San Francisco 49ers: 2014 Mock Draft for First 3 Rounds
These last remaining days have offered the chance for one last stab at projections, but the 49ers still seem to have a wide array of possibilities across the board. In the first two days of the draft alone, the team possesses a whopping six picks over three rounds.
Several directions can be taken in a mock draft, but these picks will reflect some ideal scenarios rather than predictions of what will actually happen on May 8. Many have been linked to the team with visits and prior mocks, but nothing is a real guarantee until the dominoes begin to fall.
That said, each player was selected in a realistic range to present a sensible match, at least based on the latest buzz surrounding the draft.
Then again, a draft this loaded could leave any number of quality players sliding down into Baalke's grasp. With that in mind, these names are well worth knowing before you sit down for the first three rounds.
*Note: All statistics according to sports-reference.com, unless otherwise noted.
As listed by Austin Pentis of 49ers.com, the 49ers have been left with the following picks in the early rounds heading into the 2014 NFL draft:
- Round 1, Pick No. 30
- Round 2, Pick No. 56
- Round 2, Pick No. 61
- Round 3, Pick No. 77
- Round 3, Pick No. 94
- Round 3, Pick No. 100 (Compensatory)
It should also be noted that the compensatory selection in Round 3 cannot be traded. However, this still leaves the 49ers with plenty of bartering chips as players slip down the board.
Given their opening slate at pick No. 30 in the first round, San Francisco should be a good bet to trade up for an elite prospect. While it is entirely possible for the team to bow out of Round 1 altogether, the current Super Bowl window would make that decision a true head-scratcher.
The traditional draft trade value chart is by no means the bible for the league's GMs, but some simple math can at least paint the picture for Baalke's options.
For the sake of this three-round mock, the 49ers will be players to trade up and target a falling star amidst the depth of this year's draft. A trade with either the Eagles (No. 22) or Chiefs (No. 23) would make sense, as both teams are short on draft picks with just six each.
MMQB.com's Peter King believes that both Philadelphia and Kansas City have a desire to move, and the value chart shows that a third-round pick could suffice for climbing the board.
Round 1, No. 22 (TRADE)
*TRADE: San Francisco sends picks No. 30, 94 and 170 to Philadelphia in exchange for pick No. 22.
Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard has been all over the draft board with this year's extended process.
According to NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah (via Bryan Fischer of NFL.com), Dennard has been surpassed by Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller and Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert in the eyes of many teams. Jeremiah also went as far as to project him to the 49ers with pick No. 30 in his early April mock draft.
Realistically, however, Dennard's potential should keep him from lasting that long.
Should Dennard fall somewhere in the middle of these projections, his style of play is perfect for the 49ers defense. As noted in the comparison video above, the former Spartan is willing to play the run but also smart and instinctual in coverage.
This trade wouldn't cost the 49ers much to deliver a top-tier cornerback prospect, rebuilding a depleted secondary for both now and the future.
Round 2, No. 56
The 49ers already addressed the departure of safety Donte Whitner, signing former Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea early in free agency. Seeing that Bethea will be 30 years old when the season starts, however, a long-term answer here in the second round will be difficult to pass him.
Washington State's Deone Bucannon would be an excellent value for the 49ers at this pick, providing the hard-hitting presence that Whitner once brought to this defense. Bucannon is also the pick at this spot for Matt Miller of Bleacher Report in his final mock.
Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBS Sports) continues to show concern for some of Bucannon's technique and vision, but the physical tools are clearly in place. As Rang wrote in his scouting report:
Best attribute may be his explosive hitting, as Bucannon at times appears as though he is shot out of a cannon, unloading on runners and receivers crossing the middle and forcing fumbles... Also showed improved range and ball skills in 2013, recording a career-high six interceptions in 2013.
Two early picks could help replenish a secondary that lost several key contributors in 2014. With time to learn under Bethea, Bucannon could provide the 49ers with a capable partner for Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid for years to come.
Round 2, No. 61
Fans of the red and gold won't want to wait this long to see a receiver come off the board, but Clemson wideout Martavis Bryant provides the total package at a great value.
