Draft grades are slowly starting to become clearer and clearer, although we still have All-Star games and the combine to come. There are some new names I expect to pop up at that time. Right now, I think most of us can agree the 49ers have pressing needs at OL, DB, OLB, and WR. It remains to be seen what we'll do in free agency, and I've seen everyone speculate that we'll sign a CB or WR in free agency, but there's no guarantee we decide to spend big. In any case, regardless of FA, competition brings out the best in players, and I wouldn't be surprised to see us go into the pre-season stacked at a couple positions. Anyways, here we go.
49ers to bring back:
QB Alex Smith - Goes without saying, really.
WR Morgan - Bring back one of the more trusted options by our QB.
WR Ginn - Valuable ST player. Don't overpay, but try to get him back.
CB Rogers - Best starting corner we have, currently. Lock him up for the near future.
FS Goldson - Franchise him if need be. We have no developing safeties and this year's FA and Draft crop are both weak. Next year's is quite good.
FS Spillman - Very valuable ST player and solid backup.
ILB Costanzo - Another valuable ST player.
OLB Brooks - he may not have all-star numbers, but he has very solid production and does a lot on the field that goes beyond the stats. He's very important to this team's defensive success.
49ers 2012 NFL Draft
1. Peter Konz-C-Wisconsin, 6-5 315 5.16
Konz is a guy that would immediately start on this team at RG, even if Snyder were to re-sign. I think the 49ers would have a hard time passing on a guy that could immediately upgrade one of the weakest areas of the team -- the interior of the line. How many times have we seen strong pass-rushing teams go right after the middle of our OL and blow up the center and RG for instantaneous sacks? Konz, bigger and stronger than Snyder, would stonewall such attacks. We are no longer a rebuilding team. Konz is the best center in this class and comes from a program that spits out some of the most well-coached and NFL ready linemen in the nation. He is a big reason that NFL prospects QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball are able to have the success they have.
2. Andre Branch-OLB-Clemson, 6-4 260 4.77
Branch I believe would be a strong target for the 49ers as he is somewhat similar to Aldon Smith in that he brings the versatility of playing down on the ground and standing up, and he plays with great length and leverage which helps him push back opposing linemen. At Clemson he has lined up both at DE and OLB, so unlike Aldon, he already has a fair amount of experience dropping into coverage. If we lose Brooks, we'll need another starter, and Branch is someone who would be able to contribute early. Even if Brooks stays, we still only have 3 OLB. Branch brings both run-stuffing and pass-rush ability. With our team in need of more pass-rushers (Haralson is mainly used on running downs), Branch would make sense for us. This year, he finished his stellar year with 17 TFL and 10.5 sacks with 1 FF.
3. Stephen Hill-WR-Georgia Tech, 6-4 206 4.57
What do pretty much all our WRs have in common? They can block like madmen. But what are they missing? Downfield playmaking ability and the size to outmatch and outleap corners or safeties. Hill is a strong blocker coming from a run-heavy triple-option Georgia Tech system and he will come to the NFL raw with a limited route tree, but like Demaryius Thomas, he has playmaking ability and the physical stature of an NFL receiver. Knowing our tendency to look at potential, it wouldn't surprise me if we looked to grab Hill because of him being a fit already for what we want to do in the run game. I could see us thinking he could bring us what Edwards wasn't able to in the passing game. Despite being in an extremely run heavy system with a QB that is nothing to write home about, Hill put up 820 yards and 5 TDs on 29 catches, for an eye-popping nearly 30 yard average per catch.
4. Ryan Steed-CB-Furman, 5-11 190 4.52
Okay, so I'm guessing not many have heard his name, but don't be shocked if he starts getting talked about much more in the near future. Steed has been a straight-up playmaker his entire career at Furman with back-to-back-to-back years with four interceptions and 14 for his career, 3 of which he returned for touchdowns. He also had 4 forced fumbles over the past three seasons. Steed has already garnered enough attention to warrant participation in the Senior Bowl, where he will get his chance to shine among the best Senior prospects this year. The 49ers have no qualms looking into small school talent (Kilgore, Person) so I would not be shocked to see them select Steed. At this point, other small-schooler Trumaine Johnson will likely no longer be available, as his 6-2 200+ size and speed combo and production at Montana has recently shot him up into 2nd round consideration. Steed may not have that size, but he has good speed and compares very closely to another top CB in this class -- Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward. Steed has been a consensus AP All American selection in back to back years.
5. Jaye Howard-DE-Florida, 6-3 303 5.02
Think Ray McDonald. SEC defensive players are always argued as the best in the nation, and Howard helps support that reputation. Explosive and versatile, Howard would help provide a strong rotation on our DL. Howard's play this year will be rewarded as he will get a chance to raise his stock in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. He finished this season with 10 TFL, 5.5 sacks, and 2 fumble recoveries (1 for a TD). If Howard is no longer available here, I would think Nevada DE Brett Roy should get STRONG consideration. Roy was a monster for Nevada (17.5 TFL, 10 sacks, 6 passes batted down) and could be considered a poor man's Justin Smith.
6. Robert Golden-FS-Arizona, 5-11 200 4.54
When you watch this kid play, you see a lot of WOW moments. Some are good "wow" .. some are bad "wow" .. His aggressive style can often pay those kinds of dividends. Golden is often considered overly aggressive which can lead to blown assignments. With proper teaching, he could become a really good player though, considering his violent hitting ability and sensational closing speed on the football. Golden would replace the versatility of Reggie Smith while at the same time being a tremendous upgrade in speed and tackling ability. He has starting experience at every position in the secondary, playing full seasons at free safety, corner, and strong safety at Arizona. Like Culliver, the 49ers could ultimately decide he should play CB instead of safety, but many scouts believe Golden's skill set suits him best where he can see the field in front of him. If you'd like to see some of the potential of Golden, you can view a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJ1DwLpfiuk
7. Micah Pellerin-CB-Hampton, 6-0 195 4.49
Another small school corner who has been a lights out player at his level. He's a D-I transfer (from Southern Miss), and put up 4 interceptions this year to go along with 15 PBU's, which marked back to back years of 14+ pass break-ups. This year he stepped up his game in run support, chipping in 4.5 tackles for loss as well. Pellerin's clear potential and skill set are unlikely to go unnoticed, especially when coupled with the fact that he has NFL size and speed at 6-0 195 and expectations of clocking in the 4.4's. His outstanding career has bought him a trip to the East-West Shrine All-Star game coming up here soon and Pellerin could go much, much higher than this if he performs well there.
Depth Chart Quick-look:
WR - Crabtree, Morgan, Hill*, Williams, Ginn
OG - Iupati, Konz, Kilgore, Person
C - Goodwin, Konz
DE - McDonald, J.Smith, Dobbs, Howard*
OLB - Brooks, Aldon, Haralson, Branch*
CB - Rogers, Culliver, Brown, Steed*, Pellerin*
FS - Goldson, Spillman, Golden*
SS - Whitner, Colin Jones