San Francisco 49ers: Day 1 2014 NFL Draft Primer

Peter PanacyCorrespondent IMay 7, 2014

San Francisco 49ers: Day 1 2014 NFL Draft Primer

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    Head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke look to bolster an already elite 49ers franchise in the 2014 NFL draft.
    Head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke look to bolster an already elite 49ers franchise in the 2014 NFL draft.Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

    With the 2014 NFL draft closing in fast, the San Francisco 49ers are poised to cash in on one of the deepest draft classes in many years.

    San Francisco owns a total of 11 picks in this year's draft per CBS Sports. Six of these picks fall in the top 100, giving the 49ers even further leverage in attacking the draft to reinforce an already dynamic and talent-laden franchise.

    We can assume the 49ers do not have 11 holes on their current roster to fill. This leads us to speculation that general manager Trent Baalke may elect to trade up at various points throughout the draft.

    Perhaps he and the 49ers' brass are eyeballing some key playmakers early in Round 1. A trade-up for an explosive wide receiver like Mike Evans or a promising cornerback like Justin Gilbert are not out of the question.

    Currently sitting with the 30th pick in Round 1, San Francisco has the power to be aggressive in this fashion. But given how deep this draft class is, Baalke and Co. may also be comfortable in sitting tight and drafting at No. 30. 

    As mentioned, the 49ers do not have a lot of holes to fill in this draft, yet they cannot afford to take this draft lightly. There are needs.

    Two of these primary concerns are at wide receiver and cornerback—positions further described by Curtis Crabtree of NBC Sports.

    San Francisco's Nos. 1 and 2 wideouts Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin will assuredly be featured often in offensive coordinator Greg Roman's scheme this upcoming season. But with the 49ers' 30th-ranked pass offense needing help, expect Baalke to bolster this playmaking position.

    On top of that, the 49ers parted ways with veteran corners Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers during the offseason. In spite of some free-agent moves and players injured in 2013 joining the roster, this position is still relatively thin.

    Behind these two positions, San Francisco should also be looking for added depth along its defensive line and linebacker corps. 

    All of these needs, and how the 49ers go about addressing them, shall be revealed throughout the draft. For now, let us focus our attention to Day 1 and what we should expect from San Francisco.

     

    Statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com and Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated. Contractual information courtesy of Spotrac.com.

Departures and Additions

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    The 49ers were faced with a number of difficult decisions during the offseason regarding player personnel. 

    For whatever reason, be it cap constraints or performance based, San Francisco was forced to part ways with a number of key components to its 2013 roster. Yet the 49ers were able to offset some of these departures via free agency, thus affecting how the team approaches the draft.

    Heading into the draft, the 49ers' salary sits at $131,454,114—just over $4 million under the adjusted NFL salary cap of $135,483,783.

    To reach this, the 49ers were forced to make some moves as hinted above.

    For example, San Francisco let veteran safety Donte Whitner walk via free agency and elected to sign former Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea in his stead.

    Bethea will make $21 million over four years in contrast to Whitner's four-year, $28 million offseason deal with the Cleveland Browns.

    Contract Comparison: Donte Whitner vs Antoine Bethea #49ers [http://t.co/2qJgakhMRw] http://t.co/uKbaAZ75iT

    — 49erswebzone (@49erswebzone) March 13, 2014

    In signing Bethea, the 49ers did not have to worry about replacing Whitner's services via the draft. Instead, that pick will now be used elsewhere to San Francisco's benefit. 

    Some of these moves help alleviate some of the cap concerns the 49ers have as they enter the draft—they are also looking to re-sign some of their returning players.

    As things go, successful NFL teams must be able to turn over portions of their rosters year after year. San Francisco is no different.

     

    Key Departures

     

    Donte Whitner, Safety

    It is tough to part ways with a two-time Pro Bowler, but the 49ers made a similar move by passing on Dashon Goldson a year ago. Cost was the primary concern here.

     

    Anthony Dixon, Running Back

    Dixon's use was primarily felt on special teams and on short-down rushing attempts. The 49ers already have a crowded backfield, and Dixon was deemed expendable.

     

    Mario Manningham, Wide Receiver

    Manningham spent the majority of his two-year tenure in San Francisco on injured reserve. Had he been healthy, the 49ers offense would have been better. Sadly, he was not.

