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On Saturday, March 3, 49erswebzone.com and 49ersparadise.com held a chat session with draft guru Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout. Attendees were able to ask Rob questions regarding the NFL Draft from a 49ers fan's perspective. Below are some key points that Rob hit during the chat session. These questions were asked by 49ers fans from the two fan sites.
How will the signings of CB Nate Clements and S Michael Lewis impact the 49ers draft process - and if the team signs NT Franklin (Ravens), or loses out on A. Thomas, what effect may that have?
Rob: Certainly adding a legitimate shut down corner and a run stuffing safety makes this a much more formidable defensive unit. Should the team elect to sign Franklin, the defensive strategy for the draft might remain on the outside - whether it be at end like I posted in my last mock or as in reinforcements to the linebacker positions.
What are our chances on landing USC WR Dwayne Jarrett in second round? Can he fall that far?
Rob: I'd be stunned to see him drop that far. He isn't going to run well, but everyone knows that now and is expecting it. So, if he runs in the mid 4.5s as most expect, it will be expected and easier to deal with for scouts. I expect Jarrett to slip into the late teens to late 20s, but not to slip out completely. Even if the 49ers aren't able to land Jarrett, though, receivers is one of 3 key strengths in this draft. The 49ers will be able to address this position successfully in rounds 2-3, and even beyond.
What do you think of the chances of us picking a WR at 11? Who do you think we would pick? Who is better? Tennessee’s Robert Meachem or Ohio State’s Ted Ginn?
Rob: I think the chances are good that the team will elect to go with a receiver at #11. I've sporadically placed receivers at #11 for San Francisco over the past month because that is the strength of this draft and it seemed clear to me that the 49ers would be focusing on defense early in free agency. That said, I don't know that there is a receiver worth the 11th pick - other than (Georgia Tech’s) Calvin Johnson, who, obviously, will be long gone. Robert Meachem is higher ranked on my board. I like his size/speed combo and feel he is among the better big play receivers in this draft. Ginn is too inconsistent for my blood and because I know the 49ers are high on last year's 3rd round pick, Brandon Williams, as their punt returner of the future, I don't know that Ginn is a great fit. Dwayne Bowe could surprise with how high he goes, as well.
Do you think Patrick Willis is worthy of the 11th pick and will the 49ers seriously consider taking him there?
Rob: Generally, I'm opposed to taking an inside linebacker in the top 15. Only 1 true inside linebacker has been taken this high in the past 10 years - Dan Morgan by Carolina. That said, I love Willis and have him currently slotted as going to the Bills with the 12th pick. I absolutely could see the 49ers falling in love with him and "reaching" for him slightly to assure themselves a legitimate impact defender in the 1st round.
Who do you believe are the 3 best OLB in this draft?
Rob: Interesting question. The reason I say that is because this draft has so many collegiate 4-3 ends who potentially could make the transition to OLB. Pure OLBs I have ranked this way: Paul Posluszny (Penn State), Lawrence Timmons (Florida State), Jon Beason (Miami). That said, in the 3-4 alignment, you are looking for a different animal. I still have Posluszny in the mix, but I love Anthony Spencer (Purdue) and like Jarvis Moss (Florida) in this role, as well.
49ers fans have seen there share of converted ends and haven't seen much success. How can you tell if a converted end will be successful in the NFL?
Rob: Generally, you are looking for 3 things. Pure athleticism in terms of change of direction, etc. Instincts. Work ethic - because regardless of the athleticism and instincts, this is a tough transition.
Is Jarvis Moss a good enough 3-4 OLB prospect to take at #11?
Rob: See, I don't know that he is. For a pick as high as #11, I'm looking for a surer thing. I like Moss and his athleticism and size make him such an intriguing prospect, but he has only had 1 season of dominant play and he was surrounded by such a great defensive line in Gainesville. I question if he should be taken that high. I, personally, like Anthony Spencer from Purdue, better.
What are some mid round 3-4 DE’s we should keep an eye on?
Rob: For San Francisco, specifically, this means 3-4 ends, a rare commodity. Often, these players are former collegiate defensive tackles, so some of the names I'm going to give might seem odd. Ryan McBean of Oklahoma State, Baraka Atkins of Miami, Kareem Brown of Miami, Chase Pittman of LSU and Alford of Penn State.
Is it possible for Amobi Okoye of Louisville to be a 3-4 DL either at NT or DE? Should we go for an "upside" guy like Okoye to strengthen the line?
Rob: Okoye makes a lot of sense. I think he is one of the more versatile, intriguing players in this draft. While he isn't legitimately a top 15 pick based on his play, his upside will cause a team to draft him this high. I think he makes a lot of sense for the 49ers and will absolutely be a consideration for them.
What's your thought on Washington State WR Jason Hill? After the combine where do you see him going?
Rob: I still have Hill as a 3rd round pick, personally. I could see him moving into the 2nd round because, as you referred, he lit up the Combine. That said, being based out of Seattle, I've watched this kid for years. He isn't 4.3 fast on a football field.
The knock on Michigan DT Alan Branch is that he lacks consistency and his motor is a question. Do you see that as a problem? Also what makes him different than another BIG 10 tackle who busted in Jimmy Kennedy?
