Who Should the 49ers Consider Trading Up for in 2014 NFL Draft?

Tom Smeaton@ByTomSmeatonContributor IIIApril 16, 2014

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 05:  Odell Beckham Jr. #3 of the LSU Tigers goes up for a reception in front of Nickoe Whitley #1 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs during a game at Davis Wade Stadium on October 5, 2013 in Starkville, Mississippi.  LSU won the game 59-26.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

There may be no other team that has been the subject of more draft-day trade rumors than the San Francisco 49ers.

Armed with an impressive arsenal of 11 picks in the 2014 NFL draft, the 49ers have no choice but to make a few moves between May 8 and May 10. There's simply no way to realistically accommodate that many rookies into an already loaded 53-man roster.

Given the picks at their disposal, per Andrew Pentis of 49ers.com, the 49ers could be an attractive trade partner for several teams in search of picks: 

San Francisco 49ers: Potential Trade Assets in 2014 NFL Draft
Original OwnerRoundOverall Pick

The 49ers also possess an additional compensatory pick in Round 3 (No. 100 overall), which cannot be traded.

By the logic of need, there's no shortage of teams with a lack of picks in the 2014 draft. As rounded up by Russell Baxter of Pro Football Guru, the following teams make up the bottom of that list:

The Colts and Redskins are both without a pick in Round 1, but the rest of the list includes teams throughout the draft order. Should a prime player begin to slip at Radio City Music Hall, general manager Trent Baalke should have a few options to trade up within this group.  

Balancing the talent of the player with the cost to move up will be tricky business, but a closer look could present some appealing scenarios. The traditional draft trade value chart will be used for projections, as seen on ProFootballTalk.com, although the rookie wage scale has skewed these values in recent years. 

For those unfamiliar with the chart, each pick throughout the seven rounds of the draft is assigned a point value. For a trade to be deemed fair, the total point values must align for both packages in the deal.

That just leaves one not-so-simple question: What's the best trade option for the 49ers?

Mike Evans: Wide Receiver (Texas A&M)

Much has already been written connecting Texas A&M's Mike Evans to San Francisco, from his jump-ball prowess to his imposing 6'5" frame. While sparing the life story details, it's worth noting that Evans is currently ranked No. 10 on the overall list of prospects by NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com).

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Evans coming off the board to the Buccaneers at No. 7 in his latest mock draft, as does Matthew Fairburn of SB Nation. However, Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated has Evans available as low as pick No. 12, which belongs to the New York Giants

Using Baxter's list to find potential trade partners in that range, three teams come to mind if Evans remains available. While the trade value chart is not an exact science, any deal of this magnitude would leave the 49ers with scarce resources for other needs: 

Potential Trade Value Chart Projections for Mike Evans
PickValueProjected 49ers OfferTotal Value
Buccaneers71,500Picks No. 30, 56, 61, 77, 1291,500
Bills91,350Picks No. 30, 56, 77, 94, 1291,332
Titans111,250Picks No. 30, 61, 77, 941,241
Pick values per ProFootballTalk.com

As seen in the table, all options would leave the 49ers with something reminiscent of the Falcons2011 trade for Julio Jones to find their solution in the red zone.

Yes, Evans is talented. However, this is quite a hefty price to pay.

Even the Rams traded up eight spots to the No. 8 pick last year, giving up their first-, second- and seventh-round picks and swapping third-round picks with Buffalo in the process. For the 49ers to move up from No. 30, it'll take a lot more than that.

Justin Gilbert: Cornerback (Oklahoma State)

Right behind Evans on the NFLDraftScout.com board is Oklahoma State cover man Justin Gilbert, bringing additional value as a kick returner to the No. 11 ranking. The clear top corner in this year's class, Gilbert offers athletic talents that Day 2 prospects simply can't match. 

Miller's latest mock draft has Gilbert selected exactly at the 11th overall pick while both Fairburn and Burke have the cornerback slipping to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 15. 

Assuming that the Rams avoid dealing with a division rival at pick No. 13, the 49ers would have to follow the later picks on the Evans value chart for Gilbert. The difference is that Gilbert seems more likely to fall, making him a more realistic addition with later selections. 

Cornerback is arguably a more pressing need for a starting-caliber player, and that could make Gilbert worth the squeeze for the right price in the middle of the first round. 

Odell Beckham Jr.: Wide Receiver (LSU)

Bringing game-breaking speed to the latter half of the first round, Odell Beckham of LSU could be the most realistic target for the 49ers. 

Selected by the New York Jets at No. 18 in both Fairburn and Miller's mocks, Beckham slips to the Eagles at pick No. 22 in Burke's take. Ranked as the No. 21 overall prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, this range actually appears quite fitting for the talent. 

Potential Trade Value Chart Projections for Odell Beckham
PickValueProjected 49ers OfferTotal Value
Eagles22780Picks No. 30, 94744
Pick values per ProFootballTalk.com

The Eagles are in need of extra draft picks, which could allow the 49ers to slip into position should Beckham fall. Recent precedence is also relevant in this scenario, as the Falcons and Rams engaged in a similar trade during last year's draft:

2013 NFL Draft: Actual Trade Between Rams and Falcons
Falcons ReceivedRams Received
Pick No. 22 and 2015 seventh-round pickPicks No. 30, 92, 198

Given the hypothetical bounties to move up for Evans or even Clemson's Sammy Watkins, Beckham would present much more value for the team at a reasonable price. Should a player like Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard slip into the early 20s as well, the 49ers could also make a similar move.

A true blockbuster trade is hard to fathom given the examples shown above, but there is plenty of room for Baalke to make a splash in 2014. Beckham would offer the speed that San Francisco desperately lacks, and the 49ers wouldn't be paying a premium to get it.

Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard could be another option in Beckham's range.
Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard could be another option in Beckham's range.Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

San Francisco couldn't be blamed for shoring up the secondary with a big move for Gilbert. Then again, the picks saved could also allow the team to move up in the second and third rounds for talented corners that slipped through the cracks. 

With that in mind, the 49ers would be best served holding out early in favor of multiple deals throughout. Later picks could help fill needs for depth on the defensive line and at center while Day 2 selections could be targeted with the overall wealth of assets. 

Baalke and the front office are similar to teenagers earning their first paychecks in this year's draft. San Francisco has more at its disposal than any time in recent memory, but there's an old saying that comes with that territory. 

As our elders once taught us, "Don't spend it all in one place."

Tom Smeaton is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. For more coverage throughout the week, follow @smeaton49 on Twitter. 


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