     

    Jonathan Goodwin, Center

    The three-year extension for backup O-lineman Daniel Kilgore all but guaranteed the 35-year-old Goodwin's time with the 49ers was over. San Francisco wants to get younger and cheaper. They do so here.

     

    Carlos Rogers, Cornerback

    Rogers' role and game play diminished in 2014. Being an expensive commodity, the 49ers easily elected to cut him.

     

    Tarell Brown, Cornerback

    While not as expensive as Rogers, the 49ers felt they could not afford to keep Brown on their roster. He and Rogers both signed free-agent deals with the Oakland Raiders.

     

    Colt McCoy, Quarterback

    McCoy never looked good in preseason and rarely got a chance during the regular season behind Colin Kaepernick. There was little reason to keep him on the roster entering 2014.

     

    Key Additions

     

    Antoine Bethea, Safety

    As stated above, Bethea fills an immediate need at safety at a reduced cost. His zero-penalty campaign in 2013 stands in stark contrast to the style of play Whitner was known for.

     

    Chris Cook, Cornerback

    San Francisco lost two of its veteran corners during free agency. They alleviate the losses somewhat by adding Cook, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings. He has practical NFL experience and shall compete for a job during training camp.

     

    Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback

    In this interesting move, the 49ers sent a sixth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars to land their former first-round draft pick Gabbert. He will compete for the immediate backup position behind Kaepernick.

     

    Brandon Lloyd, Wide Receiver

    After missing all of 2013, Lloyd returns to the team that drafted him in 2003. At best, Lloyd is an insurance option in case the 49ers are unable to develop a productive wideout entering 2014.

     

    Re-signed or extended players are not included on this list.

    For a full list of 49ers transactions, please visit CBS Sports.

Team Needs

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    Heading into 2014, the 49ers are already a deep team laden with talent.

    Without the draft, San Francisco would still enter the season as an elite team. Still, the 49ers are weak in a few different areas and should look to this deep draft as a means to not only supplement these weaknesses, but also to reinforce other areas as necessary.

    According to Curtis Crabtree of NBC Sports, San Francisco's short list of needs is as follows—cornerback, wide receiver, center, linebacker and quarterback.

    The first two make sense. The 49ers are thin at corner and could use some added playmaking help at the wide receiver position.

    On the previous slide, we discussed the departure of Jonathan Goodwin, which leaves a void at center likely to be filled by Daniel Kilgore in 2014. Yet Crabtree suggests that some competition may be in order.

    The linebacker position makes a little more sense given Aldon Smith's off-the-field issues of late, as well as the injury sustained to All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman during last season's NFC Championship game.

    As far as quarterback is concerned, Crabtree's assessment may be little more than a search for a developmental third-stringer at best.

    Let us dive a little deeper into San Francisco's 2014 draft needs and predict how the 49ers will try to address them.

     

    Wide Receiver

    The 49ers' passing offense ranked No. 30 in the NFL last season with 2,979 yards. That's bad. 

    Granted, receivers like Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Quinton Patton all suffered lengthy injuries during 2013, which certainly stunted the passing game. But the 49ers would be wise to consider dipping into the wideout pool early.

    Deep draft may be kind to #49ers in need of a good WR. http://t.co/1hzrmqjIMo via @sfgate

    — Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) February 20, 2014

    There is a question about which type of receiver the 49ers could use. Do they draft for speed, or will they elect a big red-zone threat? The ideal candidate would fit both critera, but the NFL draft does not always provide an ideal scenario.

    Further complicating the scenario is the fact that Michael Crabtree is set to become a free agent after 2014. Re-signing him may be difficult, thus necessitating the desire to land an explosive wideout who can contribute for years to come.

     

    Cornerback

    Take your pick on which position best suits the 49ers' needs in Round 1. 

    There have already been arguments behind whether or not San Francisco should go with a wideout to start the draft, or elect to draft a corner instead—a position at which they are unquestionably thinner.

    For those who have been tracking my #49ers draft series, Cornerback is last, where I see it as the team's biggest need.

    — Christian Gin (@Christian_Gin) May 5, 2014

    San Francisco lost both Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers this offseason. They were able to add Chris Cook via free agency and can bank on the returns of Chris Culliver and Eric Wright in 2014. But combine those with incumbents Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox, and this unit still leaves us with a question mark.

