I am absolutely obsessed with the NFL Draft. My friends mock me constantly. I even mentioned it in a job interview a few years ago; I told them that I never work on that weekend. So having two first rounders this year has me in a state of bliss. I have been thinking about these picks for months now, and I have been reading every article I can get my hands on. With that in mind, I thought I would give my opinion on the players that have been rumored to be our picks. Here's my take:
OT: It's widely assumed that Russell Okung will be a top 5 pick, but needless to say if he were available, we would snatch him up. Brian Bulaga and Trent Williams seem to have taken over the 2nd and 3rd spots and they may be gone before 13 as well. Bulaga raised some flags with his thyroid condition this season, but those concerns seem to be quelched. Williams struggled on the Left side, but his athleticism and attitude have some scouts believing he can be "coached up" for LT. I believe any of these three guys, if available, will be the pick at 13.
Bruce Campbell will not be the pick. He is a workout warrior and may turn into a good OT, but the niners want a guy that could play this year. Campbell is just too raw. He may beat the rap of "looks like tarzan, plays like Jane", but he will need experience. We don't have time to wait for a rookie to develop while letting our QB suffer the consequences.
Anthony Davis is an enigma. There is no denying he has talent. At one point he was in a dead heat with Okung for best OT in the draft. Weight and attitude concerns have him in a free fall on draft boards, but Singletary isn't afraid of motivating players. If he is convinced that he can get the best out of Davis I could see them taking him. If Sing could get the best out of him he could possibly play LT and move Staley to the right side. I'm up in the air about this one.
OLB: The names that have been floating around are Brandon Graham, JPP, Sergio Kindle, and Jerry Hughes. I think Graham will be the best of the bunch and the only one worthy of being considered at 13 or 17. JPP is a physical freak, but the knock on him is his ability to drop into coverage and fight off blocks to stop the run. With that said, I don't believe this is a position that will be considered in the first round. The team improved its pass rush considerably this season and the coaches are very excited about what Brooks might bring to the table next season. Given that Brooks and Lawson are in the final year of their contracts, I believe the team will want to see what they have and not stunt the growth of their emerging OLBs by having to get a rookie on the field. I would rather they take a look at a developmental prospect like Schofield later in the draft.
CB: Plenty of people on the board are clamoring for Joe Haden, and considering the undue emphasis placed on 40 times, he might be available. While I don't put any stock in his slow time, I still say we pass on him. His game film shows he is a good corner, but not great. Spencer and Clements are entrenched as the starters next year, and if you are going to invest a 1st round pick in a CB you want to be assured of his greatness. Haden would, at best, be a nickel corner, and probably not even that since Brown is highly regarded and gained valuable experience last season. Kyle Wilson might be a better value pick. Even though he wouldn't crack the starting lineup right away, he might be the returner that the team is looking for; if Singletary is convinced that he is their guy for KR/PR, he might be the guy at 17.
S: Eric Berry is assumed to be gone in the top 7 at least. If he began to fall I would love to see us go get him, but I don't think thats likely. That said, the only other guy being discussed for us would be Earl Thomas. The guy has undeniable coverage skill, some have even said he could move to CB, but his size is the question. I love the idea of having a ballhawk at FS freeing up Goldson to be closer to the line of scrimmage. That would give us two safeties with coverage skills, something we haven't really had since Hanks/McDonald, but is Goldson ready to make another change? Wouldn't this also mean that the team has given up on Reggie Smith and Curtis Taylor? I wouldn't hate picking Thomas, but it would raise some questions. I think the team would be better off getting a guy in the 3rd round that could learn while Lewis remains the starter.
RB: This position begins and ends with Spiller in the 1st round. I'll admit it. I'm on the Spiller bandwagon. His potential as a returner is mouthwatering. Frank Gore is unquestionably the man here and I believe Coffee will get better and better next season, but if one of those guys goes down, we don't have much behind them. Robinson is a ST ace, but he isn't much of a ball carrier. We need a third guy that can step in and carry the load if needed. When Gore went down last year Coffee was decent, but the running game would have done much better if they had a second guy to pick up some carries. I do believe Spiller could be an option IF Rathman believes he can pick up blitzers. I would jump for joy.
OG: Again, this position offers only one player worthy of a 1st round selection. Iupati is considered one of the best OG prospects to come out of college. The idea of moving him to OT is premature. Keep the guy at the position where he has been dominant. Some people think the team's interest in Chester Pitts means that we wouldn't be interested in Iupati. I disagree; Pitts has the ability to play OT and would be in the race for RT. Iupati would be Baas' replacement. I say, hell yeah let's take him. He's a mauler that can move. I think Rachal will be a much improved player this year and Heitmann is quite solid in the middle. Put Iupati on his left and the interior is secure. Why not solidfy a position that has been a problem for 8 years? Sure, a 1st round guard is against the grain, but not having to worry about a position for the next ten years is worth it.
ILB: Rolando McClain is a stud. People think he was the beneficiary of an NFL caliber DL. Yes, he was, but so the hell what. He's an instinctual player with leadership skills. That being said, I don't want us to pick him. TKO is the starter at the Ted which means McClain would be a STer with the occasional down played. Is that what we want from a first teamer next year? It would be much easier to find a guy in the later rounds to learn from TKO. Having McClain do that job would be like entering a new BMW in a demolition derby.
NT: I hope that Franklin builds on last year and earns a long term contract, but if that doesn't happen, we need a plan B. Sopoaga can't play NT. Balmer might be able to do it in a few years, but he needs to get healthy and prove he can earn his way on the field. Two players stand out as possibilities: Mt. Cody and Dan Williams. Mt. Cody's weight issues and stamina have been well documented, and for those reasons I don't think he's the guy. I could be wrong, but I jsut don't see him being much more than a serviceable NT. Dan Williams, however, has shown an ability to get upfield as well as plug the middle. I think our defense needs a NT that can occassionally move. Williams is huge and somewhat mobile. I think there is a distinct possibility that he gets picked at 17. I think 13 is too high for an immediate back-up, but it is a position that we have struggled with until last season.
So, in summary here are my guys:
Yes: Okung, Bulaga, Trent Williams, Thomas, Iupati, Spiller, and Dan Williams
No: Bruce Campbell, Joe Haden, Rolando McClain, Brandon Graham, JPP, Sergio Kindle, Jerry Hughes, and Mt. Cody
Maybe: Anthony Davis and Kyle Wilson