San Francisco 49ers Ultimate 2014 Draft Primer
The 2014 NFL draft gets kicked off tomorrow night at Radio City Music Hall. The San Francisco 49ers possess six top-100 picks and 11 selections total. After their third straight NFC Championship Game in 2013, the Niners will be looking to make a few bold moves to help them get over the hump so they can return to the Super Bowl.
In the 49ers' ultimate draft primer, we will break down everything you need to know about San Francisco's upcoming draft. We will look at a position-by-position big board, a round-by-round breakdown of the team's options and the latest draft buzz.
List of 2014 Draft Picks
The 49ers have 11 picks in the 2014 NFL draft. Here's where each of them is:
Position-by-Position Big Board
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
David Fales, San Jose State
Brett Smith, Wyoming
Jeff Mathews, Cornell
Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
Martavis Bryant, Clemson
Paul Richardson, Colorado
Bishop Sankey, Washington
Terrance West, Towson
Storm Johnson, UCF
Terrance Cobb, Cumberland
Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
Marcel Jensen, Fresno State
Colt Lyerla, Oregon
Xavier Grimble, USC
Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
Jon Halapio, Florida
Matt Patchan, Boston College
Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech
Ben Gardner, Stanford
Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
Telvin Smith, Florida State
Shayne Skov, Stanford
Preston Brown, Louisville
Jason Verrett, TCU
Bashaud Breeland, Clemson
Pierre Desir, Lindenwood
Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
Ed Reynolds, Stanford
Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State
Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State
Round 1, Pick 30
Team Needs: WR, NT, OLB
It's no secret that the 49ers want to trade up in the draft and target a wide receiver. Reports of them going after wide receivers Mike Evans (Texas A&M) and Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU) have been swirling for weeks. But what would San Francisco do if it couldn't trade up?
In all likelihood, the Niners would opt for the best player available. Based on Daniel Jeremiah's big board, the best player available at No. 30 would either be Ra'Shede Hageman of Minnesota or Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech.
Both players would be schematic fits, and both players would fill a need. So, it's safe to say San Francisco can't go wrong at the end of the first round.
Obviously, the 49ers' need at the wide receiver position will force them to make a jump. This isn't a bad thing considering they have the ammo to trade up, yet San Francisco fans should pray that its new wideout isn't the second coming of A.J. Jenkins.
Round 2, Pick 24 (56)
Team Needs: SS, CB, ILB
If the 49ers can land a pass-catcher in the first round, San Francisco would be wise to target a strong safety or cornerback in the second round.
There will be plenty of depth at both positions when the 49ers pick at 56. This, in turn, means they will target two players who fit Vic Fangio's defense to a T. The first defender is strong safety Deone Bucannon from Washington State, and the second is Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
Bucannon would have to battle free-agent safety Antoine Bethea for playing time as a rookie, but I could easily see him beating Bethea out in an open competition. Here's what Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com had to say about Bucannon in his scouting report:
Good-sized, athletic, physical safety who stands out as a straight-line striker on tape and sets the tone. Has coverage limitations, but brings aggressiveness and intensity to carve a niche as a downhill box defender and core special-teams player. Must learn to become more assignment sound to maximize his potential. Has some similarities to Tampa Bay FS Dashon Goldson.
As far as Jean-Baptiste goes, his skill set is coveted by San Francisco, but it could easily gobble him up with the 61st pick. Bucannon might not last that long. The 49ers shouldn't risk passing up a first-round talent for a guy who will still be available at the end of the second round.
Round 2, Pick 29 (61)
Team Needs: CB, ILB, OLB
As I mentioned before, the Niners would be in a prime position to pick Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska with the 61st pick.
However, San Francisco could choose to go in another direction as well. An inside linebacker, nose tackle or outside linebacker could be in play as well. It all depends on how the draft shakes out. A run on any one position could force the Niners to value a particular position over the other.
