San Francisco 49ers Final 2014 NFL Mock Draft Roundup

Bryan KnowlesContributor IIIMay 7, 2014

San Francisco 49ers Final 2014 NFL Mock Draft Roundup

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    The 2014 NFL draft begins on Thursday, with the San Francisco 49ers’ first-round pick still very much up in the air.

    That’s the situation when you’re picking all the way down at the 30th selection.  So many different things can happen, as the team’s pick is dependent on all the action that happens in front of them.  Any small change at the top of the draft could have a ripple effect, altering San Francisco’s draft strategy immensely.

    Let’s take one last look at the experts’ mock drafts around the internet.  We’ll see who the Mel Kipers and Matt Millers of the world have mocked to the 49ers, along with the reasoning behind each selection.  By looking at all the experts, perhaps we’ll get a better understanding of the decision the 49ers have to make, and be able to more accurately predict their move.

    Of course, very few of these mocks include the possibilities of trades, which is a move very much in San Francisco’s arsenal.  We’ll have to wait and see if the 49ers even make a pick at No. 30 or not.  Still, this will help us get a better understanding of the shape of the draft.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

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    The father of all modern mock drafts opts—on ESPN Insider (subscription required)—to help solve the 49ers' lack of offensive firepower by giving them Jerry Rice’s distant cousin, Jordan Matthews.

    I know the 49ers are a team that could look to move up and make a splash if they see an immediate help, because, even while they have very good roster depth compared to most, they are still looking to maximize a clear championship window. I'd consider Matthews a player who can contribute early, and, while Anquan Boldin returns and Michael Crabtree is healthy, the wide receiver position is still a clear need spot. Matthews is a reliable pass-catcher who can make plays on contested passes and is also capable of hitting a second gear when he has room to run after the catch.  

    While the need is certainly there, I’m not a fan of this selection.  Matthews would be the eighth receiver off the board in the first round, and you’re starting to run out of real first-round caliber talent at that point.

    I’m not even sure Matthews is the eighth best receiver in the draft.  Kiper’s first round leaves off players like Davante Adams of Fresno State and Jarvis Landry of LSU.  While you could argue about whether either of those players are better than Matthews, the odds are at least one will be available at one of the team’s two second-round selections.

    Furthermore, because of the run on receivers, only three cornerbacks leave Kiper’s board before the 49ers’ selection.  Taking either Jason Verrett of TCU or Bradley Roby of Ohio State would fill a larger need for the team, besides simply being a better prospect than Matthews.

ESPN’s Todd McShay: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

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    Kiper’s co-worker-slash-rival at ESPN Insider has the 49ers ignoring their largest positions of need, instead adding the big-bodied Hageman to their defensive line.

    A wide receiver is certainly a possibility here, but I don't know that there's an available speed receiver who makes sense. Cornerback is another option, but Bradley Roby is the highest-rated CB available and I'm not sure the Niners would want to bring him in the fold right now, given his recent off-field issues. If they like Hageman, he is a good value pick at this point in the first round, as he possesses an elite size-speed combo and could contribute in a rotation. The Niners are also a candidate to trade back or up from this slot. If a team such as the Texans or Jaguars wants to trade back into the first round to get their QB (in part so they can have a fifth-year option on one, in the event that their pick pans out, which is afforded to teams for first-round picks but not second-rounders), this could be a good pick to target.

    I agree with McShay’s analysis that, if this was the best player available, the team would strongly consider trading down.  The Texans at pick No. 33 and Jaguars at pick No. 35 would be looking to grab that first-round quarterback, without causing the 49ers to miss out on too many more players.

    Hageman’s definitely a big body, and a first-round talent, but I’m not sure he quite fits in San Francisco’s lineup as it stands now.  He’d presumably move to defensive end in the 49ers’ 3-4 system, and he would likely be quite successful.  He’s got the size and shape of a player like J.J. Watt, but the team already has a defensive end of the future in Tank Carradine on the roster.

    Long story short, the talent is certainly there. But considering the 49ers’ larger needs, I don’t know if he’d be the best use of the pick.

    McShay thinks that the 49ers would shy away from Bradley Roby thanks to his recent off-field trouble involving alcohol and cars.  While that’s an understandable reaction, I think the 49ers would still take him in this scenario.

Yahoo’s Shaun King: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

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    Our first mock draft to pick a player at San Francisco’s biggest position of need comes from Yahoo’s Shaun King, who sees the 49ers improving their nickel cornerback slot immediately with the addition of Verrett.

    He's the best pure man-to-man cover guy in this draft class. But he's on the smallish side which is why he is available this late. He gives the Niners something they really need.

    If the draft broke this way, I think the 49ers would be ecstatic.  Verrett’s likely one of the top ten players on San Francisco’s draft board.  I have him as the fourth-best cornerback in the draft, after Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller.

