San Francisco 49ers Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades
San Francisco boasts a total of 11 picks—six of which fall in the top 100 per CBS Sports.
This gives the 49ers, a team already laden with talent, plenty of ammunition to execute virtually any move possible. Further bolstering the team's position is the notion that there are relatively few needs. The 49ers franchise is already elite without this draft, providing an added luxury.
Still, general manager Trent Baalke and the 49ers' front office must take this draft seriously.
There are needs that should be addressed. There are concerns, both current and future, that the 2014 draft class can help alleviate. In order to stay atop the NFL, Baalke and Co. will need to act accordingly.
So how will they?
For starters, we can assume the 49ers are targeting two immediate positions of need—wide receiver and cornerback.
With incumbent Nos. 1 and 2 receivers Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin locked up for 2014, the 49ers aren't exactly pressed to get a playmaking receiver on offense right away. Yet the fact the team ranked No. 30 in the NFL with 2,979 passing yards in 2013 suggests this need is pretty clear.
Combine that with Boldin's age—33 years old—and that Crabtree is entering a contract year, and suddenly the focus on a long-term receiving solution becomes more paramount.
Then there is the need at cornerback.
San Francisco parted ways with veteran defensive backs Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers during the offseason. While the team can bank upon the returned of Chris Culliver, who missed all of 2013 with an injury, as well as the offseason addition of former Vikings cornerback Chris Cook, this unit is still pretty thin.
Do not be surprised to see the 49ers tap into multiple prospects at each of their needs throughout the draft.
Aside from those two positions, look for the 49ers to make some additional moves during the draft to reinforce other areas of less-than immediate need.
San Francisco may consider adding some depth to its defensive line. In spite of picking up the fifth-year option on Aldon Smith, the 49ers' front office may still look to add a pass-rushing linebacker at some point late.
As always, developmental and role-player prospects should be a part of the 49ers' draft equation.
This slideshow will be updated with each pick as the draft moves along. Each slide will break down the prospect selected, along with analysis and how he fits in with the team. Finally, a grade will be assigned to each individual pick.
Be sure to keep this slideshow open as you follow what the 49ers do in each round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Round 1: 49ers Select Northern Illinois Strong Safety Jimmie Ward
Round 1: San Francisco 49ers draft Strong Safety Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois.
The 49ers elected not to move up as high as some may have thought—and ignored the needs at cornerback and wide receiver—and drafted Northern Illinois strong safety Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois.
Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid are a damn good safety tandem.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) May 9, 2014
Call it a stunning move if you want, but it makes sense when you start to think about what the 49ers need to do in their secondary.
At Northern Illinois, Ward tabbed 11 interceptions during his senior year. He has a ballhawk mentality that is needed in the 49ers backfield.
What makes this pick interesting is that Ward has the flexibility to line up as a slot corner as well as a safety. If the 49ers do elect to use three-safety sets more frequently in 2014, Ward will be a hard-hitting factor in this regard.
Per source: #49ers will start Ward as a nickel and groom him to be a safety to take over for Bethea— Chris Biderman (@ChrisBiderman) May 9, 2014
The only question is whether or not the 49ers could have sat on a player in this mold for a while. According to Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, Ward was not as pressing a need considering the team already has Reid and Bethea patrolling the secondary.
Yet if Ward's flexibility allows Vic Fangio's defense to be stronger in nickel packages, and potentially line up the rookie in the slot, this move starts to make a little more sense.
Round 2, Pick No. 57 Overall: 49ers Select Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde
Round 2, No. 57 Overall: San Francisco Moves to the 57th overall pick in a trade with the Miami Dolphins and draft running back Carlos Hyde from Ohio State.
If you were trying to follow the plethora of moves the 49ers make shortly after the dealing of the first pick in Round 2 to Denver, good luck.
Pick 63 is now going to Miami. So the 49ers are picking at No. 57 and No. 61 (for now).— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) May 10, 2014
With the 57th overall pick, the 49ers elect to grab running back Carlos Hyde out of Ohio State.
This is the draft selection San Francisco has made since taking safety Jimmie Ward in Round 1. Moving down essentially one pick at the end of the day offers plenty of confusion, but the 49ers are able to net another pick in the process, so the deal makes some sense from that aspect.
On one hand, general manager Trent Baalke does have to consider that incumbent No. 1 back Frank Gore will be 31-years-old at the start of the season—ancient for running backs. Gore also enters a contract year in 2014.
