The 49ers replace a "Hitner" with a cannon—Deone Bucannon, that is.
Trent Baalke will have two second-rounders at his disposal already, via the Alex Smith deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, so they can move up to the top of the round and pick one of the top defensive players left on the board in the Cougars' safety.
Whatever route they go with safety Donte Whitner, either tagging the soon-to-be 29-year-old or letting him walk, the 49ers will need a game-ready safety with enough upside to succeed Whitner
His game has shades of Whitner's, but he's better in coverage, making him a perfect long-term fit next to Eric Reid.
Bucannon (6'1", 198 lbs) is unanimously the No. 1-rated strong safety this year.
The four-year player for Washington State was not just a tenacious hitter, piling up 170 pad-cracking takedowns in 45 games, but Bucannon also accrued a whopping 15 interceptions, picking off more balls each season. This is an ascending player, and he is NFL-ready.
With that nasty streak, he's got 49er written all over him.
*SS-The Pick (2):Ahmad Dixon (SS) Baylor
While not as physically impressive or rangy as Deone Bucannon, Baylor's Ahmad Dixon remains a top prospect at the position and be moldable within the 49ers' defensive system.
After all, he's versatile and has a mind for coverage. Crafting his game as a four-year player for Baylor, he tried his hand at both nickelback and safety and eventually evolved into an All-Big 12 and first-team All-American selection.
However, he had just four interceptions in his lengthy playing career (15 pass deflections).
If the Niners were to invest another high pick in a safety, ball skills seem like a must, especially with the teams that they'll seeing by season's end.
But like 49ers safety Eric Reid, that is something that can always develop at the next level, so it's not condemning of Dixon. And at 6'0", 205 pounds, he has the dimensions, athleticism and fearlessness to charge up and make the tackle, having piled up 288 in 47 games (38 starts) with the Bears.
*SS-The Pick (3):Sean Parker (SS) Washington Huskies
SS Sean Parker (5-10, 192, 4.55):
One of the most instinctive players in the country, Parker isn't usually the biggest or fastest player on the field, he's just usually the best.
He has the knack for being in the right place at the right time, and adjusts well to a ball in the air.He's a physical safety that is excellent in run support as well. He lacks ideal measureables, but seems to make a play whenever he's needed
Parker may look the part of his former role as Washington's nickel back, the hard-hitter has quietly developed into one of the better all-around safeties in the Pac-12. Parker has started each of the past two seasons at safety for the Huskies, recording an average of 84 tackles a year and has 10 turnovers during that time (seven interceptions, three forced fumbles)
*CB-The Pick(1) Stanley Jean Baptiste (CB) Nebraska
Physicality and Aggression: The league is shifting toward admiring lengthier, more physical cornerbacks and Jean-Baptiste certainly fits the bill. At the line of scrimmage, his punch is devastating and it redirects receivers' routes, delaying the play, and forcing the quarterback to look elsewhere for an open target.
If a quarterback decides to test him, Jean-Baptiste has the mentality and ball skills to track the football in the air and attack before others have a fair shot at it. He is instinctively aggressive to the football. When he is defending the run, Jean-Baptiste embodies the same physicality. As a tackler, he can improve, but in terms of willingness and ability to handle blocks, Jean-Baptiste is as impressive as one can get.
Fluidity: Being as tall as he is, one may assume that Jean-Baptiste would be rather sluggish or clunky in his movements. Oddly enough, he is incredibly fluid for his size, or any size, for that matter. For a cornerback, Jean-Baptiste is built like a tank, but he does not move like it. When flipping his hips, he does so ever so smoothly and does not waste any movements. He turns and sticks with his man. Change in direction is not an issue for Jean-Baptiste. When accounting for his length along with his ability to keep tight to speed demons that are not burning down the sideline, Jean-Baptiste has the tool set to cover just about anyone in the NFL.
Long Speed: Despite his stunning fluidity and short area movements, Jean-Baptiste can fall behind to the speed freaks of the NFL. Now, that does not mean that receivers can just run a streak and beat him every time, but if they happen to create even the slightest amount of north-south space between themselves and Jean-Baptiste, the receiver wins the battle much more often than not. The issue is not Jean-Baptiste getting beat initially. That is a rarity. Although, once he is beaten, there is no recovery and the play could end disastrously for the defense. Long speed is Jean-Baptiste's only overly glaring flaw, but it is a deadly one.
