San Francisco 49ers Mock Draft: 7 Round Predictions, Post Combine
The NFL combine annually causes chaos on draft boards. Multiple years of tape seem to be forgotten as a player runs slightly faster or slower than expected in the 40-yard dash, or measures an inch or two larger or smaller than they were actually thought to be.
More significantly, it’s the first real chance most teams have to get a look at the prospects. Potential draftees are poked and prodded by team doctors, trying to ascertain if ligaments are healed and recoveries going on pace. In meeting rooms, coaches pepper prospects with questions, both about football and their personalities.
With at least 11 picks in this year’s draft, the San Francisco 49ers have the potential to come away from the 2014 NFL Draft with one of the best classes in the league. How is their draft shaking up, post-combine? We’ll look at each potential selection, and predict who the team will take in each instance.
The 49ers are very likely to be active traders on draft day—they have the most picks in the league, yet their roster is fairly full of talent already. They have a lot of freedom to either move up to get players they would like, or move down and stockpile picks for next year’s draft, as well. While this is a smart strategy, for the purposes of these predictions, we’ll assume no trades are made.
Without further ado, here are your projected 2014 San Francisco 49ers draftees.
Round 1—Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Carlos Rogers is turning 33 this offseason and he struggled some last year. Releasing him would save the 49ers over $5.1 million against the cap—room they could use to re-sign or extend their upcoming free agents. Combine that with the news, reported by ESPN, that the team is close to a deal with Anquan Boldin, and cornerback becomes the clear top priority for the team in the draft.
Jason Verrett had an amazing combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, and his 39-inch vertical jump was among the tops at his position. He also looked strong in the individual drills, impressing the assembled scouts with his footwork and ball skills.
He has some downsides—he’s a bit small for a cornerback at only 5’9”, and he is undergoing shoulder surgery that shouldn’t impact his potential that much. However, his extensive success in college combined with his fantastic combine should convince teams Verrett is the real deal.
He’d likely start out as the nickel cornerback on San Francisco, behind Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock, but that’s a starting position in today’s NFL. Verrett would be a great get in the first round.
Round 2 (from Kansas City)—Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
This selection, 56th overall, comes to San Francisco as part of the Alex Smith trade; it became a second-round pick thanks to Kansas City winning 11 games last season.
We all saw how San Francisco’s offense dropped off when Michael Crabtree went down with an injury last season. Re-signing Anquan Boldin gives the 49ers a good one-two punch at the position, and Quinton Patton continues to improve, but the team needs more depth here for the future.
Jordan Matthews ran faster than expected at the combine, clocking in at 4.46 seconds. That’s not bad at all for a 6’3”, 205 pound, big-bodied catching machine. He also managed 21 repetitions in the bench press, again a high number.
Speed was the question coming in for Matthews—production never was. He leaves Vanderbilt as the SEC’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards. He leaves school with 262 receptions for 3,759 yards, and is durable, too boot—he doesn’t miss games.
The 49ers would be picking up a very good, large receiver who could fight for balls in the end zone. He’s a reliable route runner who would make an immediate impact on offense.
Round 2—Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina
In a perfect world, this pick would be a safety to play across from Eric Reid in the secondary. Sadly, the safety class is not particularly deep this year, so rather than go chasing a lower prospect there, the 49ers could opt to deal with a different need.
Jonathan Goodwin turned 35 last season and he may not be brought back for 2014. That would leave unproven and untested Daniel Kilgore as the logical starter on the roster. He’s been solid as a spot-starter and backup on the interior of the line, but he lacks experience.
Russell Bodine led all offensive linemen with 42 reps on the bench press, by far blowing away his competition. It’s a little less impressive than the number suggests, thanks to Bodine’s 32 ½-inch arms—shorter arms make it easier to lift the bar—but it’s still a great number to put up.
Bodine can play either center or guard in the NFL. His strength, combined with two seasons of starting experience, makes him an ideal replacement for Kilgore as a depth player, if not Goodwin right away. He’s got the competitive streak to battle for a starting spot, too. He’d make a logical choice here.
Round 3 (from Tennessee)—Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State
This selection, 77th overall, comes to San Francisco thanks to a draft-day trade last season. The 49ers gave their second-round pick to Tennessee, who took Justin Hunter. The 49ers received the Titans’ second-round pick, which became Tank Carradine, and their seventh-round selection, which they bundled and used to move up to take Cory Lemonier.
