1. Jesse Williams-NT-Alabama, 6-4 323 4.94
Williams helped anchor a nasty Alabama 3-4 defense that has performed at a high level for years in the SEC. He's surprisingly athletic for a big man and it's a given that he has been well-taught coming from a Saban-lead team running that 3-4 system at Alabama. I do not think the addition of Glen Dorsey changes our need for a nose tackle of the future and Williams is one of, if not the best of the bunch in this class. When we needed a pass-rusher, Baalke went and nabbed Aldon Smith. We need a NT now because we lost our starter AND our backup NT. I think our first pick has to be DL or secondary, and if Williams is still on the board, I think it will be him.
2. Eric Reid-FS-LSU, 6-1 213 4.53
After Vaccaro, I like Reid better than any of the other safety propsects because he brings a balanced game of coverage skills and run support that I think are lacking in many of the other safety prospects. The kid plays fast and tackles with power. The difference I see in Reid compared to the majority is that he typically does not get pushed back. I think the 49ers are looking for players with great football instincts and that is what Reid possesses. He is a player who is strong on the tackle and does a good job of putting himself in good position to make plays. Overall, he's simply a playmaker, and a guy who would fit well on this team.
2. Darius Slay-CB-Mississippi State, 6-0 192 4.36
The Niners like speed and quickness with their corners and that's something that Slay has got. Despite playing in the shadow of Jonathan Banks, Slay broke out in his senior year and capped it off with a solid combine. The 49ers secondary faltered late in the season and with Carlos Rogers not getting any younger, the team needs to plan ahead. Slay is seen as a fairly high-upside player and he brings kick-return experience that the 49ers would value. I can see them pulling the trigger on a player like him here.
3. Brian Schwenke-C/OG-California, 6-3 314 4.99
Schwenke brings a wealth of versatility and experience with him as a prospect and scouts rave about his short-area quickness and balance to fend off bull-rushing defenders. Additionally, Schwenke is lauded for his football smarts and recognition of what opposing defenses are trying to do. He made all the line calls for Cal this year and I think that's something the Niner scouts and GM will highly value. He has experience at all three interior line positions and has all the tools to be a successful NFL OL. Even with Looney and Kilgore waiting in the wings as Goodwin ages, for a team with few glaring needs, you have to draft to keep your talent arsenal in tact, so you take the best player there and Schwenke could be that guy.
3. Travis Kelce-TE-Cincinnati, 6-5 255 4.68
Due to the abdominal injury, Kelce has been limited this off-season, but his play this year is hard to ignore. Eight touchdowns and 700+ yards receiving as a starter have made teams take notice of this athletic tight end prospect. If the 49ers want to replace Walker's blocking while upgrading receiving skills, Kelce would be a good choice. Not only does he have better hands, his 6-5 height is far more imposing than Delanie's 6-0. There's a chance he goes a bit higher than this, but if on the board, the kid would help make our offensive explosive while giving us another strong weapon in the red zone.
4. Bennie Logan-DE-LSU, 6-2 309 5.08 *
You may ask, why wait until round 4 to address the DE position? Well, with the pursuit of Israel Idonije and the signing of Glenn Dorsey, something tells me the Niners are not all that crazy about the DE prospects in this draft outside of the 1st round players that they probably don't expect to fall to them. Instead I think they'll be content to wait for a player with upside they can develop, and here's one of them. Logan, who enters this draft as an underclassman, was praised for his work ethic and consistent play throughout the 2012 season. Other flashier players on the LSU team may have gotten more attention, but Logan quietly did a very good job. He is a long-armed defender that uses his length well to keep offensive linemen off of him and free himself to make plays at the line. This is a quality the Niners absolutely love to see and was one of the things they noted that gained their attention on Aldon Smith. Logan is better in the run game than pass-rushing, but I think the Niners' confidence in developing players could have them picking a guy like Logan here.
4. Gerald Hodges-LB-Penn State, 6-1 243 4.78
I think the team's signing of Dan Skuta was its way of replacing Blake Costanzo, which we didn't really do last year. I think in this draft they will look for a Larry Grant replacement. I don't think Skuta or Wilhoite could be counted on to backup either Willis or Grant, so I expect us to get someone in the draft who can do that and Hodges seems like a good pick. From what I've seen of Hodges, he makes me think he's a poor man's Navorro Bowman, as he shows great play recognition and can cover well, as well as stick his nose in on running plays to blow things up. Some projections have Hodges going as late as the early 5th, but I think there's a chance he goes as high as the 3rd. I'm putting him in the middle here with the thought that I think we could certainly be looking at a guy like this who could help us in several areas.