Ball Skills: While four interceptions this past season may not stand out in a big way, just looking at that one stat is misleading. But when you consider in the entire 2013 season, opposing quarterbacks threw Desir's way just 14 times. So on 14 attempts his way, Desir picked off four passes and deflected eight more. Quarterbacks stopped throwing in Desir's direction in large part because of his 25 career interceptions in four seasons.
On the few occasions the ball is thrown his way, Desir does an excellent job using his long arms and quick reaction have made him such a great ball hawk. Desir's athleticism is just another plus in this area in making his ball skills exceptional.
Size: As wide receivers entering the NFL become bigger and faster, more teams are starting to look towards the Seattle Seahawks method of scouting. With Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Byron Maxwell all 6'0" or taller. Now more teams are starting to take taller cornerbacks and that's a plus for Desir who is 6'1".
Desir can use his size and length to match up against the bigger wide receivers at the next level and has the frame to add even more weight to improve and become an even more physical corner. Desir never missed a game in college and should also offer a clean bill of health heading into the NFL Scouting Combine.
Run Defense: This is in part something that we didn't get to see a lot of this year because he primarily was shutting down wide receivers, but Desir needs to show more aggressiveness against the run. At times you will see him stay engaged with the block and never disengage until the running back is away and the play is over. NFL teams are looking for all-around corners who are stout in coverage and good versus the run, but Desir still has plenty to prove in terms of his ability to consistently come up and make plays on the running back.
Level of Competition: There are always some people who question prospects who play in the American Athletic Conference (ACC) or even just any conference not named the Southeastern Conference (SEC). So Desir will face some serious skepticism by some coming from a Division II college where few players succeed at the NFL and the competition he faced was less than stellar. The jump from a major college program to the NFL is a big one but it's an enormous leap from Division II to the NFL. He will have a great chance to prove he can cover some of the best wide receiver prospects in drills and at the combine but there will still be some who question if he can make the jump to the NFL.
*CB-The Pick(3) Aaron Colvin (Oklahoma)
Colvin thrives on his length and physicality in coverage. He has long arms and isn't afraid to bump receivers as he runs with them down the field. That physicality translate to run defense, where Colvin is not afraid to stick his nose in and make plays. He's a sound tackler for the most part and closes on the ball in a hurry.
Given the amount of experience he has at both safety and cornerback, Colvin's ability to read a quarterback's eyes and recognize route patterns should come as no surprise. Some of his best plays in 2012 came as a result of his anticipating routes and breaking on the football. His ball skills are solid, partly due to his physical style. He attacks the football at its highest point and doesn't often get outmuscled for the football.
What he needs to improve on: A lot of Colvin's technical flaws point to him being a better safety in the NFL than cornerback. He isn't the quickest at changing direction, despite his ability to anticipate and react. His feet just aren't the quickest in coverage and he lacks straight-line speed to recover once he's been beat. This was most evident against West Virginia's Stedman Bailey, who is not a burner by any means but a fabulous route runner. Bailey exploited Colvin for his lack of quickness and was able to get behind him on multiple occasions.
Colvin is a physical player, but when playing close to the line of scrimmage, he needs to use his hands to get a better jam on receivers. Without the fluid hips and recovery speed, the jam becomes all the more important. Considering the physicality he shows downfield, which could be an issue for him in the NFL, he shouldn't have a problem attacking more at the snap.
Bottom line: Oklahoma's secondary will lean on Colvin's skill set and experience. He's versatile, and that will intrigue NFL teams. But he's not the top senior at his position at this point in the process. Colvin was wise to return for his senior season. He will either iron out some of the deficiencies he's shown as a cornerback or be viewed more as a safety heading into the NFL, which may not be the worst thing for his future.
1. Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State Seminoles)
2. Brandin Cooks (Oregon state)
3.Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)
1) Bryan Stork (Florida State)
2) Travis Swanson (Arkansas)
1)Cyril Richardson (Baylor)
2)Gabe Jackson(Mississippi State)
3)Brandon Thomas (Clemson)
1)Timmy Jernigan (Florida State)
2)Stephon Tuit (Notre Dame)
3)Dominique Easley (Florida)
[ Edited by BermudaTriangle49er on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:30 PM ]