San Francisco 49ers Mock Draft Roundup: The Top 5 Rounds
In 2013, Baalke took several players that were not expected to play much, if at all, due to injury. Those included Tank Carradine, Marcus Lattimore and Quinton Dial.
Carradine, Lattimore and Dial will add to the depth of the 2014 team, so it is imperative that Baalke and the 49ers acquire some impact players. In the past two drafts, only Eric Reid looks like an impact player at this point. Baalke must do better this year.
The 49ers' window of opportunity with their current group is rapidly closing and there will be several question marks about the roster beyond the 2014 season.
Frank Gore, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are getting older and will have big salary-cap numbers.
In addition, the contracts of Michael Crabtree, Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith and Mike Iupati are all expiring after the 2014 season. It will be virtually impossible for Baalke and the 49ers to keep them all. There simply will not be enough money for everyone.
Other veterans such as Patrick Willis, Joe Staley and Ahmad Brooks are still very good players, but are in a position of maintaining their skill level as opposed to having significant upside for improvement.
The 2014 draft is, therefore, extremely important to the future success of the 49ers.
Quality young players help to keep your team strong and your salary cap at a manageable level. The 49ers are just now starting to feel the real impact of the abysmal 2012 draft.
With 11 selections this year, look for Baalke to be very active in making deals during the course of the draft. In previous articles, I specifically called for Baalke to trade up and get an impact-caliber cornerback. It is still my belief that the 49ers should take this approach.
Although this report will provide selections in the first five rounds, it is quite likely that many of the selections will be moving all over the board due to trades.
However, if the 49ers were to stand pat and make all of their selections where they fall, let's take a closer look at who the 49ers should take with each of those picks in the first five rounds.
Round 1, No. 30 Overall: Kyle Fuller, Cornerback
The San Francisco 49ers have a glaring need at the cornerback position. After losing both Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, the 49ers have only one cornerback, Tramaine Brock, that is not a question mark.
Chris Culliver is coming off an ACL injury and must prove that he has the speed, explosiveness and durability needed to excel at the position. In addition, he is facing a legal issue which could result in him being suspended—or potentially even jailed.
The 49ers' next-best cornerback options are Eric Wright and Perrish Cox. Both are ideally suited as dime backs or, at best, nickel corners. If either of these players is starting, it does not bode well for the 49ers.
The 49ers signed Chris Cook from the Minnesota Vikings, but he struggled mightily last year. Cook has a long way to go before he can be considered a quality NFL starting cornerback.
Youngsters Darryl Morris and Dax Swanson are unproven and are special teams players at this stage of their careers.
In today's NFL, with a greater emphasis on the pass and utilizing three and four-wide receiver sets, it is imperative for the 49ers to draft a cornerback with their first pick. In reality, Baalke would also be wise to select a second cornerback at some point in Round 2 or 3.
Although cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard would be the best choices for the 49ers, neither is expected to be available unless the 49ers trade up.
The best player available at the cornerback position when it comes time for the 49ers to pick, could be Kyle Fuller. If he is still on the board, Fuller would be the ideal pick for the 49ers.
Fuller has decent size at 6'0" and 190 pounds. He also has good instincts and is a solid tackler. Fuller has good coverage skills and would bring immediate help to the 49ers' beleaguered secondary.
Mel Kiper Jr. expressed some concerns about Fuller's durability, via Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times, but stressed that he is worthy of a first-round pick.
If the 49ers do not trade up and Fuller is not available, the next-best cornerback options would be Bradley Roby or Jason Verrett.
Round 2, No. 56 Overall: Davante Adams, Wide Receiver
There are four wide receivers who lead a very deep class but will almost assuredly go prior to the 49ers' selection at No. 56 overall. These players include Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandin Cooks.
The next tier of available receivers includes Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Paul Richardson, Jordan Matthews, Martavis Bryant, Kelvin Benjamin and Davante Adams.
The 49ers would be wise to select a wide receiver with their first second-round pick, and the choice should be Davante Adams.
Adams stands 6'1" and weighs in at 212 pounds. He was extremely productive at Fresno State. In two years with the Bulldogs, Adams had 233 receptions for 3,030 yards and 38 touchdowns.
CBSSports.com says this about that Adams: "Good strength and courage to take passes over the middle and isn't afraid of running through traffic."
Adams is from the Bay Area and grew up just a few miles away from the 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara. He is a good player today and still has big upside.
With Michael Crabtree a free agent following the 2014 season and Anquan Boldin going to be 34 years of age in October, now is the time for Baalke to bring in some young talent at the wide receiver position.
Adams and 2013 draftee Quinton Patton could prove to be the future of the 49ers at wide receiver.