    Verrett’s a bit on the small side at only 5’9”, but he’s one of the most athletic players in this year’s draft.  His 4.38 40-yard dash puts him second among all cornerbacks this year, and he also performed well in the vertical jump, cone drill and shuttle events at the combine.

    He’s got great instincts to track the ball down, and he is a playmaker.  He finished his college career with nine interceptions and 34 passes defended.  He’s also a very good tackler in the run game, considering his size.

    He’d slide right in at nickel cornerback for the 49ers.  That may be his ceiling in the NFL, given his size, but in today’s pass-happy league that’s a starting role.  The team could consider Indiana receiver Cody Latimer here, but Verrett would be the best choice on King’s draft board.

Yahoo’s Eric Edholm: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

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    Eric Edholm opts to give the 49ers a deep threat for their passing game by taking the speedy Brandin Cooks out of Oregon State.

    The speed merchant fills a void and gives the 49ers a more diverse passing game, one that in theory can attack most parts of the field now. You have Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree working the sticks, Vernon Davis threatening the seam and the edges, and Cooks as a deep threat. Cooks also has a little chip on his shoulder that will play well with the hard-edged Jim Harbaugh.

    Cooks would add an element to the 49ers' passing game which currently does not exist.  His 4.33 40-yard dash was tops among receivers at the combine, which makes sense for an ex-sprinter.  He’s a yard-after-catch machine who is incredibly difficult to stop in the open field.

    The 49ers really have two potential types of receivers they could take in this year’s draft.  They could grab a speedy player, like Cooks or Odell Beckham, to try to provide a deep threat in the style of a Percy Harvin.  Alternatively, they could look for a big-bodied player like Kelvin Benjamin or Mike Evans for a red-zone threat.  If they choose the speed merchant, it would be hard to do better than Cooks.

    At 5’10”, he doesn’t have the ideal frame for an NFL receiver, but his speed and athleticism make up for it.  He’d come in to the 49ers as the starting slot receiver, as well as a weapon in the return game.  They could consider other receivers here, like Benjamin or Cody Latimer, but Cooks is probably the best fit on Edholm’s draft board.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

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    Obviously, Matt Miller’s mock draft right here on Bleacher Report is perfect and without flaw, and any attempt to criticize it would be doomed to failure.

    On a more serious note, Miller notes that, while the 49ers could be looking up to add Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans to their roster, if they stand pat, they would add another after-the-catch threat in Allen Robinson.

    Robinson has the size (6'2", 220 lbs) and speed teams want. His after-the-catch ability was incredible at Penn State, and he runs with power and quickness to find daylight. Robinson may not be the deep threat the 49ers seemingly need, but he would be a shoo-in replacement for Anquan Boldin after 2014. In the meantime he could add another big-play threat over the middle for Colin Kaepernick.

    I’m not so sure about this selection.  There are plenty of other receivers on the board here, including Marqise Lee of USC and Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State.  Robinson only put up a 4.6 40-yard dash at the combine, which is far from lights-out.  He is shifty when he gets to open space, but watching his highlights, I’m not as impressed as Miller is with his speed.

    I’m not a fan of Robinson as a first-round pick.  If this is the player the 49ers want, I’d rather them take Robinson or a similar player in the second or third rounds, and use their first round pick on a cornerback.  Once again, both Jason Verrett and Bradley Roby are available in Miller’s mock draft, and I feel either would be a better choice here.

CBS’ Rob Rang: Kony Ealy, DE Missouri

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    Rob Rang of CBS skips out on the rush for receivers and cornerbacks entirely.  Instead, he goes to bolster San Francisco’s pass rush with the addition of Kony Ealy from Missouri.

    [Aldon] Smith's inability to stay out of trouble may force the 49ers to consider adding a pass rusher early in the draft. An intriguing fit could be Ealy, a friend and former teammate of Smith's at Missouri. Like Smith, Ealy starred at defensive end for the Tigers but he's a fluid athlete also capable of making the transition as a standup outside linebacker in the 3-4.

    The Smith situation has definitely shaken up San Francisco’s offseason, but now that they’ve picked up his fifth-year option, the need becomes a little less pressing.  Ealy’s definitely worth considering in the first round, but it does look like the 49ers might be going in another direction.

    Rang is another analyst who has Jason Verrett still available when the 49ers are on the clock.  He’s undersized, but he still fits a position of need better than Ealy does.

CBS’ Dane Brugler: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Dane Brugler has the second mock we’ve looked at to give the 49ers Cooks.

    The last time the 49ers drafted a fast, undersized slot receiver in the late first round, it didn't work out so well (A.J. Jenkins). But Cooks is a different story with his combination of athleticism and polish to start at the "Y" from day one. The Aldon Smith situation is worth watching and could change this pick.