But the 49ers added South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore last season, who subsequently spent the entire season on injured reserve.
It is a questionable pick from San Francisco's perspective. With Gore, Kendall Hunter and Lattimore all vying for playing time, the window for Hyde will likely be narrow, at least in his rookie season. Yet he does add some thump to his downhill running style per his draft profile page on CBS Sports.
Frank Gore in last year of contract, Marcus Lattimore is a question mark until he proves his knee is fully back. Hyde brings the thunder— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) May 10, 2014
If this move was solely to add depth and insurance for backs like Gore and Lattimore, Baalke and the 49ers hit the spot.
Still, the move does not make a whole lot of sense to this author and the pick is downgraded as a result.
Round 3, Pick No. 70 Overall: 49ers Select USC Center Marcus Martin
Round 3, No. 70 Overall: San Francisco executes yet another draft-day trade and moves to the 70th Overall Pick. 49ers then draft USC center Marcus Martin.
San Francisco may be done with trades or they may not. Regardless, another transaction lands them USC center Marcus Martin at No. 70 overall.
49ers pick announced - Marcus Martin, C from USC. Was a late invite here to Radio City Music Hall— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) May 10, 2014
This is an excellent move for the 49ers who have a pressing need at the position following the departure of veteran Jonathan Goodwin via free agency.
During the offseason, San Francisco extended backup offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore to a three-year, $4.845 million contract extension.
This initial move all but guaranteed Goodwin was out. Yet the 49ers' coaching staff rarely hands starting positions to players without some sort of competition.
Such is the case when they added Martin.
Touted as the No. 1 center on the board per CBS Sports, Martin plays with the nastiness the 49ers are seeking to plug up the center of their line. Additionaly, Martin can slide over to the guard position—vital in case San Francisco is unable to re-sign Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati after his 2014 contract season.
49ers took C/G Marcus Martin, USC, with 70th pick. Will compete at center, could fill in at guard if Mike Iupati departs next season.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) May 10, 2014
So let us sum up what San Francisco gets with their first pick in Round 3.
Martin will have the direct chance to compete with Kilgore for the starting center job in 2014. If he does not earn that slot, Martin should likely serve as a versatile backup until the possible departure of Iupati via free agency.
At any rate, the 49ers get a great steal here with tremendous value.
Round 3, Pick No. 77 Overall: 49ers Select Wisconsin Linebacker Chris Borland
Round 3, No. 77 Overall: 49ers add depth and insurance to the linebacker corps by drafting Wisconsin inside linebacker Chris Borland.
Had All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman not suffered the gruesome knee injury we all saw during the NFC Championship game last season, this pick likely would have gone much differently.
Common thought would dictate that fellow 49ers linebacker Michael Wilhoite would step in to Bowman's stead, much like he did for Patrick Willis over a brief course in 2013.
Per CBS Sports, Bowman is expected to return around the midpoint of the 2014 season. If Wilhoite can step up as well as he did for Willis, San Francisco's defense will not be set back that much.
However with Wilhoite removed from a backup slot, a void has opened for the 49ers' linebacker corps. Filling this void now is Wisconsin's Chris Borland, whom the 49ers selected with the 77th overall pick.
49ers get NaVorro Bowman insurance in round 3, at 77th overall pick, with Wisconsin LB Chris Borland. 49ers acing this draft.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 10, 2014
The 2013 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year plays with a tremendous amount of grit and physicality as suggested by his draft profile on CBS Sports. He has also been tabbed by CBS Sports as the second-best inside linebacker in the 2014 draft class.
While the positives are there, Borland does come with a number of concerns. Injuries raise a red flag, as Borland has undergone two shoulder surgeries already.
Additionally, Borland is a little undersized for the position. According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, "Borland is short and he does not have the long arms that the 49ers seem to covet."
At the outset, Borland should start training camp in direct competition with Wilhoite for the starting inside linebacker job alongside Willis until Bowman is able to return.
After that point, Borland should see time on special teams and as a defensive backup.
The 49ers had a need to fulfill depth here. They got one of the better names on the board at this position. Perhaps they drafted him a bit early considering Borland is little more than a temporary fix, but with all the activity San Francisco has engaged in thus far, why not?
Round 3, Pick No. 100 Overall: 49ers Select Clemson Guard Brandon Thomas
Round 3, No. 100 Overall: 49ers choose to pursue another redshirt option and draft Clemson guard Brandon Thomas
After the slurry of moves San Francisco pulled off on Day 2 of the draft, the 49ers had to sit tight at No. 100 overall as they wrapped up Round 3.
