A mock draft for the San Francisco 49ers is appropriate as ever with the 2013 NFL Combine coming to an end.
Tight ends, wide receivers and defensive linemen (among others) have showcased themselves through the first three workouts. This positional trio is particularly important for the 49ers—making this hypothetical draft that much more compelling.
Michael Crabtree and neophyte A.J. Jenkins are the only receivers signed and ready for San Francisco in Week 1. Little, if anything, exists on the D-line behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. And Swiss Army knife-tight end-extraordinaire Delanie Walker is a free agent.
Safety, cornerback and depth on the offensive line make for relevant draft needs as well.
Omitting inevitable trade scenarios, let’s compile a seven-round mock draft based on the 49ers’ current selections.
Note: This mock will feature a selection in each of the seven rounds, including another pick in the third from a trade-back with Carolina in 2012. An updated mock after the completion of the combine will include the 49ers’ three acquired picks in the bottom three rounds, as well as their three expected compensatory selections.
First Round (No. 31 Overall): Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
San Francisco had a chance at taking Coby Fleener with the No. 30 overall pick in 2012. It won’t miss out on a tight end again in 2013.
On the one hand, Zach Ertz isn’t the same type of physical specimen as Fleener. He did qualify as the top performing TE in the bench press (27 reps) and three-cone drill (7.08 seconds) at this year’s combine.
Yet, he logged inferior totals in all workout categories than his predecessor registered at his Pro Day last year (40 YD, bench press, three-cone drill, etc).
The pertinent question, then, is why would the 49ers draft Ertz in the first round? They would because he simply excels on the football field. He doesn’t need to in gym shorts.
Ertz was a productive force both between the hashes and in the red zone. He led Stanford with 69 receptions, 898 yards and six touchdowns last season. A third of his catches resulted in TDs in 2010 as well.
The 49ers’ Vernon Davis is the physical anomaly at the TE position. He just isn’t the red-zone threat that Ertz will provide, and what San Francisco so lacked during its playoff run in January.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman would love to add their former reliable-blocking, TD-proficient tight end from the Farm.
Second Round (No. 61 Overall): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Two offensive picks in the first two rounds? Yes, we understand the incredulous reaction(s) based on the 49ers’ defensive-minded nature.
Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, though, is worth a second-round selection, especially with two defenders coming in the following round.
Hunter stands at 6’4’’ and is a phenomenal jump-ball, deep-threat receiver. He averaged over 22 yards per catch during his first two collegiate years, and then logged a career-high 73 receptions and nine touchdowns in 2012.
He also scored the highest marks in the vertical (39.5 inches) and broad jumps (136 inches) at the combine.
The 49ers should tab him as the replacement for Randy Moss. Hunter would first serve as a lower depth-chart option to blow the top off defenses on limited downs. He would also play on special teams, something Moss was incapable of at his advanced age.
Furthermore, San Francisco is quite thin at WR outside of Crabtree. Moss will likely sport another uniform due to playing-time demands, Mario Manningham will miss the start of 2013 after recovering from his torn ACL/PCL, and the team simply lacks any size at the position.
Hunter must improve his blocking, display more consistent hands and generate additional mass. More importantly, though, he and Ertz will offer a dynamic the 49ers sorely missed last year, especially during the last drive of Super Bowl XLVII.
Third Round (No. 74 Overall): Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State
One might argue that defensive tackle is the greatest positional need for Harbaugh’s 49ers. They could very well trade up for Sharrif Floyd in the first, grab John Jenkins at No. 31 overall, or even trade down in the early second for Kawann Short.
We would not find issue with any of those moves.
That said, the 2013 draft is particularly deep at DT and safety. That’s why the third round will satisfy San Francisco’s needs at these positions.
Brandon Williams is a thoroughly strong and versatile player on the defensive front. He consistently powered through offensive linemen and wreaked havoc in the backfield. Averages of 16.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks over his last three seasons revealed as much.
Scouts witnessed a combine-high 38 reps at the bench press on Monday. We’d certainly deem that some impressive upper-body explosion.
Williams’ also showed versatility in playing all positions on the line at Missouri Southern State. He clogged the middle as a traditional nose tackle and worked proficiently on the outside as a five-technique defensive end.
The 49ers are deficient at both of those slots. Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois are free agents. And backups are non-existent entities behind McDonald and Justin Smith.
Even though Williams played at a Division II school, he dominated that level and did the same at this year’s Senior Bowl. His power, high football IQ and long arms enabled him to do so.
He would provide San Francisco with solid rotational ability all across the line this season. Learning behind DL coach Jim Tomsula and the 49ers’ top-notch starters might also push him into a starting role in the not so distant future.
Third Round (No. 93 Overall): D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina
D.J. Swearinger is a hard-hitting, SEC-trained safety who played in all possible career games at South Carolina.
Throughout his four years, Swearinger was one of the most physical defenders in the nation who operated well against the run and in coverage. He consistently shed blocks in pursuit of ball-carriers, knocked receivers off their spot underneath and added six interceptions, four forced fumbles and three defensive touchdowns.
Swearinger also held down all positions in the secondary. His versatility lends itself to playing in the box and covering both tight ends and receivers.
The 49ers, meanwhile, are potentially at their most vulnerable at the safety position.
Free safety Dashon Goldson desires a multi-year deal, but San Francisco remains reluctant to commit to him long term (via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area). SS Donte Whitner is signed through 2013. Though, he allowed 12 touchdowns in coverage last year, including four during the playoffs.
