San Francisco 49ers: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2014 NFL Draft
The San Francisco 49ers aren’t exactly a team known for making bold moves. In recent years, they’ve been content to avoid gambling on big-name free agents or overpaying stars, instead focusing on drafting well and extending their own young players when needed.
The closest the 49ers ever get to bold moves these days are on draft day. Last season, they traded up to No. 18 overall to get their chosen safety, Eric Reid. They also traded up to No. 55 for Vance McDonald and 88th overall to get Corey Lemonier. They’re not afraid to pull the trigger if they see a player they want.
Predicting that the 49ers will trade up to grab a player in this year’s draft isn’t bold, however. It’s expected—I’d be shocked if they didn’t make a move to jump some of the corner- and receiver-needy teams lurking in the mid-20s.
However, what if the 49ers really did want to shock the world? What if they wanted to make a move that would create ripples throughout the draft? Let’s make some bold predictions, and see what the 49ers could do.
Now, it should be noted, these bold moves are not all going to occur. Some would mortgage the future more than the 49ers are normally comfortable doing, and some go against their typical draft-day strategy.
All of these moves are possible, however, and with two-and-a-half weeks left before the draft, it’s fun to speculate. So let’s take a look at some of the bolder moves the 49ers could make in the 2014 NFL draft.
1. Trading Next Year’s First-Round Pick for Sammy Watkins
The 2014 draft is supposed to be notably better than the 2015 draft—deeper, with more top-shelf talent available. If that’s the case, maybe the 49ers would be better off backing out of next year’s draft for even higher picks in this year’s class.
If the 49ers had the No. 1 overall pick, is there any doubt they’d take Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins? One of the top three players in the draft at one of the team’s top two needs, Watkins would instantly upgrade the offense.
Worried about Colin Kaepernick’s development? With the trio of Watkins, Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin at the receiver position, no one could argue that there aren’t enough receiver options available. Adding a piece like Watkins to a Super Bowl contender would just seem unfair.
With that in mind, the 49ers could trade their 2015 first-round selection, as well as their first-rounder this year (No. 30), both second-rounders (No. 56 and No. 61) and their original third-rounder (No. 94), to trade up with a team like Cleveland or Jacksonville to grab Watkins. It would add a huge talent to the squad, shaking up the balance of power in the NFC West.
If this happens, mind you, that’s pretty much the entire draft. They have enough picks that they could draft someone at all their needs later, but the 2014 and 2015 drafts would be graded on how well Sammy Watkins turns out. It’d be an all-or-nothing sort of play.
If you believe Watkins is the next Jerry Rice, however, it might be worth making that sort of epic move.
2. Trading Up for Two First-Round Picks, Solving Both Receiver and Corner Issues
If, for argument’s sake, you don’t want to mortgage the entire future in an effort to get Sammy Watkins, there are still scenarios in which the 49ers could end up with two first-round picks in a loaded draft, solving both their cornerback and receiver problems in one go.
Imagine this scenario, for a moment:
The 49ers trade their first-round pick (30th overall) and the second-round pick they got from the Kansas City Chiefs (No. 56) to move into the mid-teens in the first round. With the pick, they either take the top corner remaining—possibly Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State—or one of the top receivers, like Brandin Cooks of Oregon State.
They then turn around and use their original second-round selection (61st overall), and their two tradable third-round picks (No. 77 and No. 94) to jump back into the bottom of the first round, and take the player at the opposite position. If they took Dennard, they could end up with Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State. If they took Cooks, maybe they get Jason Verrett out of TCU.
Either way, they’d end up with first-round talents at their two largest positions of need, and would still have a third-round pick thanks to their compensatory selection at No. 100. It would require sitting out nearly two complete rounds, but with two top talents like Cooks and Verrett, 49er fans could sit back and relax a bit.
It would be reminiscent of the 2007 draft, when the 49ers got Joe Staley and Patrick Willis in the first round, and then didn’t pick again until No. 76 overall. It’s safe to say that draft worked out for the best in the long run.
3. Dominating the Second Round
Here’s the inverse of the previous bold prediction. The 49ers could decide that the first round isn’t for them, and go back and dominate day two of the draft.
If there’s a major run on cornerbacks and receivers, the team could decide that the second tier of players is more than enough for them. The #30 pick is worth two second-rounders, though there isn’t currently another team with that many selections in the second round. They’d have to do a series of trades, but the value is there for something like the #55 and #64 selections.
They then have those two tradable picks from the third round, which they could use to jump back into the second round yet again, perhaps with San Diego at #57.
This would give the 49ers the #55, #56, #57, #61 and #64 picks in the draft—they’d have almost complete control of the end of the second-round.
Who would they take with such a bonanza? It’s not hard to imagine the team coming away with:
- Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
- Marcus Martin, C, USC
- Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Brigham Young
- Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
- Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
The 49ers would not only have potential answers at their two biggest needs, but also bring in competition to replace Jonathan Goodwin, insurance in case Aldon Smith’s legal issues costs him his future in the NFL and a young quarterback in case Colin Kaepernick takes a step back.
With no first-round selections, you lose the relative security of having a stud to fill your biggest hole, but this would give high quality players at every single position of need for the 49ers, other than depth on the defensive line. The draft for need would be essentially over.
4. Taking Ryan Shazier with the First-Round Selection
Most of the 49ers draft talk has revolved around the wide receiver and cornerback positions. However, with Aldon Smith’s recent legal issues, it does open the team up to another option with their first round pick.
If they wanted to send a message to Smith, saying that he’s not as integral to the team as he might thing, the 49ers could select one of the top outside linebackers in the draft with their first pick. Khalil Mack would be long gone, but both Ryan Shazier of Ohio State and Anthony Barr of UCLA could be available at No. 30.
If Aldon Smith does return to the team with no problems, or only a minor suspension, Shazier could eventually replace Ahmad Brooks on the other side of the line. If, however, Smith’s legal issues become a major problem, Shazier would allow the team to continue with another impactful blitzer in space.
5. Taking a Quarterback in the Second Round
I had the 49ers taking a quarterback in the third bold scenario, but only as the fifth of five second-round picks. Assuming that there aren’t any trades, and the 49ers only have three picks in the first two rounds, using one of those picks on a potential replacement for Colin Kaepernick would be just about as bold as you could possibly get.
Tom Savage of University of Pittsburgh, Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois and AJ McCarron of Alabama all figure to be available somewhere in the second round. Taking any of the three would give the 49ers an extra bargaining chip in Kaepernick’s upcoming contract extension. It would say that the team could move on if they couldn’t keep Kaepernick at a reasonable price.
Even if Kaepernick does re-sign, which is by far the most likely scenario, the 49ers could still eventually trade the draftee quarterback in a few years to a quarterback-needy team.
With so many other needs, however, picking a quarterback this early would be a bold statement. It would show that the team is ready to move on from any player, no matter how important to the club, if the two sides can’t come to reasonable salary agreements.