This pick being compensatory, mandated a 49ers' selection at this point and general manager Trent Baalke elected to go with a strategy that he utilized last year.
With the final pick in Round 3, the 49ers got their hands on Brandon Thomas out of Clemson.
Thomas is recovering from a torn ACL per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area and is likely to miss the majority, if not all, of the 2014 season.
San Francisco is no stranger to drafting injured players and reshirting them during their rookie seasons. Last year, the 49ers picked up Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore in Rounds 2 and 4, respectively. Neither played in 2013, instead spending the entire season rehabbing and preparing for their eventual NFL debuts.
By drafting injured players who may not contribute immediately, the 49ers essentially get a bargain pick—pending, of course, the player can make a full recovery.
As expected, the 49ers use an extra pick to redshirt Brandon Thomas http://t.co/4DFphLb5Iw— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 10, 2014
According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Thomas could have been a top 50 pick in 2014. Sadly, the ACL injury all but thwarted his chances to become so.
Instead, he falls right into the 49ers' lap late in Round 3.
After drafting Marcus Martin with the first pick in the round, San Francisco's offensive line looks all but set in 2014. Yet Mike Iupati is entering a contract year, so adding Thomas could provide a viable, cost-saving option after his recovery.
Thomas might have slipped a little further in the draft. CBS Sports projected him as being a Round 5 target. But the 49ers have had excellent runs of grabbing bona fide O-linemen in recent years, so we should probably trust in what they are doing.
Round 4, Pick No. 106 Overall: 49ers Select South Carolina WR Bruce Ellington
Round 4, No. 106 Overall: 49ers add their first wide receiver in the draft by selecting South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington.
The rich get richer.
San Francisco drafts their first wide receiver in the 2014 draft when they pick up Bruce Ellington out of South Carolina.
With the 6th pick in the 4th round (106 overall) the #49ers select Bruce Ellington, WR out of South Carolina— Mindi Bach (@MBachCSN) May 10, 2014
This was the draft pick Baalke had acquired previously from the Cleveland Browns, showing Trent Baalke's ability to cash in on prior investments.
Trent Baalke, stop it. You're too good.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) May 10, 2014
While the 49ers had already added a wide receiver via the Stevie Johnson trade, picking up Ellington adds not only depth, but future considerations for a San Francisco receiving corps that could be changing over the next few seasons.
[Ellington] possesses a stout, athletic frame with broad shoulders and a thick lower half. Excellent quickness at the snap to avoid press coverage. Possesses the burst to put defenders on their heels, as well as very good lateral agility and a hesitation move that leaves corners guessing ... Can track over either shoulder, as well as turn back and time his leap well to out-jump taller, bigger defenders. Talented returner who shows no hesitancy in attacking holes.
There is the aspect of him playing special teams—returning kicks over the last three seasons at South Carolina. Regardless of how long it takes him to work his way onto the 49ers' receiver depth chart, Ellington should already be able to contribute on special teams.
Ellington should be contributing on special teams immediately, could be a slot WR. #49ers— Christian Gin (@Christian_Gin) May 10, 2014
This selection could spell the end for LaMichael James in San Francisco, but we can evaluate that at another time.
The primary mark against Ellington is his size. At 5'9" and 197 pounds, Ellington does not possess the elite height desired at the position. He is fast though and Rang suggests above that his agility and burst may be the weapons used to beat opposing secondaries.
Ellington going to the 49ers early in Round 4 is a great pick. He can contribute right away on special teams and may turn into a viable slot receiver in years to come.
Round 4, Pick No. 129 Overall: 49ers Select NC State Dontae Johnson
Round 4, No. 129 Overall: 49ers add their first cornerback in the draft by selecting NC State cornerback Dontae Johnson.
Coming into the 2014 draft, San Francisco was expected to look at least one cornerback as an addition to the 49ers' secondary.
The first-round selection of safety Jimmie Ward helped alleviate some of the immediate need San Francisco had given his ability to switch over to a slot position, but the 49ers were not done yet.
Towards the end of Round 4, the 49ers then selected Dontae Johnson out of NC State.
#49ers get in on CB run with pick of NC State's Dontae Johnson. Eighth CB selected in fourth round.— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) May 10, 2014
At 6'2" and 198 pounds, Johnson adds a level of physicality to San Francisco's defense.
