San Francisco 49ers Draft: Breaking Down Aggressive First-Round Trade Scenarios

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San Francisco 49ers Draft: Breaking Down Aggressive First-Round Trade Scenarios
USA TODAY Sports
The otherwise diminutive Lamarcus Joyner will translate seamlessly as a slot corner in the NFL.

Let’s face it—if the San Francisco 49ers don’t orchestrate a first-round trade during the 2014 NFL draft, sports writers can no longer engage in prognostication for the remainder of human existence.

It really is that much of a logical guarantee.

Sarcastic hyperbole aside, general manager Trent Baalke controls 11 picks in the upcoming selection process of NCAA talent.

Many would deem that equal to draft-maneuvering freedom of the highest degree.

The 49ers own one in the first, two in the second, three in the third, one in the fourth, one in the fifth and three in the seventh round. All but one of those picks is a tradable asset as well (No. 100 in Round 3 is compensatory).

Baalke can trade as high up as the top 10, as low as the mid-20s and even move out of the opening round entirely for multiple selections in the next two rounds.

USA TODAY Sports
It's rare, but Trent Baalke has been known to smile when discussing draft-day scenarios.

To those who would question why San Francisco wouldn’t simply make its picks and hoard future assets, this is a team with few roster openings.

Indeed, the 49ers occupy the short list of genuine Super Bowl contenders. Like last year, they lack just a situational wide receiver and upgrade at nickel cornerback.

Okay, the term “just” doesn’t render sufficient importance to the team’s considerable need for a speed-size deep threat on one side of the ball and a wideout-neutralizer on the other.

But what does remain is the 49ers’ limited positional needs.

They can focus solely on corner and receiver in Rounds 1 and 2, and address any depth concerns at outside pass-rusher, center and inside linebacker during the latter portions of Days 2 and 3.

Ergo, Baalke must embrace his inner aggressiveness and stay active at the start of draft weekend.

Let’s now evaluate two aggressive first-round trade scenarios for the Red and Gold.

 

Break the Bank: Trade into Top 10 for WR Mike Evans

Outside of a certain receiver from Clemson, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans is the next consummate game-breaker in today’s NFL.

The 6’5’’, 231-pound wideout brings an elite combination of size, speed and strength. Throw in otherworldly length and leaping ability to the mix as well with his 35.13’’ arms and 37’’ vertical.

Most importantly, Evans translates those tremendous physical measurables into upper-echelon production on the gridiron.

He ranked second in the SEC in 2013 with 1,394 yards receiving and 20.2 yards per catch. He led the conference with 12 touchdowns.

The two-year starter who produced against competition that most closely resembles the NFL will continue doing so at the next level.

He would provide the 49ers with a high-pointing, catch-everything receiver on the outside, deep over the middle and in the red zone. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick could utilize his rocket, but still inaccurate arm and connect with Evans anywhere on the field.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh would surely love his unrivaled competitiveness to boot.

Per ESPN Insider (subscription required):

Pitbull when ball is in [the] air.  Leaves it all on the field. Shows no fear working middle of [the] field. Very effective downfield blocker in the run game. Gives great effort for a WR. Consistently gets in position and keeps feet moving. Has big frame to wall off defenders. Flashes a mean streak. Competitive, tough runner after [the] catch.

But above all else, this incoming collegiate talent would essentially solve what prevented the 49ers from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy the last two seasons—failed corner patterns in the end zone (no disrespect intended to Michael Crabtree).

So, what must Baalke surrender for such a dynamic prospect?

CBS Sports pegs Evans as the ninth-best collegiate player, while the scouts at ESPN Insider rank him at No. 7. Similarly, the four most recent mock drafts at NFL.com all have him going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the seventh overall pick.

BOB LEVEY
A wide receiver streaking untouched down the sideline—here's something the 49ers haven't enjoyed in some time.

The trade value chart provided by Drafttek reveals a difference of 880 points between the No. 7 slot (1,500) and where San Francisco sits at No. 30 (620).

On sheer points alone, that would amount to the No. 56, No. 61, No. 77 and No. 129 selections. The 49ers would be left with just two picks in the third round, one in the fifth and three lowly ones in the seventh.

Baalke could reduce the immediate losses by swapping out a pick in this year’s draft for one (or two) in 2015. He could also retain more draft capital by throwing in a player such as the disgruntled, but still NFL-viable LaMichael James.

Tampa Bay, to wit, could certainly use a change-of-pace back behind Doug Martin.

Now, would Baalke agree to such an enormous trade?

As long as he still acquired a capable defensive back in Round 3—say, Pierre Desir of Lindenwood or Florida’s Jaylen Watkins—this move could work.

He wouldn’t mortgage the championship sustainability of this franchise if he spread out the traded assets between present and future draft picks, and current expendable players.

Evans would elevate the 49ers offense to Super Bowl-quality. A prospect like Desir or Watkins, meanwhile, would serve as adequate depth behind Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver and Eric Wright. One of them could then move into a starting role as early as next season.

San Francisco’s seasoned personnel guru traded up 13 places and sacrificed a third-rounder when he landed eventual Pro Bowl free safety Eric Reid in 2013.

Would he move up 23 first-round positions for a potential All-Pro game-changer in 2014?

May 8 can’t come soon enough.

 

Triple Down: Trade out of First Round, Take Three

This scenario might actually qualify as passive aggression on Baalke’s part.