Here are a few names the 49ers could target if they chose to wait on a corner: Telvin Smith (Florida State), Chris Borland (Wisconsin) and DaQuan Jones (Penn State). Smith, Borland and Jones are all good fits schematically, yet Jean-Baptiste would offer the most value at 61.
Why? Because there could easily end up being a run on cornerbacks at the beginning of the second round. Let's not forget cornerback is a position of need for San Francisco. This means it needs to do everything in its power to draft an impact player at the position.
Round 3, Pick 13 (77)
Team Needs: ILB, OLB, C
With upgrades taking place at the strong safety and cornerback positions, the 49ers can now focus on other positions of need. Those other positions of need are the outside linebacker, inside linebacker and center positions.
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report thinks the 49ers will address one of those positions of need by drafting an inside linebacker with the 77th pick. In his latest mock draft, he has San Francisco selecting Florida State linebacker Christian Jones.
In addition to giving the 49ers a youth infusion at inside linebacker, Jones could come in and start for NaVorro Bowman until he is fully recovered from the gruesome leg injury he suffered. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports lauded Jones for his versatility and fluid footwork:
Tremendous athlete with has fluid footwork who flawlessly flips his hips to blanket tight ends or receivers down the field in coverage. Tall and long, which he uses well in coverage. Plays with excellent range and speed to chase down the action, taking proper angles in pursuit. Flashes the take-on strength to blow past blockers when he uses proper technique.
Based on Brugler's scouting report, it's evident Jones would be a welcomed addition in San Francisco. Even though Jones would head back to the bench when Bowman returns, he would most likely be his eventual successor down the line.
Round 3, Pick 30 (94)
Team Needs: RB, OLB, C
San Francisco is stacked at the running back position. The 49ers' backfield currently employs Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James. Yet, the only problem is Gore isn't going to be around forever, and durability concerns loom over Lattimore's head.
For those reasons, the Niners would be wise to draft a running back on Day 2 of the draft.
Based on San Francisco's predraft visits, Terrance West (Towson) and Storm Johnson (UCF) would be the most logical selections at No. 94 overall. Even though both players play with different styles, the organization couldn't go wrong with either back.
West is a power back who bullies defenders by running north and south, while Johnson makes defenders miss in the open field. This pick will come down to preference and value. If it were up to me, West would be the pick because he has a bit of Gore in his game.
Round 3, Pick 36 (100)
Team Needs: OLB, C, QB
Yes, the 49ers picked up Aldon Smith's fifth-year option, yet that doesn't mean they won't draft an outside linebacker. There is a definite need for depth at the position, and you never know how long Smith will be suspended at the start of the season.
In an attempt to bolster their linebacking corps, the Niners will have their sights set on Kevin Pierre-Louis. Pierre-Louis played collegiately at Boston College and was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2013. His tremendous athletic ability has helped him shoot up draft boards, via Darren Page of Bleacher Report:
Kevin Pierre-Louis flew under the radar during a stellar senior season to the point of receiving no major all-star game invitations.
After showing off his tremendous athletic ability at the scouting combine, he vaulted himself into the conversation of talented outside linebackers in this year’s class.
For Pierre-Louis, the value comes from what he can do in space. He played all over the field for Boston College, but made the biggest impact out over the slot receivers or when free to roam over the top unimpeded. His acceleration and closing speed enable him to make plays that many other linebackers cannot. He’s disciplined on top of that.
It’s the hesitation and indecision that must be cut out of his game, but his versatility and value in pass defense will make him a starting linebacker in the NFL.
Pierre-Louis needs some work from a technique standpoint, but his faults can easily be fixed. The 49ers coaching staff will work him over and have him ready to contribute in 2014.
Round 4, Pick 29 (129)
Team Needs: QB, C, OG
San Francisco may be set at the quarterback position with Colin Kaepernick under center, yet it never hurts to have a developmental quarterback on the roster.
Some may say Blaine Gabbert is that developmental quarterback, but I tend to disagree. To me, Gabbert is a one-year rental. This is why I believe the 49ers will draft Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas with their fourth-round pick.