    Thankfully, the cornerback class is about as deep as wide receiver. With six picks in the top 100, you can count upon the 49ers spending their first two picks on a wideout and a corner. The order by which they draft remains up for debate.

    .@MaioccoCSN says the #49ers greatest need is CB, but he's hearing that the #49ers may trade up from their 30th pick to draft a WR.

    — 95.7 The GAME (@957thegame) May 7, 2014

     

    Strong Safety

    Following the offseason acquisition of strong safety Antoine Bethea, common logic might as well dictate the 49ers would not be interested in drafting another safety in 2014. In all probability, that pick would now be used to either trade up at some point or address another area of need.

    But Bleacher Report NFL draft analyst Matt Miller feels as if the 49ers may still target a strong safety at some point early in the draft—the details of which can be viewed in the above video.

    Miller emphasizes the use of three-safety sets, as well as the need San Francisco has to replace the hard-hitting void left by Donte Whitner in the offseason.

    While this notion does make some sense, should we expect the 49ers to target a safety within the first few rounds of the draft? Certainly they will not do so with their first-round pick, but the theory of grabbing the best player available on the board does apply later on.

    49ers 2014 Draft Forecast: Safety http://t.co/DdUPgFUOTU

    — Christian Gin (@Christian_Gin) May 1, 2014

    The hard part to fathom about adding another safety who could potentially start is that Bethea is making $21 million over four years. That is tough money for a safety not starting.

    Still, the idea of adding a venerable, hard-hitting defensive back is never a bad thing.

     

    Linebacker

    Two incumbent members of the 49ers' linebacker corps will directly influence how the 49ers approach this year's draft regarding the position.

    The first, and perhaps easiest to disseminate, is inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Bowman, who is still recovering from the injury sustained in the NFC Championship game last season, figures to be out until the middle of the 2014 season per Will Brinson of CBS Sports.

    For now, the 49ers appear content to let backup linebacker Michael Wilhoite step in as the starter in Bowman's stead—much like he did for Patrick Willis over a handful of games last year.

    Michael Wilhoite, a leading candidate to replace NaVorro Bowman early in the season, signed his exclusive rights tender today.

    — Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) April 21, 2014

    But this does not necessarily mean the 49ers are content to sit back and let Wilhoite handle the job. Adding some competition late in the draft may be what happens here.

    On the outside, Aldon Smith has created a whirlwind of storylines during the offseason. 

    There have been reports—most notably from Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News—that the 49ers were not interested in picking up the fifth-year option on Smith, instead electing to let the troubled linebacker walk.

    But the 49ers have since picked up that option.

    Weeks ago, #49ers were viewed as unlikely to pick up Aldon Smith’s option. They let emotions cool, had internal discussions & made the call

    — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 2, 2014

    In the wake of this decision, signs point to the 49ers being comfortable enough to move forward with Smith. Yet that does not mean they will avoid drafting another pass-rushing linebacker altogether.

    Smith could still face disciplinary action, both from the legal process and the NFL. If that winds up being the case, San Francisco would be wise to consider adding reinforcements.

     

    Defensive Line

    Adding depth to a defensive line is never a bad idea. Pass-rushers are always a valued commodity, and the incumbent group of D-linemen could use the help.

    The team does have two venerable starters at defensive tackle—Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams. They also will count upon defensive ends Ray McDonald and Justin Smith. But Smith is not getting any younger, and keeping him fresh over the duration of the season will be paramount.

    If the 49ers feel they can get enough out of Tank Carradine in 2014, drafting more players along the defensive front may not be necessary.

    It is probably not much of a priority, but it is definitely worth looking into.

     

    Quarterback

    At this point, the quarterback position is not a major need, but rather a "like to have" scenario.

    Blaine Gabbert figures to be the No. 2 man under center behind Colin Kaepernick. McLeod Bethel-Thompson will likely compete for the third-string role, but perhaps head coach Jim Harbaugh sees something in a prospect late in the draft.

Top Targets

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    On the previous slide, we touched on the notion that the NFL draft rarely provides teams with "ideal" scenarios.

    If there is an exception to that statement, the 49ers are right in the middle of it.

    For starters, we know how deep the 2014 draft class is. We also know the prospect pool of players San Francisco desperately needs is deep as well.

    Combine that with the 49ers' plethora of picks, and they could not be happier with the situation they are entering.

    With this in mind, who exactly are the top targets San Francisco is focusing on approaching the draft?