It might as well become a clean sweep for defensive selections out of this trade, with safety being the highest remaining need. Donte Whitner is a free agent, and he might be difficult to squeeze in under the salary cap. If he isn’t brought back, that leaves C.J. Spillman as the incumbent starter. Spillman is a special-teams ace, but not a real option as a starter across from Eric Reid.
Terrence Brooks had a great day at the combine, running a scorching 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash and scoring 38.0 inches on his vertical jump, both good for the top spot in his position. He’s sitting this low in the draft in large part because of lack of experience. Brooks only started for two years, having served as a backup cornerback at first. Coupled with only being 5’11”, it makes some teams wary.
He’s got top-notch instincts and athleticism, and is a potential ace on special-teams, as well. He’s still got some work to do at the safety position, and his instincts aren’t great, but he’s an athletic marvel. He’d be a mirror-image safety with Reid, rather than your traditional strong and free safeties, but it’s a defensive scheme that works. A top-five safety in the third round would be good value for San Francisco.
Round 3—Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
The 49ers certainly don’t have much of a need at linebacker, but you can over-stretch yourself if you ignore the top players available and simply draft to fill holes. The 49ers are in a position where they can spend most of the draft grabbing talented players, regardless of position—an outside linebacker here would simply be insurance if Aldon Smith kept having legal issues, as well as a solid depth player.
Whenever you have a chance to draft a steer wrestler, you have to take it. Trent Murphy’s a tweener, who could develop into a defensive end or an outside linebacker. He is massively strong, and can take on linemen of any size. That’s why he racked up 15 sacks last season. He’s capable of powering his way through blocks.
He’s not fast, though—perhaps not fast enough for a pass rusher. There’s also some question about his ability to play without being surrounded with the sort of talent he enjoyed at Stanford—is he at all a result of the system, as it were. He also had a poor combine, coming in at only 4.86 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That drops him down to the end of the third round, in all likelihood.
Fortunately, the 49ers are filled with talent to surround Murphy. Murphy was brought to Stanford by Jim Harbaugh, and Charlie Campbell reports the 49ers were very interested in Murphy at the Senior Bowl. A reunion in San Francisco might make a lot of sense for both Murphy and the 49ers.
Round 4—Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
Justin Smith can’t play forever, right? While the current plan is for Tank Carradine to eventually take over at the defensive end slots, depth would be nice. Carradine is coming off of a knee injury, after all—a rotational player wouldn’t be a bad addition for contingencies.
It is safe to say Michael Sam has been getting a bit more attention than your average mid-round selection, coming out as gay in the lead-up to the draft. He handled himself well during interviews at the combine, answering all the questions asked of him and dealing well with the media crush.
On the field at the combine, however, he disappointed. He ran only a 4.91 in the 40-yard dash and benched only 17 repetitions. That pretty much rules out a move to linebacker, leaving him as a lighter- and shorter-than-ideal defensive end candidate in the NFL.
What he may lack in measurables, however, he makes up for in production and football acumen. Sam was named Co-Defensive Player of the Year, using his quick hands and high motor to make plays. He also wowed in the interview section, with Mike Freeman reporting that one team executive said Sam has “as much football knowledge as any college prospect I've ever interviewed in decades in this business."
Sam’s peak is probably as a depth-player in a rotation, coming in on pass-rushing downs, rather than as a full-time starter. That’s what the 49ers would be looking for in this part of the draft. If they were as impressed with Sam’s interviews as some of the other team executives, this would a solid place to draft Sam.
Round 4 (Compensatory Selection)—Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
The NFL won’t release the compensatory draft selections until next month, nor is the formula for determining such picks publicly available. Craig Turner has the best projections around, matching 24-of-32 last season. This year, he predicts the 49ers will receive a fourth-round selection due to the loss of Dashon Goldson.
Lache Seastrunk has incredible acceleration, though his 40-yard dash of only 4.51 seconds was below what he had hoped to run at the combine. His other drills, however, were phenomenal. He led all running backs with a 41.5 inch-vertical jump, and showed potential explosion by leading running backs with an 11’2” broad jump as well.
Seastrunk isn’t going to be a mauler through the middle—he tends to cut and bounce outside, looking for the big gain instead of consistent gains up the middle, hence falling down to the fourth round. However, with that sort of athleticism and talent, he could develop into what LaMichael James has not. A running combination of Marcus Lattimore and Seastrunk could lead the 49ers’ rushing game for years to come.