5. Chase Thomas-OLB-Stanford, 6-3 244 4.91
Thomas' measurables do not jump out on paper but his play in games does. The difference with him in the game is noticeable and this kid is very solid in his technique and possesses outstanding football smarts. Chase is just an all-around good football player who plays tough, disciplined ball. I think the Niners will look for depth at this position with the uncertainty of Fleming and Haralson both coming off season-ending injuries. Thomas, Harbaugh, and Fangio are all familiar with each other so the selection here would make a lot of sense.
5. Reid Fragel-OT-Ohio State, 6-8 308 5.14
The trend continues with the team looking at strong, athletic lineman to use in their system that involves a lot of pulling and trapping in the run game. Fragel, like Joe Staley, was a former tight end who still has a lot of upside to his game -- and we know how Baalke loves that. The 49ers need some depth at tackle, as they lack much behind starters Staley and Davis and Fragel has experience at both sides of the line. Fragel is going to need a lot of coaching because he's very raw right now, but I would venture to say that Baalke seems confident enough in our staff to take a player like this here and expect to develop them into someone who is starter-worthy.
6. Marquess Wilson-WR-Washington State, 6-3 194 4.51
I think the Niners, seeing Wilson's talent, will overlook the alleged character questions surrounding him. Wilson may not have blinding speed, but he still is a deep threat and a natural pass-catcher, which is something the 49ers need considering there is no guarantee that Jenkins becomes anything noteworthy after a forgettable 2012 season (Plus Manningham is not expected to be ready yet by the start of the season). In a nutshell, Wilson would provide the team with a tall pass-catcher who runs smooth routes and still has some upside to his game.
7. Cody Davis-SS-Texas Tech, 6-2 204 4.41
Good developmental defensive back who would immediately bring something to the ST's unit, but has more potential to develop into a solid player on defense than Colin Jones did when he was drafted. Davis is a skilled player that just needs time to adjust to the NFL.
7. Joe Kruger-DE-Utah, 6-6 270 4.83 *
The Niners clearly need DL depth and I think Kruger would be a strong developmental player to give Jim Tomsula to work with. Kruger is a high-motor, relentless player who at the very least would likely be a player who helps collapse the pocket or occupy blockers in the run game.
7. Reggie Dunn-WR/KR-Utah, 5-10 172 4.38
Dunn may not provide much as a receiver, but he set NCAA records for return touchdowns in college, earning him All-American and 1st-team All-PAC 12 honors as a kick-returner. I don't think we'd be opposed to using a flier on a record-setting returner since we need to replace Ted Ginn in that area, and Williams and James are question marks (on punt returns in particular).
7. Vernon Kearney-CB-Lane (TN), 6-1 175 4.47
Like always, you have to throw in a small-schooler with potential since there's always one of those in a Baalke draft. Kearney turned heads in the small-school all star games and is considered a late-round prospect now. Word is that he has top-notch coverage skills and excellent speed breaking on the ball. The only thing really hurting him is his weight and level of competition.
Quick look training camp depth chart at key positions:
WR: Crabtree, Boldin, Williams, Jenkins, Wilson*, Dunn*, Manningham (injured)
TE: Davis, Kelce*
OT: Staley, Davis, Fragel*
C: Goodwin, Schwenke*
OG: Iupati, Boone, Looney, Kilgore
FS: Reid*, Spillman, McBath
SS: Whitner, Dahl, Robinson, Davis*
CB: Rogers, Brown, Culliver, Slay*, Cox, Brock, Kearney*
LB: Aldon Smith, Brooks, Willis, Bowman, Haralson, Fleming, Thomas*, Hodges*, Skuta, Wilhoite, Cam Johnson
DL: Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Glenn Dorsey, Jesse Williams*, Logan*, Demarcus Dobbs, Joe Kruger*, Ian Williams
[ Edited by OnTheClock on Mar 23, 2013 at 9:12 PM ]