The 49ers will enter the 2014 campaign as a favorite for the Lombardi Trophy.

There exists a sufficiently legitimate case that just one shutdown cornerback or one premier receiver will place them above the defending champion Seattle Seahawks in the NFC hierarchy.

Emerging NCAA corners Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, and wideouts Sammy Watkins of Clemson and Texas A&M’s Evans would merit such distinction.

Sue Ogrocki
Despite his immense talent, the 49ers can get more by avoiding trading up for Justin Gilbert.

Any number of draft analysts would indicate a possibility of San Francisco pursuing one of those names at each position.

But what if Baalke can land not one, but a collection of three starting-caliber prospects?

What if he orchestrates a controversial downward trade and still manages a draft haul in equal value to a more “exceptional” prospect taken in the top 10?

Which approach should Baalke employ during the draft?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Let’s flesh it out.

The Minnesota Vikings are in dire need of a franchise quarterback. They must capitalize on 29-year-old Adrian Peterson’s increasingly waning prime as an elite NFL running back. Former defensive coordinator and new head coach Mike Zimmer will also target reinforcements for his highly deficient secondary.

Numerous draft pundits rank a host of talented corners at the bottom of the first round (see: ESPN Insider, CBS Sports and Bleacher Report).

These Day 1 starters include Texas Christian University’s Jason Verrett, Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller and Bradley Roby of Ohio State.

If consensus wins out and Minnesota selects a quarterback at No. 8 (see: B/R’s Matt Miller and ESPN Insider’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay), we’ll project that Zimmer sets his sights on one of those aforementioned defensive backs.

A Vikings team that has a recent history of trading back up into the first round will do so again in 2014.

It will take ownership of No. 30 overall, while the 49ers slide 10 spots down and acquire one of Minnesota’s two third-round selections and an additional lower-round pick this year and next.

Leaving Rounds 3 through 7 for a later discussion, which three prospects will Baalke select in the second?

At No. 40 overall, San Francisco gets its hands on Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State.

The versatile defensive back would prove a dream for coach Harbaugh, coordinator Vic Fangio and the 49ers’ locker room culture.

ESPN Insider astutely notes Joyner’s unrivaled intangibles, including his relentless energy on the field, “professional work ethic” and “outstanding football character and intelligence.”

Here is how those fine scouts rate his gridiron skill set:

Studies tape and it translates to field. Recognizes formation tendencies and frequently adjusts accordingly pre-snap. … Reads quarterback's eyes and shows consistent ability to get an early break on the ball. Above average overall discipline. Has experience at CB and FS. Spent most of 2014 season working at CB (outside and slot). … Plays the run with a LB mentality. Love the way this guy plays the game. Is aggressive and physical. … Above average pursuit angles and also gives great effort backside, which has resulted in him limiting damage on big plays allowed. Reliable open field tackler with above average body control. Squares up and latches on.

As for why he’ll succeed with the 49ers as a nickel corner and in general, ESPN offers this resonating comparison: “Lot of similarities to Tyrann Mathieu, including natural playmaking instincts and leave-it-all-on-the-field mentality.”

Mathieu earned Pro Football Focus’ (subscription required) third-highest rating among 110 NFL cornerbacks graded in 2013. Enough said.

Then with picks No. 56 and No. 61, the 49ers stock up on two higher-rated receivers that fall due to a thoroughly loaded class.

Enter: Allen Robinson and Donte Moncrief.

Robinson is a former record-setter at Penn State who now hails as a pro-ready wideout. He averaged over 80 receptions, 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns as a two-year starter and will bring his fluid strength, toughness and “large catching radius” to the next level, according to CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler.

The 6’3’’, 220-pounder would ultimately find a niche in San Francisco for the long haul based on this apt resemblance to a current Niners stalwart.

Per Brugler:

COMPARES TO: Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers - Robinson doesn't have elite speed, but like Boldin he is a good-sized athlete with deceiving acceleration and strength at the catch point to be both a possession target and big play-threat.

Robinson can effectively contribute on a supplementary basis now, and would take over Boldin’s duties full time by 2016 when his contract expires.

Moncrief, for his part, is a similarly sized, but entirely more talented receiver.

The 6’2’’, 221-pound wideout from Mississippi recorded the third-fastest 40 (4.40 seconds), third-highest vertical (39.5’’) and longest broad jump (11’0’’) at this year’s combine. The combination of his physical prowess and experience playing in the nation’s toughest conference deem him ready for NFL action.

And according to NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki, Moncrief has considerable upside.

Big, physically gifted "X" receiver with deep speed, leaping potential and playmaking ability. Could emerge a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in a vertical passing offense, and his best football is in front him.

Kaepernick would clearly enjoy throwing to a gridiron weapon who shares some of the better characteristics of Boldin, Crabtree and Vernon Davis.

Either way, these receivers would provide both catches and touchdowns for a 49ers passing offense that has struggled in recent years.

All told, if Baalke executed this draft day strategy, the 49ers would have eliminated their top personnel needs, while maximizing value and adding insurance to the expiring contracts of their top two receivers.

They would have also retained their surplus of picks for any ancillary needs.

Who knew that this seeming non-aggression could improve a team in such an aggressive manner?

Player statistics provided by Sports-Reference and Pro-Football-Reference. Draft measurables courtesy of NFL.com.

 

Follow me on Twitter @jlevitt16

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