San Francisco 49ers Mock Draft: Predictions for All 7 Rounds
It took forever, but the 2014 NFL draft is finally upon us. On Thursday night, all the speculation and rumors will be over, and we’ll finally know what the San Francisco 49ers plan to do with their 11 draft picks.
That means it’s time for one last mock draft. One last chance to try to match talent to need and try to figure out what Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh are planning on doing come Thursday night.
This slideshow will look at each of San Francisco’s potential selections in an attempt to figure out who will be available, who the 49ers will take and what other options they may have.
For the purposes of this mock draft, we’re allowing trades. The 49ers don’t need to add 11 players to their team, so it’d be silly to assume they’d sit back and draft in their assigned slots, never moving up or down the board.
While the 49ers could vault up the first round if they wanted, I went with a bit more cautious approach—moving up twice to grab players that were falling, rather than trying to make a huge splash in the first round. This mock ends up coming away with two players I feel the 49ers would take in the first round, without actually needing two first-round picks.
I’ll also be comparing each selection to who I mocked to the 49ers back in February. Suffice it to say a lot has changed since then.
Round 1, Pick No. 30: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Cornerback remains the 49ers’ biggest need. The top three corners right now are Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver and Chris Cook. Brock and Culliver have a combined 13 starts between them, while Cook was less than thrilling in Minnesota. They need to add more talent here.
Back in February, I had the 49ers taking Jason Verrett, but it looks now like he may be gone by the time No. 30 comes around. Instead, I’ll give the 49ers the speedy Roby, who put up a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine.
The 49ers had Roby in to visit at the end of April, indicating some interest from the 49ers’ front office. This would have given Roby a chance to tell his side of the story regarding his recent legal issues. Roby pleaded guilty to “having physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol”, a reduced charge.
Roby’s a competitive player with a nice mix of speed and tackling ability. He’s the most athletic of the corners in this year’s class, matching up well with players like Patrick Peterson. He’s a lockdown player in press and man-to-man coverage and rarely, if ever, gets burned.
Roby will need to improve his technique some at the next level, but he’s an elite athlete that needs tweaking, not an overhaul. You can’t teach a player to have Roby’s speed and size. He’d come in as the nickel corner immediately, and eventually he would take over as the number two cornerback behind Brock.
Other players considered: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana; Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
TRADE: Round 2, Pick No. 41: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
49ers trade second-round pick no. 56 and third-round pick no. 94
Rather than jumping up in the first round, the 49ers can simply slide into the top third of the second round and take a second quality player.
With two second-round picks and three third-round picks, the 49ers have the capital to spare to move up. Throwing in a third-round pick would only move San Francisco up five slots or so, according to the trade value chart. Using it to vault back to the top of the second round would be a better use of the pick.
In my mock last February, I had the 49ers sitting tight and taking Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt. That’s still an option; players like Matthews or Bruce Ellington from South Carolina would be available at number 56. However, those players are a level lower than Benjamin.
The 49ers visited with Benjamin in the run-up to the draft, and it’s easy to see why. At 6’5”, 240 pounds, only Mike Evans is a larger target than Benjamin. He’s essentially a version of Jimmy Graham—a receiver in a tight end’s body, who will be an immediate mismatch for anyone who lines up against him.
Put him in the red zone and throw the ball up to him; nobody’s beating him to it. He’s not going to slip past defenders in the open field, but he may just bowl them over.
He’s rawer than Mike Evans, which is why he’s a second-round selection instead of a first-rounder. Put him behind Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, and let him develop into the number one receiver he’s capable of being.
Benjamin essentially replaces Matthews and Trent Murphy from February’s draft, but hold onto that thought for now.
Other players considered: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame; Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Round 2, Pick No. 61: Marcus Martin, C, USC
This pick looks ahead to the 2015 season, filling a need before it becomes one.
The 49ers chose not to re-sign Jonathan Goodwin this offseason, instead promoting Daniel Kilgore to be the presumptive starter. Kilgore’s never started a game in his NFL career, but he’s filled in at both center and guard, and he's shown enough that the 49ers were willing to extend his contract.
He’s still an unknown, however, so adding one of the top center prospects like Martin would make for a good competition. At 6’3”, 320 pounds, Martin is a mammoth prospect for the center of your line. You’d like your center to be a bit taller than that, but he’s more than solid in pass protection and can withstand rushes from the big defensive tackles at the NFL level.
Even more importantly, he also has experience at the college level playing guard. With Mike Iupati’s contract expiring at the end of the 2014 season, and Alex Boone’s ending after 2015, the 49ers could put either Martin or Kilgore in at one of the guard positions, while the other handles center.
The February mock had Russell Bodine here, but Martin’s a better center prospect, all things considered.
Other players considered: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State; Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh
Round 3, Pick No. 77: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE/OLB, Texas
In the February mock, I went with Terrence Brooks of Florida State. However, his stock has climbed out of this range, and the 49ers went out and signed Antoine Bethea anyway, meaning a new pick was needed here.
While pass rush is the 49ers’ greatest remaining need at this point, there weren’t a lot of choices here. Jeffcoat doesn’t thrill me like some of the other picks; he’s lacking the sort of strength I’m looking for in a pass-rusher, and he’s not fantastic versus the run, either.