    Some of these guys may fall to the 49ers at their respective draft positions, while others may require a trade-up or two.

    In this slide, let us take a look at five possible targets San Francisco may try to grab in Round 1.

     

    Marqise Lee, WR, USC

    College Statistics

    If the 49ers are looking to add a home run threat at wide receiver, they may want to target USC wideout Marqise Lee.

    As suggested by KNBR 680 host Larry Krueger in the above video, Lee is the explosive wide receiver the 49ers so desperately need on offense. He sits atop Krueger's big board.

    49ers Video: KNBR 680's Larry Krueger Reveals His Draft Big Board for SF, Headlined By WR Marqise Lee Team Stream Now http://t.co/aKVLRzT6SQ

    — NFL Fans (@NFLFansExpert) May 5, 2014

    Projected by CBS Sports as the 25th overall prospect in the draft, Lee may slip to the 49ers at No. 30 depending on what prior teams do in the draft. If San Francisco wanted to trade up for him, it would likely not cost that much.

    Yet there are concerns that Lee may not fit in with the 49ers offense—notably from Bleacher Report featured columnist Dylan DeSimone.

    Risky Day 1 picks for the #49ers: WR Marqise Lee, WR Cody Latimer

    — Dylan DeSimone (@DeSimone80) May 6, 2014

    Rob Rang of CBS Sports also questions some of his durability issues, combined with his not overly inspiring numbers at the combine.

     

    Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

    College Statistics

    At 5'11", LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. probably does not have the ideal size for the position. But what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in acceleration and speed.

    Projected by CBS Sports as the 14th overall prospect in the draft, the 49ers would likely need to trade up to grab this dynamic playmaker in order to get their hands on him.

    This aspect, when considering the means by which San Francisco can act, is not far removed from the question. Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area suggests this is exactly what the 49ers will do via his latest mock draft.

    There are a number of others who feel Beckham would be a good fit.

    Game plan: Think the #49ers will target Odell Beckham (aggressively) & possibly settle for Brandin Cooks. Don't see SF taking a CB in Rd. 1.

    — Dylan DeSimone (@DeSimone80) May 2, 2014

    Yet the one thing that could hold the 49ers from making this move is the notion that there is not a lot of drop-off down the list of wide receivers to where San Francisco will draft in Round 1. 

    Perhaps the 49ers sit tight, which would mean Beckham likely lands elsewhere.

     

    Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

    College Statistics

    If the 49ers are unable to target a player like Beckham or Lee in Round 1, they may as well sit on Oregon State's Brandin Cooks.

    At 5'10", Cooks is even smaller than Beckham but also has the speed to make up for the height deficiency. His combine numbers were off the charts, lending credence to Cooks being the speedy wideout San Francisco needs.

    Krueger points out that Cooks would be the popular fit given his ties to Northern California. Krueger adds that he would have the explosive playmaking abilities that would help San Francisco stretch the field as well.

    #49ers Day One Draft Prospects: Brandin Cooks (my favorite WR in this class) via @BaySportsNet http://t.co/KclSbLVC4w #NFLDraft2014

    — TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_BSN) May 5, 2014

    Rated by CBS Sports as the 21st overall prospect in 2014, Cooks may require a trade-up on San Francisco's part. But Dane Brugler cites him as potentially falling to the 49ers, so there is that possibility as well.

    The one caution that may hinder the 49ers from drafting an undersized receiver is what happened the last time they executed such a move. The team does not want another A.J. Jenkins in 2014.

     

    Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

    College Statistics

    Shifting from one position of need to another, let us focus on the possibility of San Francisco targeting a cornerback in Round 1.

    CBS Sports lists Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard as the 16th overall prospect in the 2014 draft and the No. 1 cornerback on the board.

    Similar to the notion of moving up to grab a player like Beckham, acquiring Dennard would require a 49ers trade-up—an aspect they are perfectly capable of doing. 

    I still think the #49ers best move in the upcoming draft is to trade up for Darqueze Dennard. Don't trade up for Mike Evans.

    — Grant Cohn (@grantcohn) March 31, 2014

    Yet Dennard may find himself in a position similar to many of the other cornerbacks and receivers the 49ers are looking at. Given the depth of this player pool, a trade-up would have to be to San Francisco's liking, and the 49ers may be comfortable to sit tight just a little while longer.