There also isn’t any depth behind these two starters. C.J. Spillman and Trenton Robinson are primarily special teams players and have not registered any legitimate snaps on defense.
While this seemingly dire scenario would necessitate a higher-round pick at safety, we believe the 49ers will wait until later in the draft.
They will lock up Goldson at some point in time; he’s simply too critical to the back end of their defense. Whitner, for his part, was a top-10 safety in 2011, and should return closer to that form this season.
With that in mind, Swearinger’s experience at both safety positions and noteworthy tackling skills will make him a great fit as an immediate backup and down the line in a starting role.
Fourth Round: Khaled Holmes, C, USC
As great as the 49ers’ offensive line was last season, it is in need of reinforcements.
Starting center Jonathan Goodwin is a stout, physical mauler in the run game. He didn’t give up a single sack in pass protection last season. At the same time, he’s 34 and will play out the final year of his contract. Retirement seems the apt move for the accomplished former Super Bowl winner.
San Francisco will also look to infuse young talent capable of fulfilling starting duties as early as next season.
Khaled Holmes of USC is the man for the job. Aside from durability concerns, Holmes possesses the quick footwork, mobility and football smarts required for pro-level centers. He is tough, tenacious and blocks well into the second level.
Diverse NFL bloodlines and high intangibles would further make him a great fit with Jim Harbaugh’s blue-collar 49ers. The same goes for his experience handling all three interior line positions.
Various scouts have evaluated Holmes as a lineman much better suited for heavy zone-blocking schemes. Lacking a solid power base has been one of the cited reasons.
We believe otherwise.
San Francisco employs fluid, ever-changing blocking assignments with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. Holmes has the requisite athleticism and intelligence for this system. He isn’t perfect, but will develop with the help of Goodwin and the coaching staff.
Holmes brings appropriate value at the bottom of the fourth round as well.
Fifth Round: Marc Anthony, CB, California
Cornerback Marc Anthony is a curious prospect. He has been projected as high as the third to as low as the sixth round.
The three-year starter rates well above average when it comes to instincts and recognition. He plays with intelligence, discipline and a high diagnosis-capacity against both the pass and run.
In other words, Anthony anticipates routes and makes correct reads on running plays. He tallied five interceptions, 26 pass break-ups and 13 tackles for loss while at Cal. His physicality at the line and awareness in coverage makes him compatible in either press-man or zone.
Moments of over-aggression at times negated his smooth, all-around coverage abilities. Missing action during all three years might also decrease his draft stock.
Even so, Anthony would provide the 49ers with a quality future replacement for Carlos Rogers. He wouldn’t need to start in Year 1 with Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver locked in as starters. He could better attain his cover-corner potential without having to do so right out of the gate.
Anthony’s determined efforts in run defense and overall hard-working approach would certainly endear himself to incumbent 49ers.
Some might scoff at the notion of general manager Trent Baalke waiting until this late to draft a CB. Acquiring a player of Anthony’s caliber this late, however, would prove rather sage-like if the GM does go in this direction.
Sixth Round: David Bass, DE/OLB, Missouri Western State
It’s all about finding those diamonds in the rough during the latter two rounds. And near the No. 200 overall pick, David Bass might very well turn into absolute gold.
Bass destroyed FCS competition while playing for Missouri Western State. He established school records with 39.5 sacks and 56 tackles for loss. Better yet, he continually improved his yearly totals in all relevant statistical categories.
The Gene Upshaw Division-II Lineman of the Year finalist was quite simply an absolute force.
Even more compelling, especially for the 49ers, is the comparison talks that Bass has generated.
At 6’4’’and 262 lbs, he is a physical replica of Aldon Smith. Both players have freakishly long arms, utilize deadly quickness and rush the quarterback with reckless abandon. These defensive studs also manned defensive end at college.
Smith didn’t enjoy nearly the same production while playing at FBS Missouri, but made an incredibly successful transition into the pro ranks. He had never operated as a 3-4 outside backer, yet did so at an extremely high level in the NFL.
Bass, on the other hand, racked up huge numbers in college. However, he accumulated those stats at a D-II school and isn’t nearly as refined in the pass-rushing department.
At the end of the day, why not? Why not take a minimal risk on a player that may offer maximum rewards?
Baalke worked his magic once; he can surely do it again. God help NFL quarterbacks if Bass and Smith play at the same time, and at the same level, come Sundays in 2013.
Seventh Round: Brandon Kaufman, WR, Eastern Washington
Brandon Kaufman is a giant of a receiver that posted video-game-like numbers in college.
FCS competition notwithstanding, Kaufman totaled 221 receptions for 3,731 yards and 33 touchdowns in 42 games. His 2010 highlight materialized as a nine-catch, 120-yard and two-TD performance in a national championship win over Delaware.
Two years later, the 6’5’’ wideout set an FCS record with 1,850 yards receiving. He accomplished the feat at a rate of 19.9 yards per catch (93 in total) and added 16 TDs for a little icing on the cake.
Sure-handedness and obvious red-zone/vertical capabilities encapsulate this D-II receiver who consistently hauls in passes at the highest point.
If Kaufman falls into the seventh round, Kaepernick will have himself a legitimate throw-it-up, deep-threat toy.
Even if he doesn’t see action next season (as would be expected), the 49ers’ strong-armed quarterback will sure have fun on the practice field in 2013—and perhaps on the real gridiron sooner rather than later.
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