At 6’3”, 247 pounds, he does have the frame you’re looking for in an outside linebacker, and you can never accuse him of giving anything but maximum effort. He pursues the play all over the field with quick feet and great agility, and he works well in space.
I would have liked to have seen him improve more in college, as sometimes he looked like a star, and other times he just seemed to vanish. As a third-round selection he’s worth looking at, but I’m not sold on this one.
Other players considered: DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State; Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
Round 3, Pick No. 100: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
My strategy here in the third round was to take multiple players who could develop into a starting outside linebacker. The 49ers would only need one of Jeffcoat or Murphy to take the next step at the NFL level. Such is the luxury of having few needs and a boatload of picks.
Picking Murphy would reunite him with Jim Harbaugh and Vic Fangio, who coached him at Stanford. While the 49ers haven’t taken a single player from Harbaugh’s time at Stanford yet, there remains a level of familiarity and comfort that could come into play with this selection.
Murphy was a consistent contributor at Stanford, with 25 sacks over the past two seasons. He has a great motor and instincts, and he always found a way to make plays at the college level. He has a variety of moves and is slippery, allowing him to get after the quarterback.
He’s not a speed-rusher, though, and he won’t blow past people in the NFL. He’s also not going to be dropping into coverage very often—you’re taking Murphy to slip past right tackles with a variety of moves, not to cover the Jimmy Grahams of the world.
In the February mock, I had Murphy going to the 49ers with the 94th overall pick, and I’m keeping him on the team now. The fact that the 49ers have a third-round compensatory pick, rather than a fourth-rounder, gives them a lot more versatility. Murphy’s a much better addition to the team than running back Lache Seastrunk, who I had the 49ers using the fourth-round compensatory pick on back in February.
Other players considered: Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State; Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut
TRADE: Round 4, Pick No. 121: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
49ers trade fourth-round pick no. 129, seventh-round pick no. 242 and seventh-round pick no. 243
Why do the 49ers need three seventh-round selections? They’re going to have trouble finding enough room on the roster for all their draft picks as it stands; seventh-rounders are exceptionally unlikely to make a final roster as loaded as San Francisco’s will be.
The 49ers could also stand to improve their backup quarterback slot. Colin Kaepernick’s contract is up after 2014, and Blaine Gabbert doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in a reserve role.
Therefore, the 49ers could move up to the middle of the fourth round and take the quarterback of their choice.
I have the 49ers taking Murray in part because he’s coming off of a torn ACL; the 49ers could redshirt him in the same fashion they did Marcus Lattimore this season.
He’s small for an NFL quarterback at only 6’1”, but you just have to look up at Seattle to see how shorter quarterbacks can succeed. Murray was a four-year starter in college, setting records in the SEC. He has a great football IQ, standing in the pocket under pressure and finding the open receiver.
If you’re not a fan of Murray, you could take someone with a stronger arm, like Zach Mettenberger out of LSU. If you’re willing to take a real gamble, there’s always Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech, who grades out as a quarterback, tight end or fullback, depending on how he develops.
All of these players have decent arguments. Let Jim Harbaugh take the quarterback he thinks he can develop the best in this slot, filling San Francisco’s last need with three rounds left to go.
Solidifying the backup quarterback slot is worth more than the combination of Michael Sam, Ryan Carrethers and J.C. Copeland I had San Francisco taking with these three picks in February.
Round 5, Pick No. 170: Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oregon State
With the freedom to take players across the board, the 49ers might well decide to double down on their position of greatest need.
If Reynolds does last this long, however, the 49ers would jump on him. He’s small for a corner, at only 5’10”, but he has great lateral moves and quickness. At the combine, he put up a 4.00 time in the 20-yard shuttle, tops amongst cornerbacks.
He’s also tough enough to play up in run defense, while his technique has been improving with each season he’s been in college. He stood up to the pass-wacky Pac-12, giving him needed experience for the pass-wacky NFL.
He’ll need time to transition into a nickelback, because he didn’t do a lot of coverage in the slot in college. That’s what he grades out to in the NFL, however, due to his lack of size. He can definitely make the transition, it just might take a season or two.
In the February mock, I had the 49ers taking tight end Richard Rogers out of California, but this would be a better fit at a position of greater need.
Other players considered: Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose State; T.J. Jones, WR, Notre Dame
Round 7, Pick No. 245: Josh Mauro, DE, Stanford
We’ll end San Francisco’s draft class with another player from Harbaugh’s old college team.
Mauro met and had lunch with Harbaugh back at the combine, and he possesses enough traits to be worth a flyer on in the last round. Mauro has great initial quickness and a high motor. Although he never started at Stanford, he played multiple positions along the line and proved able to get penetration at all positions with a quick first step and good anticipation of the snap.
He’s definitely a developmental prospect, and he would likely be stashed on the practice squad if the 49ers took him. He doesn’t have ideal size to play inside in the NFL, and he’s easily knocked back and pancaked by the better offensive tackles. He doesn’t have a logical landing spot on the defensive line—he’s a tweener, in other words.
He’s got enough raw talent and potential to be worth a look, however, and that’s what the seventh round is all about.
Other players considered: Kasim Edebali, DE, Boston College; Ryan Carrethers, DT, Arkansas State