ers would again turn to the Harbaugh connection between brothers Jim and John. They have done this sort of thing before, as evidenced by the acquisition of Anquan Boldin a year ago.
San Francisco would ship off its first-round pick (No. 30 overall) and a second-round pick (No. 56 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens for their first-round pick (No. 17 overall).
If for whatever reason Dennard was able to slip past the 16th pick, the 49ers would easily be able to trade up and land a promising defensive back that could be a cornerstone of the defense for years to come.
Why It Makes Sense
Baltimore is another team that could use a few more mid-round picks, and the 49ers would not be giving up much by sending off the pick they landed in the Alex Smith deal.
San Francisco needs to address its secondary in this draft, and it would be landing the second-best corner in the draft in this swift move. All of it is pending whether or not Dennard slips past pick No. 16, but nothing is guaranteed on draft day.
I still think the #49ers best move in the upcoming draft is to trade up for Darqueze Dennard. Don't trade up for Mike Evans.— Grant Cohn (@grantcohn) March 31, 2014
Trade Up to Grab Texas A&M Wide Receiver Mike Evans
Scenario: The 49ers trade their first-round pick (No. 30 overall), a second-round pick (No. 56 overall) and a third-round pick (No. 77 overall) to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for the 13th-overall pick. The 49ers then draft Texas A&M WR Mike Evans.
One big thing would have to happen in order for the 49ers to get their hands on Texas A&M standout Mike Evans.
He would have to drop sufficiently enough for San Francisco to grab him.
Evans is currently slated as the No. 11 overall prospect in the draft per CBS Sports. There is a chance he goes even higher, as he is projected as the second-best receiver coming out of this draft.
With the arsenal of picks, San Francisco could be in a position to trade up into the top ten and grab Evans if the team felt that he would not fall any further, as suggested by Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
Yet, any trade scenario of that type would likely involve a costly transaction from the 49ers' viewpoint. Remember, this draft class is very deep and there are plenty of talented receivers San Francisco could get its hands on in later rounds.
This takes the pressure off of an aggressive move to a certain extent.
But if Evans was able to slip into the middle of Round 1, San Francisco could easily swoop into the No. 13 slot by exchanging some of their excess picks with the St. Louis Rams.
St. Louis already owns the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and they would love to get their hands on some intermediary picks, of which the 49ers have plenty. Considering the nature of competition within the NFC West, the Rams may also be enticed by the depth of the 2014 draft class.
From the 49ers' vantage point, this deal would appear costly on the surface. But the 49ers already have two second rounders and three picks in the third round. Considering this, along with their relatively few needs, these picks may be best used as trade stock.
Why It Makes Sense
Enough has been written about the 49ers' need for an impact wide receiver. I shall not bore you with that story. Instead, let us consider why Evans would fit in with San Francisco. At 6'5" and 225 pounds, Evans is big. Per his draft profile page on CBS Sports, he often bailed out quarterback Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M.
These factors, combined with his speed, would give quarterback Colin Kaepernick a dynamic, play-making wideout that could act as an over-the-top receiver as well as a legitimate red-zone presence—elements the 49ers need.
The trade scenario is also one that would not hinder San Francisco much at all. It would be a big splash, but would not come at the expense of the 49ers' remaining draft plans.
From Our FB Page: 49ers have Mike Evans on their radar ESPN (blog) If the San Francisco 49ers want... http://t.co/itVmNW8sT2— 49ers Fan Zone (@The49ersFanZone) March 6, 2014
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.