Round 2, No. 61 Overall: Trent Murphy, Outside Linebacker
Living just a few minutes from Stanford and also watching several of their games, I have seen firsthand how good a player Trent Murphy is.
Very similar to the 49ers' Justin Smith, Murphy has a high motor and simply makes plays on the field. With the uncertainty surrounding Aldon Smith's future with the 49ers, GM Trent Baalke must move to bolster this position.
Murphy is 6'6" and 261 pounds, and he can play defensive end or the pass-rushing outside linebacker in the 49ers' 3-4 defensive scheme.
Murphy is very physical and plays with a mean streak that will suit him well in the NFL. He had 15 sacks in his senior year against good competition.
Round 3, No. 77 Overall: Deone Bucannon, Strong Safety
The 49ers lost strong safety Donte Whitner to free agency and replaced him by signing veteran Antoine Bethea from the Indianapolis Colts.
Bethea will be 30 years of age when the 2014 season begins and is coming off a mediocre season with the Colts. Nevertheless, Bethea's presence will enable Bucannon to have the time to learn and not be forced into the starting lineup immediately.
At 6'1" and 211 pounds, Bucannon is a good tackler and can play the run well. He had six interceptions in 2013, showing a nose for the ball. CBSSports.com notes that Bucannon's ball skills are improving and he is showing good instincts in coverage.
The 49ers selected free safety Eric Reid in the 2013 draft and he looks like he will be a star in the NFL for many years.
If the 49ers select Bucannon, we can easily envision within the next couple of seasons that he and Reid will hold down the safety positions for years to come.
Round 3, No. 94 Overall: E.J. Gaines, Cornerback
The weakest position on the 49ers roster is cornerback, and GM Trent Baalke must solidify this critical area.
If Baalke selects a cornerback with the 49ers' first pick, there is still plenty of reason to draft E. J. Gaines with the second of the 49ers' third-round selections.
Gaines is athletic and has good, although not elite-level speed. According to NFLDraftScout.com, he ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash in his pro day. Gaines stands 5'10" and weighs in at 190 lbs..
Gaines has the physical tools to play tight press coverage and also the speed and agility to play off receivers and close quickly.
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports saw Gaines in practice prior to the 2014 Shrine Game and said he is "arguably the best defensive prospect in this all-star contest."
Gaines played his college football at Missouri and fared well in SEC competition. Todd McShay talked to KTGR Radio about the list of pro prospects from Missouri, including Gaines.
Round 3, No. 100 Overall: Shayne Skov, Inside Linebacker
Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman have been arguably the best inside linebacker tandem in the NFL.
However, Bowman suffered a torn ACL and MCL in the NFC title game last season. He is likely out until at least the mid part of the 2014 season, and even when he returns, it remains to be seen if he can play at his Pro Bowl level.
In addition, Patrick Willis is 29 years of age and although he is still an outstanding player, he has lost a step and is more in the mode of maintaining his level of play as opposed to having a lot of additional upside.
Jim Harbaugh, who used to coach at Stanford, knows Shayne Skov well. Skov would be an ideal complement to Willis and Bowman at the inside linebacker spot.
Skov, like Trent Murphy, led a very tough, physical Stanford defense. He had 109 tackles, including 13 tackles-for-loss.
NFLDraftScout.com highlights Skov's "terrific instincts and physicality."
Round 4, No. 129 Overall: Travis Swanson, Center
The San Francisco 49ers are in need of a center now that Jonathan Goodwin has departed. Goodwin handled the position for the past three seasons.
Reserve offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore, along with veteran Adam Snyder, will get a chance to earn the starting job. However, there is no guarantee that either player will come close to the job done by Goodwin.
The 49ers would be wise to invest in a center, and Travis Swanson would be an ideal pick if he's available. Swanson is 6'5" and 312 pounds, so he has the size that the 49ers like along the offensive line.
Round 5, No. 170 Overall: Ryan Grant, Wide Receiver
By the time you get to the fifth round of the draft, you are now looking for players that can develop and potentially become contributors within a year or two.
Ryan Grant is that type of player.
With the 49ers possibly losing Michael Crabtree in the free-agent market after the 2014 season and likely to see Anquan Boldin depart after his contract expires in 2015, the 49ers can take a receiver now with the hopes of developing him for the future.
Grant did not play against top-level competition in the majority of his games, but he does show a lot of good skills.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports has a lot of positives about Grant:
At a rock-solid 6-0, 197 pounds, Grant showed surprising burst, as well as the agility as a route-runner and reliable hands to out-play several more highly-touted pass-catchers. A long touchdown during Wednesday's practice drew plenty of praise from scouts.