    Brugler’s right when he says that the fact that the 49ers whiffed on Jenkins in 2012 shouldn’t stop them from grabbing a receiver in 2014.  If anything, it should increase the urgency of finding another young receiver to pair with Michael Crabtree over the long term.

    If Cooks is available at the 30th selection, I’m not sure how the 49ers pass up on him.  I suppose they could look at Kelvin Benjamin from Florida State here, but Cooks’ speed is too much to pass up.

CBS’ Pete Prisco: Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California

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    Pete Prisco continues the trend of mocking a receiver to the 49ers, but he goes with the receiver out of Southern Cal rather than one of the more common selections at this point.

    Why his stock is dropping is a mystery. He has too much talent and would be a steal for the 49ers.

    Lee’s definitely the sort of dynamic playmaker the 49ers are looking to add on offense.  He’s a talented player with the ball after the catch, with the speed to get chunks of yardage in the open field.  He has very good acceleration as well, allowing him to get up to maximum speed quickly and efficiently.

    If he is dropping at all, it’s likely due to a combination of his rawness and his injury history.  Lee missed time due to shoulder, knee and leg injuries over the course of his college career.   At only 192 pounds, his slight frame is a bit of a cause for concern.

    Lee drops a few too many passes for my taste, but he’s the best player on the board in Prisco’s draft.  The 49ers could look at Cody Latimer from Indiana or Kelvin Benjamin from Florida State with this pick if they wanted a receiver, but I think Lee’s raw talent puts him on top of that list.

CBS’ Pat Kirwan: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

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    One mock that doesn’t shy away from giving the 49ers the talented, if recently troubled, Bradley Roby is Pat Kirwan.  Kirwan acknowledges Roby’s recent issues with the law, and then proceeds to ignore them.

    Some are starting to believe Roby is the top corner. Others worry about his recent traffic incident. I watched him play and he has off coverage skills to close and he likes contact.

    In theory, I should like this pick a lot more than I do.  After all, I’ve been calling for Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and Matt Miller to go down and pick up Roby rather than their actual selections.  He was even my pick in my most recent mock draft; an athletic corner who excels in man-to-man coverage.

    Why am I not a fan of this pick then?  Kirwan’s draft sees both Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech and Jason Verrett from TCU still on the board when the 49ers make their selection.  He’s the only mock of these ten to have Fuller available all the way down at No. 30, but if Fuller does somehow slip that far, I don’t see how the 49ers could not take him.

    Fuller could play nickel corner, boundary corner or free safety in the pros—it’d be difficult for him to become a complete miss.  He’s faster than your average cornerback, with very good ball skills and play recognition.  I’d take him before considering Roby.

CBS’ Will Brinson: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

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    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    Finally, Will Brinson gives the 49ers the fastest-rising receiver in this year’s draft.  Indiana’s Cody Latimer, coming off an injury that prevented him from working out on the combine, has burst into the top rounds of drafts in the past month, and Brinson sends him to San Francisco.

    The fast-rising prospect is an explosive athlete and the 49ers need as much help as possible for Colin Kaepernick on the offensive end of things.

    I’m always a little wary of someone who jumps up on the draft board after combines and pro days are over.  Teams have years of film on players from college; when the opinion on a player changes that dramatically between the end of the college season and the draft, it seems a bit suspicious.

    However, I like Latimer quite a bit.  The 49ers spent a lot of time with him after his pro day, where Latimer demonstrated that he was fully recovered from his foot injury.  At 6’2” and 215 pounds, Latimer has a basketball player’s frame and athletic ability, with a good catch radius.  He could develop into an Anquan Boldin-type player.

    He’s also a great blocker, which is important in San Francisco’s scheme.  Add that to the 4.4 40-yard dash he ran at his pro day, and you have an intriguing prospect.

    Buyer beware, considering his late rise up draft boards, but Latimer seems to be the best pick available on Brinson’s draft board.

My Pick

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    So, who would I pick with the 30th selection?  Of course, it all depends on who’s available.

    The best player left on any of these ten draft boards by the time the 49ers’ pick comes up is Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech.  Only Pat Kirwan has Fuller falling all the way down to the 30th selection, so it seems highly unlikely that he’d get down that low, but he’s one of the best players at the 49ers’ greatest position of need.

    Available on half of the draft boards, and therefore a more likely pick, would be Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. I’m with Shaun King on this one; there isn’t a better man-to-man cornerback in the draft class.  I’ll take the size tradeoff compared to Bradley Roby in exchange for the cleaner off-field record, considering the offseason San Francisco’s had this year.

    The sleeper, I suppose, would be Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech.  He’s the top player I have who’s available on all ten draft boards.  If a run develops on both cornerbacks and receivers, as unlikely as that is, Attaochu would provide insurance in case the Aldon Smith situation gets any worse.  Even if Smith settles down, Attaochu could be penciled in as a replacement for Ahmad Brooks eventually.