     

    Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

    College Statistics

    If the 49ers did not totally feel comfortable moving up to draft a player like Dennard, they could do worse than move up to draft Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State.

    Gilbert is ranked by CBS Sports as the 20th overall prospect and the No. 2 cornerback in the draft.

    Rob Rang refers to him as being "the class of the 2014 draft" in terms of pure athleticism. With the 49ers looking to add a dynamic corner to their defensive backfield, a player like Gilbert would fit the mold.

    Get to know notable #NFLDraft CB prospects, including Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert. WATCH: http://t.co/QbAR6wdMLQ pic.twitter.com/rwlee8Xo8W

    — San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) April 30, 2014

    Gilbert also possesses the ball hawk mentality necessary in today's NFL—an aspect the 49ers would like to see in their secondary. If the 49ers are looking to match elite backfields like that of their divisional rival Seattle Seahawks, Gilbert would be a smart choice.

What Are the Experts Saying?

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    We can try to predict and analyze which prospects would be the best fit for San Francisco, but what are bona fide NFL draft experts saying regarding what the 49ers will do in the first round of the 2014 draft?

    Let's take a look.

     

    Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

    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.

    Rang's point is heard and it does make sense. Yet the fact that San Francisco picked up Smith's fifth-year option, and also has young pass rushers like Tank Carradine and Corey Lemonier coming into the mix, makes us wonder why Trent Baalke would avoid the immediate needs the team has.

     

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

    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.

    The 49ers do need an explosive wide receiver, and Cooks could provide that. He does not have the ideal size, however, and the 49ers could be leery when it comes to making such a selection. Still, you cannot coach speed, and Cooks looks as if he has the tools to make things happen on offense.

     

    Kevin Lynch, SF Gate: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

    The 49ers deal their first round pick no. 30 overall and two of their three third round picks (no. 77, and no. 94 overall) with Baltimore to move up to no. 17 and get Beckham. If Beckham gets past Pittsburgh at no. 15, he becomes a 49er. He fills two needs right away—punt returner and breakaway wide receiver. The 49ers hope he is more DeSean Jackson and less Ted Ginn Jr.

    Beckham Jr. would indeed provide the 49ers with two needs as Lynch suggests. They need explosiveness at the position and also may need to find a new returner pending what happens with LaMichael James this offseason.

    This may be the likeliest pick and trade-up scenario for the 49ers on Day 1.

     

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

    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.

    This selection does make a lot of sense when one considers the 49ers' need for a legitimate red-zone threat. Yet, even as Miller points out, Robinson is not the deep threat San Francisco's offense needs. Rather he is a mere replacement for Boldin.

    Still, given the depth of this draft, adding Robinson and worrying about speed later is not out of the question.

     

    Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

    The 49ers lack speed outside, and that’s why I think it’s more likely they vault way up using their treasure trove of picks (56, 61, 77, 94, to name the next four) than it is that they’d stay put. But if they don’t find a partner, Latimer and his 4.4 speed could be a good compliment to receiving-game staples Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis.

    Latimer is the poor man's version of Allen Robinson and is projected by CBS Sports to go in Round 2, not Round 1.

    Unless the 49ers plan on drafting a cornerback at No. 30 and moving up in Round 2 to select Latimer, this pick probably won't happen. Of course, the 49ers could trade out of the first round entirely, thus opening up the possibility of grabbing a guy like Latimer.

     

Latest Rumors, Reports & Analysis

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    The seemingly endless flow of events leading up to the draft has ongoing consequences upon what eventually transpires.

    Players' stocks rise and fall. Off-the-field issues, injuries and other aspects also leave their mark.

    So what are the latest reports and rumors that may have direct effects on what the 49ers do during the draft?

     

    Will the 49ers Trade Up in Round 1?

    If you wanted an honest answer, yes.

    As previously mentioned, Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area suggested the 49ers would be willing to do just that—trading up to grab a player like wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the middle of the first round.

    CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco suggests the #Ravens as a possible trade-up partner for the 49ers at No. 17 overall. #NFL

    — Pro Football Spot (@pfspot) May 1, 2014

    In addition to Maiocco's assessment, Taylor Price of 49ers.com describes the history general manager Trent Baalke has when it comes to executing similar moves. He writes:

    In 2010, Baalke moved up to select right tackle Anthony Davis. Three years later, the 49ers swapped picks with the Dallas Cowboys to take safety Eric Reid

    This history lesson leads us to May 8. 