This type of tall, physical corner is something the 49ers have likely touted—especially given the comparisons between San Francisco and division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers know one of those cornerbacks—Richard Sherman—very well. While the size and aggressiveness on the field may be in common, Johnson does not compare himself to Sherman per Mindi Bach of CSN Bay Area.
#49ers Dontae Johnson won't compare himself to another big corner, Richard Sherman, saying Sherman earned his rep through his work ethic...— Mindi Bach (@MBachCSN) May 10, 2014
At any rate, the 49ers get their hands on a physically gifted defensive back who will likely line up in press-based schemes in a nickel or dime role.
He does need some work however, given his rawness, but hopefully the depth added here will pan out into something worthwhile.
Round 5, Pick No. 150 Overall: 49ers Select South Florida DE Aaron Lynch
Round 5, No. 150 Overall: 49ers select defensive end Aaron Lynch of of South Florida.
The 49ers continue to add depth to their defense by selecting former Notre Dame, turned South Florida defensive end Aaron Lynch.
#49ersDraft South Florida LB Aaron Lynch in the 5th round, 150th overall.— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 10, 2014
While San Francisco's D-line is well-stocked with talent, adding additional pass-rushers like Lynch is never a bad idea.
Furthermore, finding depth behind veterans like Justin Smith will help keep the 49ers' starters rested over the course of a full season.
The idea of rotating pass-rushing defenders throughout defensive stands is becoming more prevalent in today's NFL. With the 49ers having a history of relying on the same group of guys on the defensive line, perhaps such a move suggests a shift to this newer philosophy.
In his last season with South Florida, Lynch totaled 5 sacks along with 11.5 tackles for a loss.
On the upside, Lynch is a dynamic athlete who possesses the combination of size, speed and aggressiveness.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports writes:
[Lynch is] a freakish athlete with a rare combination of size, speed and length, Lynch explodes off the ball with an impressive first step, exhibits powerful hands to clear a path and closes with elite burst. At 6-6 and just under 250 pounds (was once around 260 while at Notre Dame), Lynch has room to add mass without losing a step, and offers the versatility of lining up at either end, or even along the interior on passing downs. When the motor is running, Lynch has appeared unstoppable at times. Has everything you look for in an NFL end, in terms of physical gifts.
While this combination of talent and size could have certainly resulted in Lynch being drafted higher, questions have surrounded his work ethic and attitude.
Rang also points out this issue and elaborates on the inconsistencies prevalent after transferring to South Florida.
The lack of weight is also another concern. At 244 pounds, Lynch is perhaps a little undersized for the defensive end position. Perhaps a transition to outside linebacker is what could happen here.
Still, the 49ers look to add more depth in their pass-rushing scheme. If the coaching staff can help turn any character concerns into positive attributes, this Lynch pick will be worthwhile.
#49ers search for pass-rushing help (potential Aldon Smith temp) leads to South Florida's Aaron Lynch http://t.co/FtFk8NrdiF— Cam Inman (@CamInman) May 10, 2014
Round 5, Pick No. 170 Overall: 49ers Select Florida Atlantic CB Keith Reaser
Round 5, No. 170 Overall: 49ers draft cornerback Keith Reaser of Florida Atlantic.
The 49ers again show a willingness to tab developmental prospects in the midst of injury recovery.
At the tail end of Round 5, San Francisco elects to draft Florida Atlantic cornerback Keith Reaser.
The #49ersDraft Florida Atlantic CB Keith Reaser with the 170th-overall pick, 5th round.— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 10, 2014
By this point in the draft, San Francisco's secondary has been solidified following the additions of players like Jimmie Ward and Dontae Johnson. The addition of Reaser falls in line with San Francisco's recent history of drafting injured players with the hopes of receiving a bargain return once they recover.
Reaser suffered an ACL tear last October, but showed some strength in his limited participation at the NFL Scouting Combine per Taylor Price of 49ers.com.
#49ers CB Keith Reaser put up 22 reps of 225-pound bench press at combine, had ACL tear in October.— Taylor Price (@TaylorPrice49) May 10, 2014
In four years at Florida Atlantic, the 6-foot, 190-pound Reaser posted a total of five interceptions and 19 passes defended.
He may not be the ballhawk San Francisco is seeking in the secondary, but he at least showed the durability over the first three seasons of his collegiate career before his ACL injury.
According to Derek Stephens of CBS Sports, Reaser showed a "desired fluidity and natural cover ability."
Reaser should be expected to redshirt his rookie season in San Francisco.