Standing at 6'4" and 211 pounds, Bryant's NFL Combine Scouting Profile reveals a player with loads of untapped potential. A big and physical frame could help solve San Francisco's woes in the red zone, albeit with some proper coaching:
Very good straight-line, separation speed. Can drop his hips surprisingly well for as tall as he is and is fairly shifty after the catch. Good red-zone target -- effective making back-shoulder catches. Flashes the ability to climb the ladder and highpoint the ball...Will require additional seasoning to make a mark in the pro game.
With veterans Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin set in stone at the top of the depth chart, Bryant would have time to develop before stepping in as a key contributor. As noted by Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, a 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash also makes the former Tiger an attractive target.
Bryant's combination of size, speed and leaping ability seems to represent what 49ers desperately need on offense. With time to grow as a rookie in a situational role, Bryant could eventually thrive if given the opportunity in this offense.
Round 3, No. 77
Having already traded pick No. 94 to the Eagles in this mock, the 49ers will have a ways to go until their next selection at No. 100 in the third round. Once there, however, insurance for troubled linebacker Aldon Smith should be in the cards.
Bleacher Report's Joseph Akeley has previously identified Louisville pass-rusher Marcus Smith as a possibility, bringing proven pass-rush ability with 14.5 sacks in his senior season.
The collegiate Smith did spend time as a defensive lineman at Louisville, leaving something to be desired in his coverage ability. Athleticism alone should help the former Cardinal translate to the pro game, landing at No. 79 on the final Big Board of B/R's Matt Miller.
Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBS Sports) backs up this sentiment, touting Marcus Smith's ability as a 3-4 rush linebacker. With the size and speed to make the transition, Smith still has limited experience in key areas, according to Rang:
Shows vision and savvy as a walk-up blitzer, timing his rush with the snap nicely to penetrate his initial gap or when looping on stunts. Awareness and underrated athleticism evident when asked to cover tight ends and slot receivers on underneath routes. Gets an effective jam on his target and is athletic enough to handle coverage duties for a few yards.
The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option for Aldon Smith for 2015, but legal issues make his role in the upcoming season unclear. In a rotation with current linebackers Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier, Marcus Smith could provide fresh legs to keep the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Round 3, No. 100
As one of the few guarantees of the 2014 NFL draft, the 49ers will hand in a selection at pick No. 100. Seeing as NFL rules prohibit the trade of a compensatory selection, San Francisco will be pleased to add another offensive weapon in Central Florida running back Storm Johnson.
Trade rumors continue to swirl around running back LaMichael James heading into the draft, while Johnson seems to better fit the mold of coach Jim Harbaugh's rushing attack.
Johnson formally visited with the 49ers in April, according to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area. He offers a unique skill set on the ground and through the air, as his 1,139 yards rushing and 30 receptions in his final college season demonstrate. Johnson also found the end zone 17 times.
This pick once again falls in line with Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, whose final mock was weighted more towards potential fits. Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBS Sports) has a mixed review of Johnson's pro prospects, but he also sees the potential for the back to become an effective role player:
May not possess impressive timed speed but plays faster than he looks, surprising pursuing defenders by out-running their angles... Johnson isn't a dynamic enough runner to project as a full-time workhorse at the NFL level but his length, power and surprising acceleration could make him a very effective complement as part of a committee.
Despite praise and optimism he's received during his recovery, current 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore is coming off of multiple serious knee injuries that caused him to miss the entirety of what would have been his rookie season in 2013.
A player like Johnson would provide excellent insurance for veteran Frank Gore.
With five selections and one trade in the first three rounds, the 49ers manage to take home a talented roster in this mock draft:
- Round 1, Pick No. 22: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
- Round 2, Pick No. 56: Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State
- Round 2, Pick No. 61: Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
- Round 3, Pick No. 77: Marcus Smith, LB, Louisville
- Round 3, Pick No. 94 (Traded)
- Round 3, Pick No. 100: Storm Johnson, RB, Central Florida
This haul of young talent effectively fills needs for the 49ers, while also keeping an eye toward the future. Each player should have the opportunity to contribute as a rookie, with Dennard offering starting talent from the get-go.
In only surrendering one draft pick to move up for a better talent early on, the 49ers instead land multiple players at the top of a deep draft. This win-win scenario should help extend the current competitive window, restocking the cupboard for the next run at a title.
A similar plan could greatly benefit the team come Thursday night, but all bets are off once the clock starts ticking at Radio City Music Hall.
Tom Smeaton is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Take the conversation to Twitter by following @smeaton49.
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