Round 5—Richard Rogers, TE, California
The 49ers spent a second-round draft pick last season on Vance McDonald, so tight end isn’t precisely a need position. McDonald failed to wow in his rookie season, however, so a late-round pick on another talented player isn’t out of the question.
Richard Rodgers was used as both a tight end and a wide receiver in college. At 6’4”, he’s a pretty tall target, too, with a fluctuating weight—he played at around 275 pounds as a tight end, and dropped down to the 250-range to play as a receiver. He has very solid hands and decent speed, for a tight end.
He did not have a good combine, however, falling all the way down to a 4.87 in the 40-yard dash. That doesn’t match at all what he put on tape. Combine that with his slimmer frame, and there’s some question on his ability to play the position at the NFL level.
On the 49ers, Rogers would be a third tight end and a player on special teams, which seems like a good place to store him as he realizes his potential. He could be a fantastic player, but he needs seasoning—the 49ers wouldn’t need him to contribute right away, making him a solid selection here.
Round 6—Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina
The more the merrier at the wide receiver position—the 49ers showed a lack of any depth there this past season, so drafting a couple wouldn’t be out of the question.
Coastal Carolina is a small FCS school, and Matt Hazel played very well at that level, catching 183 receptions for 2,553 yards in four seasons. He did manage six receptions for 83 yards in one half against South Carolina last season, as well.
He’s a polished route-runner—he doesn’t have the same level of athleticism as some of his higher-regarded peers, but he’s a hard worker who has improved each and every season in college. He needs that work ethic, too, as he’s not the biggest at 6’3” and 190 lbs. His lack of prototypical size, plus the lower level of competition at Coastal Carolina, has him down towards the end of the draft.
He performed well at the East-West Shrine Game, and continued that offseason momentum at the combine. Hazel showed off his extension and body control in the positional drills, and he showed potential as an underneath, possession-style receiver.
Round 7 (from New Orleans)—Ryan Carrethers, DT, Arkansas State
This selection, the 27th in the seventh round, comes to San Francisco in exchange for Parys Haralson. Seventh-round selections are like lottery tickets; they’re not likely to do much of anything in the NFL, but every now and then you hit the jackpot, as a player realizes their potential.
Ryan Carrethers is a potential nose tackle, as well as a former wrestler in school. He has the physical profile you’re looking for, at 6’1” and 329 lbs, and he plays low, gaining leverage on opposing centers and guards. He excels against the run, soaking up running backs and stopping them cold.
He has roughly zero ability to rush the passer, however, so he’s just a big, strong run stopper. That’s all the 49ers really ask for out of the nose tackle position, and considering how many injuries they suffered last season, depth might be nice.
Round 7 (from Carolina)—J.C. Copeland, FB, LSU
This selection, the 28th in the seventh round, comes to San Francisco in exchange for Colin Jones. The trade was actually made back in 2012, but the Panthers didn’t have a 2013 seventh-round selection, hence it coming into play now.
The 49ers are one of the few teams to use a fullback on a regular basis. They had to scramble a bit when Bruce Miller went down with an injury last season, so why not use a draft choice to shore up the position? J.C. Copeland is a converted defensive lineman and a powerful lead blocker.
He’s about as close to immobile as you can get in the backfield these days, having run a 4.95 40-yard dash at the combine. He plays with good effort, though, and blocks with a mean streak. That’s exactly the sort of player the 49ers would use a late-round flyer on.
Round 7—Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina
The 49ers only have two quarterbacks on their roster at the moment. While I don’t think they’d be comfortable entering 2014 with Colin Kaepernick, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and a seventh-round rookie as their only quarterbacks, a player in this slot could battle with Bethel-Thompson for the third QB role.
Connor Shaw’s an athletic, dual-threat sort of player. He’s great in the pocket, and athletic enough to get out and run with the ball. Shaw had great numbers at the combine, putting up a 4.66 40-yard dash, as well as solid jumps and cone drill numbers. He also looked confident throwing the ball, and began to build a little bit of momentum through the draft process.
It doesn’t hurt when your college coach compares you to Russell Wilson, either, even if that’s a bit of hyperbole.
At only 6’1”, Shaw’s a bit short for an NFL quarterback, and he needs to be more consistent with his throws. He’s an interesting prospect at the end of the draft, however, and is worth a look.
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