Thomas is far from a polished product, but Jim Harbaugh has proven in the past that he can maximize talent. And that's exactly what Thomas needs. He needs someone who can fix his mechanics and teach him the right way to play the quarterback position.
In 2014, Thomas would be the Niners' No. 3 quarterback. Yet, with a little bit of patience and the proper coaching, he could easily be San Francisco's No. 2 quarterback in 2015.
Round 5, Pick 30 (170)
Team Needs: NT, C, OG
At this point in the draft, San Francisco will draft players with upside. Why? Because the odds of particular players making the 53-man roster are slim.
Nevertheless, there are always a couple of surprise players who get undervalued on draft day. When San Francisco picks at No. 170, it will be taking a long, hard look at Justin Ellis of Louisiana Tech.
Ellis flew under the radar because he played at Louisiana Tech, yet he could find a home with the 49ers as a 2-gaping nose tackle. Brugler of CBS Sports says Ellis is an "upfield penetrator who is a handful to control as a pass rusher."
The 49ers don't deploy their base defense as much as they used to, yet in limited snaps they could definitely use Ellis' pass-rushing ability.
Round 7, Pick 27 (242)
Team Needs: C, TE, OG
Daniel Kilgore is penciled in as San Francisco's starting center, but the 49ers still need to add depth at the position. As it stands right now, they have a couple versatile offensive linemen who could play center in a pinch, but they don't have a true backup at center.
One prospect who could make some noise in training camp as a backup center is Gabe Ikard of Oklahoma. All the kid needs is a shot. Despite his shortcomings, he always found a way to get the job done and overcome his physical limitations, via Nawrocki of NFL.com:
A functional positional blocker who lacks the foot quickness, athletic ability and strength desired in a starter, yet consistently finds a way to get the job done and overcome his physical limitations. Intelligence and intangibles are off the charts and could allow him to capture and hold onto a starting job. The sum is better than the parts.
It's highly unlikely he captures a starting job in San Francisco, but he may be good enough to land on the 53-man roster. The 49ers coaching staff likes intelligent offensive linemen. And as Nawrocki said, Ikard does have that going for him.
Round 7, Pick 28 (243)
Team Needs: TE, K
Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald are the clear-cut starters at tight end for the 49ers, but the No. 3 and No. 4 spots are up for grabs on the depth chart. This is where USC's Xavier Grimble comes in. San Francisco could draft him with the 243rd pick to challenge Garrett Celek and Derek Carrier as a backup.
Grimble needs some work in terms of technique, but that won't stop the Niners from spending their second-to-last pick on him. He has the size and strength of a well-rounded tight end who could be a reliable second option in the future.
Yet to get him to improve, the 49ers coaches will have to work on his fundamentals. If the coaching staff helps Grimble make the necessary improvements, he should earn a spot on the 53-man roster or the practice squad.
Round 7, Pick 30 (245)
Team Needs: K
With their final pick in the 2014 draft, the 49ers may feel inclined to select a kicker.
Phil Dawson is 39 years old and is only signed through the 2015 season. However, San Francisco could cut him loose at the end of the 2014 season. His contract would only carry $1.5 million in dead money if the 49ers did cut him prior to 2015.
Dawson's potential replacement, with the 245th pick, could very well be Texas kicker Anthony Fera. Fera was a consensus All-American in 2013 and connected on 90.9 percent of his field goals.
Furthermore, Fera had a 83.7 percent field-goal percentage for his career and hit 96.7 percent of his extra points.
Latest Draft Buzz
Here are the latest rumors that concern the 49ers as the NFL draft approaches:
- Gayle Saunders of Rotoworld did a phenomenal job of tracking all the prospects the 49ers worked out or met with.
- Chase Goodbread of NFL.com reports that Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks and LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. could be trade-up targets for the Niners.
- According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, teams are convinced that San Francisco will jump and make a trade to land a speedy wide receiver.