When you have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, as the San Francisco 49ers do, there’s no way 11 fresh faces make the 53-man roster. At best, it looks like five to six rookies will have a shot at making an impact in 2014.
Apparently, Chris Mortensen of ESPN believes this will be the case as well. Per Evan Silva of Rotoworld, Mortensen is hearing the Niners “could be very aggressive in this draft.”
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. San Francisco has been aggressive in years past. However, it is surprising that Mortensen suggested Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans may be the 49ers’ trade-up target in the first round.
For months, pundits around the league have been mocking a wide receiver to the 49ers. Yet, none of them felt Evans would be the target. Most felt the jump for the Niners would be too high, which meant San Francisco would have to settle on the likes of Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham Jr. or Kelvin Benjamin.
Nevertheless, it’s clear the 49ers have the ammo to trade up. So their target in a draft-day jump should be Evans.
The 20-year-old pass-catcher is a transcendent talent. He is a highly physical receiver who uses his size and strength to overpower defenders. Moreover, he has an NFL-ready body. This is huge because he can fight through press coverage, box out defenders and go up and get the ball at its highest point.
Here’s what Bleacher Report’s very own Ryan McCrystal had to say about Evans:
Evans is a prototypical No. 1 receiver and will be an ideal fit for a team that likes to challenge defenses down the field. Few receivers, even at the NFL level, are as dominant when battling for contested balls, and Evans should make an immediate impact in this area.
But don't mislabel him as a strictly a possession receiver. In five games I charted from the 2013 season (Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Duke and LSU), Evans averaged 9.3 yards after the catch. He's a dangerous weapon in many facets of the game and has the potential to quickly develop into one of the elite receivers in the game.
By the sounds of McCrystal’s scouting report, it’s evident Evans is a Day 1 starter in the NFL. This is good news for teams like the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams. But is it feasible to think the 49ers would make the jump from 30 considering they already have Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree?
Based on Boldin’s age and Crabtree’s impending free agency at the end of the 2014 season, the notion of San Francisco jumping up is feasible. If Evans is available at No. 16 overall, Vincent Frank of eDraft could see the Niners make a deal with the Dallas Cowboys:
“These two teams [49ers and Cowboys] made a similar move last season when San Francisco traded from 31 to nab Eric Reid. Dallas is interested in possibly trading down as well. If we were to look at last year, a third-round pick is the compensation San Francisco would have to yield. Though, in such a deeper class, it might be a tad less. The 49ers gave up an early third they had acquired to move up in 2013. Might just have to move their late third in this scenario. Also enables San Francisco to jump the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets, both of whom are likely to look WR.”
Frank also views the Minnesota Vikings as a potential trade partner at No. 8:
“This is only if Watkins is off the board really early and the 49ers are worried that Buffalo, Detroit or the Giants might take Evans. A move up from 30 to the top 10 would be expensive, no matter what year it's done. Baalke is averse to giving up future picks, so likely a second and third would be the required assets in this deal.”
That’s a lot of information to digest, yet it’s apparent the 49ers have the resources to make both deals happen. In addition to having 11 picks total, San Francisco has five tradable picks in the top 100. It cannot deal its sixth top-100 pick, because it is a compensation pick.
Another player the 49ers may look to target in a trade-up scenario is Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. Like Evans, Gilbert would come in and make an immediate impact from Day 1, via Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report:
Gilbert is known as a big-play specialist after his breakout, NCAA-leading seven-interception senior season. He’s also a very good return man, totaling six return touchdowns in his career. If he can refine his technique, he projects as a very good cornerback for Cover 3 zone or man defensive schemes. His great speed helps his ceiling to project to a lockdown boundary corner.
Let’s not forget, the cornerback position has fewer quality starters than the wide receiver position does. This, in turn, means picking Gilbert would make more sense based on team needs.
Obviously, we have no real idea (just speculation) as to which prospects the 49ers front office values. Yet, you could easily make the case that San Francisco should be interested in both players on draft day.
Seriously, what’s not to like?
No matter which direction the 49ers go, they will be happy. They will either get the shutdown corner they have been desperately seeking, or they will get the heir apparent to Boldin.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.