    San Francisco has the No. 30 overall selection in the draft and the extra buildup has brought out the idea of the team moving up to find a highly touted prospect.

    It is tough to consider the 49ers doing anything but trading up in Round 1 given the astounding number of picks they have and the relatively few roster spots to fill.

    Therefore, this rumor is certainly close to fact.

     

    Will LaMichael James Be Used As Trade Bait?

    It is no secret by now that running back LaMichael James is unhappy with his role on the 49ers offense. Even as a member of their special teams unit, James has voiced his discontent—often via Twitter—about his use.

    With a crowded backfield on San Francisco's offense, it is hard to see James getting a lot of carries moving forward. While Baalke has insisted that James is not going anywhere, one has to wonder what the exact plans for James are moving forward.

    The 49ers certainly cannot expect to get much out of James if he is traded outright—perhaps a sixth- or seventh-round pick at best.

    Instead, moving James as a piece of a draft-day trade makes a little more sense.

    If the 49ers were looking into moving up in a particular round, trading James as part of a package would be more enticing. 

    Sports World Report lists James as being a potential part of a deal to a team like the Chicago Bears or Washington Redskins given each team's need for a return man who can also help in the running game.

    NFL Trade Rumors 2014: 49ers Trading Up For Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks Draft Day LaMichael James Deal? http://t.co/vxbXb5gwUR

    — Sports World Report (@sportswr) May 7, 2014

    The report also states that the Bears have enough draft picks to make the trade happen while not gambling away their chances of having an impact in the draft itself.

    At this point, James is likely to be moved before the season starts. Whether or not it happens during the draft is anyone's guess, but the 49ers would like to get something out of him sooner as opposed to later.

     

    Do Aldon Smith's Off-the-field Issues Affect 49ers' Draft Plans?

    The fact that the 49ers were willing to pick up the fifth-year option on Aldon Smith suggests they are not totally worried by what may happen with the young linebacker moving forward.

    As the legal processes and potential NFL suspension concerns work themselves out, all signs point to San Francisco banking on Smith being on the roster for at least one more season, and potentially beyond.

    Still, that does not mean they will avoid drafting another pass rusher at the outside linebacker position in 2014.

    That move, if it happens, would likely take place in the later rounds of the draft. While pass rushers are always a hot commodity, the 49ers already have two young players in this mold—Tank Carradine and Corey Lemonier.

    An even more speculative deal suggested that Smith would be moved along with some picks to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for the No. 5 overall pick in 2014. The details, which are described by Shane Schilperoort of FanSided.com, suggest the 49ers are willing to part ways with Smith in order to cash in on Oakland's high draft stock in Round 1.

    Oakland Raiders Rumors: Aldon Smith potential piece in Raiders-Niners deal? - Just Blog Baby (blog) http://t.co/gjkkrgjc4g

    — Raiders watch (@Raiderswatch) May 3, 2014

    While this move appears creative on the surface, it is just too hard to envision the 49ers being that aggressive when considering their needs and the depth within the prospect pool.

    Do not expect this to happen.

7-Round San Francisco 49ers Mock Draft

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    With the 2014 NFL draft just about here, let us lay out the final mock of what the San Francisco 49ers will do upon draft day.

    For a more detailed analysis of San Francisco's draft strategy, be sure to check out this author's final mock here.

     

    Round 1, Pick No. 17: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

    The 49ers solve two immediate issues right away—explosiveness at wide receiver and in the return game—by drafting LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. 

    To do this, San Francisco executes a trade with the Baltimore Ravens—sending their own first-round pick along with pick Nos. 77 and 94 overall.

    The 49ers still have two picks remaining in Round 2 along with a compensatory pick in Round 3, proving they are still in great shape to land talent.

    In an ideal scenario, the trade is even less expensive and may only cost one third-round pick instead of two.

     

    Round 2, Pick No. 56: Phillip Gaines, CB, Rice

    He may not have the big-school pedigree, but Phillip Gaines possesses all the intangibles desired at this 49ers position of need. He has the size and speed necessary to transition over to the NFL level and the 49ers find these too hard to pass up according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports.

    With two picks utilized, San Francisco has swiftly addressed their two primary needs in the draft. They also still have another second rounder to deal and/or use as desired, which puts them in an incredible position moving forward.

