Assigning Odds to Every Potential San Francisco 49ers 1st-Round Pick
At this juncture in the offseason, this close to the NFL draft, there is a fairly accurate picture of which prospects teams will be targeting on Day 1. The San Francisco 49ers, who require impact players, have garnered a lot of attention in regard to whom they will choose first.
Wide receiver and cornerback are the two biggest needs, but interior offensive line, linebacker and safety are entering the realm of reason.
The way to decipher who San Francisco might be most interested in early, and thus determining odds, is to consider its draft history and roster holes, as well as the attention paid to incoming players (attending pro days, one-on-one interviews, visits to headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., etc).
The following will present a half-dozen options the 49ers will be considering in Round 1, capped off with odds of San Francisco selecting said player.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Burners, an ability to turn a corner in a flash without losing a step and a special set of hands makes LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. one of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2014 NFL draft. In fact, one could argue if he were a couple inches taller, he’d be pushing Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans to be the first or second wideout off the board.
Nevertheless, with the demand at the position, Beckham will still go high.
A natural deep threat who has the precision cut-ability and toughness to run everything on the route tree is hard to come by. To be honest, it’ll be difficult to see him getting past the top 20, especially with the teams picking in the No. 15-20 range (Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals).
But there is a level of interest from the 49ers, which met with Beckham one-on-one at his pro day, as reported by Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
They’re picking in the back half at 30th overall but have the draft capital and motive to trade up for a field-stretching threat like him. He is one of the high-caliber receivers, and the 49ers could use somebody with a diverse skill set like his. If they like what Odell Beckham Jr. brings on and off the field, there is a possibility they leap up in Round 1 for him.
Odds of Selection: 5-1
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Gaze upon every single sports media outlet with comprehensive draft rankings, and you’ll find Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller unanimously locked into the top five at the cornerback position. Excellent length, great speed and hip flexion, combined with natural cover and ball skills makes him a prominent plug-and-play prospect.
Seeing as how the 49ers are completely restructuring the position, they need a player who can step into the lineup right away and not only compete, but enhance the play on the back end. This means a starting-caliber player who can play either inside or outside, and contribute on all three downs.
Fuller carries that potential in spades.
He’s also compatible with the team’s flex scheme, skilled in zone concepts with untapped ceiling as a press corner. Long arms and good instincts make him disruptive at the line of scrimmage and breaking on the ball at the catch point. Fuller will reroute receivers and swat footballs down in the dirt all day.
For those reasons, and more, San Francisco certainly has a place for him in its system, now and for the long term.
However, cornerback being the top need doesn’t mean they’ll take one in the first round, which is why the following odds aren’t higher. This is a very deep class at the position and that could influence the club’s thinking on Day 1. Only if the 49ers stand pat at No. 30 does Kyle Fuller make sense.
Odds of Selection: 15-1
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The tape and combine metrics reveal Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks is the single most explosive player in the NFL draft.
And fortunately for the 49ers, those are traits they’re after, according to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report. It’s also at a position of need, so it’s a win-win.
It’s very likely Cooks is high on San Francisco’s draft board, as he possesses the game-breaking ability it desperately has to infuse in this offense.
Cooks would provide a movable chess piece—one they can line up in the slot, outside and even as an H-back, like the Green Bay Packers have done with the ever so electric Randall Cobb. That type of versatility and physical skill set will challenge opposing teams and give the 49ers a brand new element.
For all those reasons, Cooks is worth a first-round selection.
However, drawing comparisons to Steve Smith and Tavon Austin, who was the highest-selected receiver last year, will make sure Cooks doesn’t fall too far. He especially won’t make his way to No. 30 overall. Therefore, the 49ers would have to trade up to acquire his services.
If they can’t get Beckham Jr., this is their second-best option on Day 1.
Odds of Selection: 8-1
Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Ronnie Lott’s hit on Ickey Woods in Super Bowl XXIII. Donte Whitner’s hit on Pierre Thomas in the 2011 NFC Divisional Game. Body-rocking, tone-setting hits are a quality the 49ers traditionally value in their safeties. That type of physicality is the mark of a titan at the position.
And it’s a captivating element Louisville’s Calvin Pryor will be dangling over the heads of NFL general managers come May 8.
After losing Whitner to a gargantuan deal offered up by the Cleveland Browns, the 49ers had a hole at safety. They plugged it with another known veteran at a cut-rate, but will there be a noticeable drop off in production? The 49ers have to safeguard themselves and drafting a safety seems like a smart move.
According to CBSSports.com, Pryor is the No. 2-rated free safety behind Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton Dix.
But with his downhill style and dimensions, it seems he can predominantly play the strong side in San Francisco’s interchangeable system. At the same time, he’ll have the upside of a roaming free safety from a cover perspective.
It’s largely why Pryor has a first-round grade.
Though, it seems unlikely the 49ers pick a safety in the first round in back-to-back drafts (having traded up to No. 18 for LSU’s Eric Reid in 2013). Ideally, they’d like to spread the talent around and not invest too much at one position that has a questionable impact on the game, especially without a functional pass rush.
Great safeties are a luxury if you don’t have a strong front seven; just ask the Buffalo Bills.
Then there’s also the Antoine Bethea factor, the two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion safety acquired via free agency. The idea was he was signed so the 49ers did not have to reach for a safety too early, and instead, possibly take a talented one like Jimmie Ward or Deone Bucannon in Round 2 or 3.
Odds of Selection: 30-1
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The departure of Carlos Rogers immediately created a void at the nickel position—one that has yet to be filled. That was the primary responsibility of the veteran Rogers, who was named a Pro Bowler in 2011, but saw declining play over the years. This has the 49ers looking to upgrade in the slot.
Enter TCU’s Jason Verrett, the blanketing All-American cover corner.
This is a player who displays incredible change of direction, instantly becoming the shadow of the receivers he lines up across. And Verrett’s physical attributes make him the perfect corner to line up inside and take away the shifty slot-type receivers in the NFL, like Victor Cruz and Cobb.
According to a report from Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, the 49ers Director of College Scouting Matt Malaspina was on hand at the Texas Christian pro day to see Verrett work out. This is a significant development, as Malaspina has as much say as anyone in how the 49ers spend their picks.
Given the need, and the fact Verrett is clearly on the team’s radar, a pairing could be imminent.
Odds of Selection: 15-1
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Kelvin Benjamin is a straight NBA power forward, bringing the size to impose his will on cornerbacks and dangerous metrics to score on any given play. He can go deep and snatch the ball over the top of the defense or catch a skinny post and take it for extra yardage, carrying undersized corners and safeties with him.
However, with his rawness—namely a lack of crispness on routes and questionable hands—some teams are scared off by Benjamin. Now, according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, there are concerns about his character. Blowing off a pre-scheduled private workout raised red flags about his desire and work ethic.
But now the question is: If the 6’5” long-limbed playmaker happens to slip in the first round, are the 49ers willing to pass on him?
All the things Benjamin offers—from diversity in the form of size, to a pure scoring threat and chain mover, to a high-ceiling player for the future at a position of need—it seems like San Francisco would be hard pressed to say nay. But then again, the 49ers will veer on the side of caution with the alarming “bust factor.”
They 100 percent cannot afford to miss on another wide receiver.
Odds of Selection: 20-1