While the pick itself is not much of an issue, Reaser could have probably been had either in the seventh round, or as an undrafted free agent, like his CBS Sports profile page suggests.
This author won't go as far as to say it was a wasted pick, but the 49ers could have waited on this guy.
Round 6, Pick No. 180 Overall: 49ers Select Southern Methodist CB Kenneth Acker
Round 6, No. 180 Overall: 49ers draft cornerback Kenneth Acker out of Southern Methodist.
The 49ers grab their third cornerback on Day 3 when they select Kenneth Acker with their first pick in Round 6.
At this point, the 49ers appear to be taking a shotgun approach to bolstering the defensive backfield. With so many picks allocated to the secondary, San Francisco is vying to get at least one promising starter at some point in the future.
Acker fits this mold and should be able to at least initially compete for time on special teams at the outset.
At 6'0" and 190 pounds, Acker has good size for the position. He also posted 4.50 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine per his profile on CBS Sports.
Also described on his CBS Sports profile:
A shutdown corner for SMU, Acker is a good all around athlete who compiled more than 3,000 total yards and 40 touchdowns as a senior in high school. He spent last summer also working with quarterback Garrett Gilbert in anticipation of seeing some slot duty on offense.
While the physical portion to his game is there, questions remain about how physical the Southern Methodist product is, especially in press coverage.
Derek Stephens of CBS Sports writes:
Acker has nice length and fluidity in space, but doesn´t play with the press strength that his size suggests he should. Has upside, but needs to get stronger, and should compete for a special teams role initially, for the ´Niners.
If this aspect can be developed, Acker will have the chance to compete for a nickel or dime corner position in the 49ers defense in coming years.
The upside is there and Acker does add depth. Given concerns with San Francisco's secondary coming into the draft, another protege here is worth the pick.
Round 7, Pick No. 243 Overall: 49ers Select Boston College DT Kaleb Ramsey
Round 7, No. 243 Overall: 49ers draft defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey out of Boston College
San Francisco continues to reinforce its defensive front by adding long-time collegiate prospect Kaleb Ramsey with their first pick in Round 7.
Kaleb Ramsey, DE out of Boston College, is pick 243. #49ersDraft— Taylor Price (@TaylorPrice49) May 10, 2014
Ramsey played six seasons for Boston College—all but two of which were hampered by significant injury.
During his entire tenure, Ramsey totaled 90 tackles and 6.5 sacks during that span.
At 6'3" and 293 pounds, Ramsey has good size for the position on the interior of San Francisco's D-line.
He’s 6’3, 293 pounds. Big boy for the line— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) May 10, 2014
Taken in Round 7, there is an outside chance he is able to compete for a spot on San Francisco's front seven.
Nose tackles Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams figure to get the brunt of action for the 49ers entering 2014. There are also other backups that could slide in from either end.
With this in mind—and considering Ramsey's injury concerns—the 49ers are merely looking for added depth and competition moving into training camp.
In all likelihood, Ramsey will not be part of San Francisco's 53-man roster any time soon. But he does have some flexibility to play the outside, so that gives him a little versatility within the 49ers' plans.
Round 7, Pick No. 245 Overall: 49ers Select Oklahoma FB Trey Millard
Round 7, No. 245 Overall: 49ers draft fullback Trey Millard out of Oklahoma.
San Francisco continues to execute its plan of drafting injured players—redshirting them for their rookie seasons.
Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard is another example of this.
Millard suffered a season-ending injury against Texas Tech on October 26, but before that point, Millard offered a versatile option at a multitude of positions.
While best-suited as a fullback, Millard rushed for 538 yards and six touchdowns while hauling in 70 receptions for 677 yards and seven touchdowns—all during his four-year span with Oklahoma.
According to his CBS Sports profile page, Millard was seen by Oklahoma as a versatile H-back and was utilized as the team's Swiss army knife.
Even though he will likely miss 2014 while he recovers from surgery, there is a good chance Millard becomes a smart, situational player for San Francisco.
Millard brings versatility to be a core special teams player for the #49ers in the future.— Christian Gin (@Christian_Gin) May 10, 2014
The 49ers appear set with fullback Bruce Miller heading into 2014. Miller did suffer an injury late in the season last year, so perhaps this move is meant to stock up not just on versatility, but on depth as well.
When healthy, Millard could be a very nice option in various packages for the 49ers' offense. Millard has shown the ability to both run and catch the ball. His blocking sills are also adequate.
Overall, it's a nice investment.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.