     

    Round 2, Pick No. 61: Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State

    With the impact positions already addressed with their first two picks, the 49ers shift their focus upon the future of their offensive line.

    Mike Iupati is entering a contract year and may be difficult for San Francisco to re-sign.

    With the 49ers not wanting to jeopardize the effectiveness their O-line has enjoyed in recent years, they make a move to add Gabe Jackson to fill the eventual void left by Iupati when he departs via free agency.

    Not only is Jackson effective in run blocking schemes, but he also matches up well in pass protection—an area the 49ers will look to be better in as they vow for a better passing offense moving forward.

     

    Round 3, Pick No. 100: Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama

    At 6'2" and 198 pounds, Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood could be the nice offsetting addition to Beckham Jr.

    While he could add some bulk to his frame in order to match up against the physical defensive backs in the NFL, there is no doubting Norwood's hands. Those hands are to benefit quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the 49ers dive deeper into the wide pool of receiving prospects.

    Remember, the 49ers may likely be without Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin in a couple years' time, so adding more than one wideout in this draft may not be a bad idea.

     

    Round 4, Pick No. 116: Josh Mauro, DE, Stanford

    The 49ers move up from their current spot in the fourth round by trading away running back LaMichael James to the Miami Dolphins. In exchange, San Francisco receives the 116th overall pick and spends it on Stanford defensive end Josh Mauro.

    At 6'6" and 271 pounds, Mauro is a beast and has the Stanford ties with head coach Jim Harbaugh.

    Further establishing the need is the fact that incumbent defensive end Justin Smith is not getting any younger and Ray McDonald may also be on his way out in a few years considering his contract length.

    With Tank Carradine poised to eventually take over on one end, Mauro picks up the eventual job on the other.

    As far as 2014 is concerned, the 49ers defensive line has even more depth and flexibility—elements that will be needed if San Francisco wants to vie for a championship this season.

     

    Round 5, Pick No. 170: Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama

    Even though the 49ers tendered Aldon Smith's fifth-year option, that does not mean they overlook the position entirely in this draft.

    Yet the 49ers are given the flexibility of targeting a guy late in the rounds. They do so by adding Adrian Hubbard out of Alabama.

    Scott J. Adams of Cover32.com feels that Hubbard could be a nice, stop-gap option if Smith misses any playing time in 2014. In addition, he writes that Hubbard fits the mold of fellow outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks.

    Hubbard also has the versatility to line up either at linebacker or defensive end, thus giving the 49ers defense even more flexibility.

     

    Round 7, Pick No. 242: Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt

    At 5'10" and 188 pounds, Vanderbilt cornerback Andre Hal does not possess the elite size that would warrant a high selection on draft day.

    Yet there are those who feel Hal could have gone much earlier in the draft by this point. 

    Matthew Fairburn of SB Nation was one of those who felt Hal would go earlier—citing the 49ers using pick No. 56 on him.

    It is highly doubtful that San Francisco would make such a move, but if Hal is there in Round 7—where CBS Sports projects him to be—the 49ers add some depth and insurance to their defensive backfield.

     

    Round 7, Pick No. 243: Christian Bryant, FS, Ohio State

    There is the argument that the 49ers may draft a safety early on. We have covered some of that already in this slideshow.

    While this author is not quite on board with the prior notion, San Francisco still looks to add some depth and competition in the secondary. To do this, they select free safety Christian Bryant with the 243rd overall pick.

    At 5'9", Bryant is undersized at best, but he plays with great physicality and would at least offer some potential as a depth player or on special teams.

     

    Round 7, Pick No. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

    Remember when Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was a highly touted prospect?

    Sadly, a poor performance in the 2014 Senior Bowl has forced Boyd's draft stock to an all-time low. In addition, Boyd will no longer be able to enjoy the inflated stats put up when he was throwing to receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant.

    Still, Boyd does display some of the necessary tools desired at the position and within the 49ers offense. He can run the ball and has a downfield arm according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller (h/t Taylor Price of 49ers.com).

    With the 49ers looking to potentially add a third-string quarterback in this draft, why not take an athlete like Boyd and see if they can turn him into something useful?

     

    Stay tuned for continued 49ers 2014 NFL draft coverage by checking out Bleacher Report 49ers featured columnist Peter Panacy's complete archive.

     

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