The San Francisco 49ers are going to possess a minimum of 15 picks in next month's NFL draft. As a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance, there is absolutely no way that the 49ers even come close to using all those picks.
General manager Trent Baalke has been a master of getting the most out of draft-day trades. Last April he picked up a multitude of picks by moving down a couple different times. While the 49ers will likely be going in the different direction by moving up in April, they could also make the decision to trade 2013 draft picks for future considerations.
We have seen the New England Patriots do this numerous times in the past. In fact, I wrote an article on this very same page that focused on that comparison.
What if San Francisco decides to package a few of its picks in order to move up in the first round or pick up another selection in the initial round? This is where it gets interesting.
Who will Baalke and company target? Is there a specific player they should target? Are they looking at anyone specific? What would it cost them?
I am going to attempt to look at a few different options here.
Jonathan Cyprien, Safety, Florida International
I currently have Cyprien ranked 19th on my big board. While most draft experts are high on the talented young defensive back, my ranking pretty much represents his ceiling. Matt Miller's last big board, which was published prior to both the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, has Cyprien ranked 24th overall.
While Cyprien played against less-than-stellar competition at FIU, he has the size, athleticism and ball skills to be an immediate impact performer at the next level. He will play strong safety early on, but has the cover skills to eventually play free safety down the road.
As you already know, San Francisco decided against franchising Dashon Goldson. Barring an unforeseen change in circumstances regarding a long-term agreement, the 49ers will have to find a replacement. Cyprien already possesses better coverage skills than Goldson and could fill that role immediately.
That being said, San Francisco trading up for Cyprien in the first round would most likely be a result of it releasing Donte Whitner and somehow retaining Goldson. I just can't see the 49ers going into 2013 with Cyprien and Whitner as its two starting safeties.
As it is, the small-school prospect has one of the highest ceilings of any defensive player in the draft. He is, by all accounts, one of those difference makers.
If San Francisco were to make a play for Cyprien, it would have to most likely trade up past the Cincinnati Bengals and St. Louis Rams, who are both in need of a safety. Interestingly enough, that puts them at the 19th or 20th pick.
Utilizing Draft Tek's trade value chart, this is what I came up with as it relates to compensation for trading up to select Cyprien.
San Francisco would likely have to yield its first-round pick (31st overall) and its original second-round pick (61st overall). Is he worth it?
Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
This is the player I would target if I were running San Francisco's draft. Of course, I am here typing this at 2:30 in the morning in California, so that isn't going to happen anytime soon. I currently have the former Texas standout in the top 10 of my big board (which I will be releasing later today). Again, this is higher than most experts have the talented safety.
Vaccaro fits San Francisco's scheme to a T and would fill a huge void as a cover man in the back end of its defense. He is already better than anyone the 49ers have in terms of coverage from the safety position and is the consensus No. 1 overall safety in the 2013 draft class. He reminds me a great deal of a mix between Eric Berry and Earl Thomas. Yes, that's exactly how high I am on him.
I am not alone...
Gil Brandt is a respected mind around the scouting ranks and currently has Vaccaro going to the New Orleans Saints at No. 15. In reality, it would take San Francisco a little bit more to pick the standout free safety than if it were to try to acquire Cyprien.
Again, looking at the aforementioned trade value chart, San Francisco would likely have to yield its first-round pick, original second-round pick and the first of its third-rounders (originally from the Carolina Panthers). That's a whole heck of a lot to give up for a safety in a draft that seems to be filled with solid options.
After all, San Francisco could stand pat at No. 31 and likely be able to choose between the likes of Eric Reid and D.J. Swearinger.
Desmond Trufant, Cornerback, Washington
As you can see in the video embedded above, Trufant fits what the 49ers like to do on defense. He gets in the face of the receiver at the line in press coverage and doesn't shy away from contact. This type of bump-and-run coverage throws off timing routes and causes mistakes in the passing game.
Equally as impressive, Trufant doesn't struggle back peddling when he misses on the jam and seems to possess fluid hips on the outside. While Dee Milliner is the consensus No. 1 cornerback in the draft, I have this Washington product closing the gap on him a great deal.
Matt Miller has Trufant going to the Indianapolis Colts at No. 24 in his most recent mock draft, which was conducted immediately following his solid combine performance. I personally think that's too conservative of an estimate for Trufant, as my projection is for him to go somewhere in the teens. Of course this is all conjecture and we have absolutely no idea how the draft will play out before San Francisco even comes close to selecting in the initial round.
Let's say that Miller is on the money with his mock draft. This means that the 49ers would have to trade up past the Colts in order to grab Trufant. It would likely cost them the 31st overall pick as well as their original third- and fourth-round selections. That seems more reasonable than trading up to a higher slot in order to grab a safety when that position is stacked in the draft.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Two of the most dynamic wide receivers in the 2013 NFL draft just so happen to be former teammates at Tennessee. Of course I am talking about Cordarrelle Patterson and Da'Rick Rogers. While the latter may be available with any of San Francisco's first three picks, there is absolutely no way Patterson lasts that long.
He is, by far, the best wide receiver in the draft class. He has great natural instincts on the outside and already runs pro-ready routes (even after just one season of major college ball). Of course his route running can be refined, but that's not as much of a weakness as many want to make it out to be. Patterson makes people miss in space, will beat defenders to the ball and is athletic as they come. In all honesty, he translates into being a true No. 1 wide receiver opposite Michael Crabtree.
Patterson is the type of game changer that teams will trade up to acquire. Put him on San Francisco's offense with the bevy it weapons that it has and it's game over for opposing defenses.
My obvious draft crush on Patterson aside, others have started to understand just exactly how good he will be at the next level.
Miller went on to say this about Patterson after slotting him to the Buffalo Bills No. 8 overall in his most recent mock draft.
Turn on game film of Patterson and you're instantly blown away by his open-field speed and moves. Then you realize he's 6'3" and 215 lbs., and you're more impressed to see someone so big making defenders miss the way he does.]
While some scouts are skeptical about Patterson because of his unnatural catching technique, which can be taught, there is just too much upside here.
With that upside comes a relatively high draft pick. San Francisco would likely have to trade into the top 10 in order to secure Patterson's services. Even with the additional second-round pick that San Francisco acquired for Alex Smith, this would be a mighty steep bounty to pay.
San Francisco would likely have to give up its first-round pick (31st), the second rounder it acquired from Kansas City (34th) and the first of its third-round picks in order to even get into the conversation to acquire Patterson.
More than any other team in recent NFL history, San Francisco has all options available next month. It can trade down, acquire more picks and utilize those selections to pick up extra 2014 selections. It could easily just trade a few of its 2013 selections to be in even a better position next April.
Heck, the 49ers could utilize the example I mentioned above and trade multiple picks to get one of the top overall players in the draft.
Either way you look at it, don't leave your TV sets simply because the 49ers aren't slotted to pick for another hour or two. That's not the way Baalke and company are going to operate next month. Instead, they will be consistently moving up, maybe even down, all draft long.
It's going to be one hell of a ride for fans in Northern California.