During ESPN’s Saturday telecast, unrivaled draft expert and six-time NFL Executive of the Year Bill Polian explained teams’ criteria for takings players on the final day.
He said that front office decision-makers ultimately select prospects they believe can make the team based off NFL-quality traits and physical measurables. Compelling box-score statistics, on the other hand, actually fall in the category of numbers that do lie.
For instance, a cornerback who compiled seven interceptions and 15 pass breakups during his senior year, but is one who ran a poor 40, has short arms and lacks natural athleticism will not necessarily make the squad.
To the contrary, a defensive end who possesses above-average speed, power and length, yet didn’t register a single sack during his final collegiate season would qualify for an NFL roster.
Fortunately for 49ers fans, their team had little difficulty finding NCAA assets that fit the latter category.
Of Baalke’s final six selections, three are physical marvels, two bring physical capabilities and one is a positional stalwart who fell solely due to injury.
Oh, and each one fills a legitimate depth-related need. We’ll begin with the first two.
Defensive back Dontae Johnson (6’2’’, 200 lbs, 4.45 40) boasts an exceptional combination of height, weight and speed, according to ESPN Insider. The versatile defender has an “athletic frame…with good bulk for [a] corner and size potential for [a] safety.”
His aggressive mentality and coverage instincts will put him in the good graces of 49er defensive coaches. His third-round grade will do the same for the general manager who found him late in the fourth (No. 129).
Defensive end Aaron Lynch (Round 5, No. 150) is an absolute specimen. He stands in at 6’5’’, 249 pounds and has long arms (34’’), big hands (10.25’’) and great speed (4.65 40 at his pro day). The scouts at CBS Sports note that he “has room to add mass without losing a step, and offers the versatility of lining up at either end” not to mention the “interior on passing downs.”
However, Lynch comes with considerable baggage.
Without going into too much detail, it’s worth noting that ESPN Insider has cited numerous NFL scouts who “have vocalized concerns regarding his mental makeup, football character, true commitment to the game, self-discipline and maturity level.” He also transferred to South Florida after just one year at Notre Dame and has dealt with homesickness and weight issues.
All that said, ESPN reporter Bill Williamson stressed that the entire 49ers organization performed its due diligence on Lynch. That certainly included coach Harbaugh.
“This is a good young man who needs direction, a good structure around him where [he] has men to look up to, to have a chance to emulate,” Harbaugh said via 49ers.com. “He’ll thrive in that kind of environment…He has a chance to be successful, we felt.”
Lynch unequivocally has all the “physical gifts” needed by an NFL defensive end and has “appeared unstoppable at times” on the field, per CBS Sports’ Derek Stephens. If he hones his skill set and realizes his full potential, the 49ers will have quite the dynamic pass-rusher stashed in their back pocket.