Rob: No, I don't see it as a problem. Guys that size are always going to get the knock of not giving 100% on every play. I can see the comparison to Kennedy. Physically, they are similar builds. Branch has quicker feet, however. Most importantly, Branch is impressing scouts in interviews with his passion and dedication. Kennedy raised more questions than answers during this time, precipitating his fall down the board. I see Branch as a top 10 pick. Size, strength, foot quickness. He'll never produce big numbers. That isn't his value. His value is taking up blockers, ala Ted Washington.
What teams in the top ten realistically need Alan Branch? Is he looked at as a more of a NT (as hes touted) or a DT that can fit any scheme?
Rob: Cleveland, Washington, Arizona, arguably Miami and Atlanta.
Is Jarrett a legit 1st round prospect. What pick range would warrant his selection? Who does he remind you of in the NFL?
Rob: I compare Jarrett to Keyshawn Johnson. Like Johnson, Jarrett lacks vertical speed, but his size, leaping ability, body control, and hands, allow him to "post up" better than any other receiver in this draft. The comparisons will be made to Mike Williams, but Jarrett is quicker, though not necessarily faster. This quickness, however, will allow him more ability to gain separation from NFL DBs. I see him as being a viable prospect anywhere from Carolina with the #14 pick to Chicago at #31.
Do you think Sidney Rice could be a target of the 49ers in round 2? If so, how do you think he will fit in? Is there any possibility that we trade down from our 2nd rounder this year?
Rob: I think Rice should be a target of any team looking for pure hands. That said, Rice isn't particularly fast and that will cause him to drop a bit, quite likely into and perhaps even through the 2nd round. I don't see him as a particularly good fit for the 49ers in the 2nd round, unless they do elect to trade down (which I don't anticipate happening with 8 possible picks already in the top 4 rounds). I see Anthony Gonzalez and Craig Davis from LSU as better fits. I think there is a better chance the 49ers trade up than down due to the number of picks they have and the holes they're filling through free agency.
What round is LSU WR Dwayne Bowe going to be drafted in and are the Niners interested in him?
Rob: Absolutely first round prospect. I have him as the 2nd best receiver in this draft. He isn't a classic burner, so I don't know that the 49ers are as high on him as I am. That said, he was a man amongst boys throughout the Senior Bowl, which the 49ers obviously coached, so I'm sure he is on their radar. I currently have Bowe landing with Carolina at #14.
We've heard a lot about the 1st round prospects, but what are some of the best 2nd and 3rd round prospects that fill our needs?
Rob: Let me give 3 at each of the 3 positions I see as the 49ers biggest current needs: NG, DE, and WR.
NG: (North Carolina State’s) Tank Tyler (2nd), (California’s) Brandon Mebane (2nd-3rd) and (Florida’s) Marcus Thomas (3rd).
DE: (Florida’s) Ray McDonald (2nd), (Hawaii’s) Ikaika Alama-Francis (2nd), (Oklahoma State’s) Ryan McBean (3-4).
WR: (LSU’s) Craig Davis (2nd), (Ohio State’s) Anthony Gonzalez (2nd), and (USC’s) Steve Smith (2nd). ##
What is your opinion on New Mexico OLB Quincey Black and Michigan ILB David Harris? Where do you see them going in the draft?
Rob: Two very different players. Black is all athlete and an improving football player. Lots of upside, but needs to add strength and play with better read and reaction. Harris is a classic inside linebacker with good instincts, size, and strength. He can take on blockers and shed to make the play on the inside, but may lack the preferred speed for a 4-3 mike position. I like him in the 3-4. We have Harris as a 2nd-3rd round pick (I, personally, see him closer to 3rd than 2nd) and Black as a 4th-5th rounder.
Who is the next Marquest Colston in this draft?
Rob: Tough question because there have been very few 7th round wideouts to have the impact Colston had as a rookie. That said, three small school receivers that I really believe can play at the NFL level are: David Ball from New Hampshire, Jacoby Jones from Lane, and Tymere Zimmerman from Newberry.
I know we have touched on these a bit already, but fans just can't get enough. So to round out the chat, can you talk a little bit more about: 1) Changing priorities due to free agent signings and the release of Antonio Bryant. 2) The top NT's in the draft, specifically Branch and Carriker, and there availability at #11. 3) The 3-4 DE's playing OLB, and whether we look that way early (Michigan DE LaMarr Woodley info wanted).
Rob: Sure. I see the 49ers priorities in free agency now going to the defensive line. It will be tough to find a nose guard in this draft, unless the team loves Okoye in this role or are willing to pony up the picks it will take to trade up for Branch. I see the 49ers' priorities being NG, DE, WR, OLB, ILB for the remainder of free agency and the draft. The release of Bryant is an interesting one. The team is very high on Battle and feels that Brandon Williams has a chance to shine as a slot/return guy. This is a big need, in my opinion, but not necessarily one that you want to push onto a rookie, regardless of how high he is drafted. Branch will be long gone at #11. Carriker will still be around, but I expect him to be taken anywhere from #11 to #18. Just too good of a football player to fall far. He would be the perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end. Won't generate much in terms of sacks, tackles, but will play a key role in defense's development. I like LaMarr Woodley. His inability to finish up the Senior Bowl due to an injury (hamstring, I believe) and workout at the Combine has him sliding a bit. I could see him slip sliding all the way to the 49ers in the second round -- where he'd be a steal. Short, but a damn good football player and versatile enough to play DE in 4-3 or OLB in 3-4.
Special thanks goes to Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout for taking the time out of his busy schedule to attend this chat session. Thanks to Bryan Hersh of 49ersparadise.com for managing the chat and keeping it organized.