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New Mock Draft from The Athletic has 49ers Addressing the Lines of Scrimmage with Early Picks

Apr 8, 2024 at 10:03 AM

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Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic has released his three-round mock draft, complete with trades, as well as commentary on the first-round picks. Like previous mock drafts from writers at The Athletic, Baumgardner's has the Niners taking an offensive lineman in the first round. Baumgardner thinks the Niners will select Arizona offensive tackle Jordan Morgan with the No. 31 overall pick. Morgan, a 6-foot-6, 320-pound Senior, breaks the trend of Athletic writers mocking Georgia offensive lineman Amarius Mims to the Niners in the first round. In Baumgardner's mock draft, other offensive linemen such as Zach Frazier (West Virginia), Patrick Paul (Houston), Cooper Beebee (Kansas St.), and Kiran Amegadjie (Yale) remained available at pick 31.

Morgan would be a good fit in the Niners' offensive scheme. PFF has given every lineman drafted by the Niners since 2020 a high grade in zone blocking. Morgan fits the bill, grading out as one of the best zone blockers in the draft. He combines that with excellent grades in traditional run and pass blocking as well. Morgan's scouting report also makes him sound like a fit for the Niners. PFF says that Morgan is a "smooth-moving prospect" whose "track and field background gives him natural balance and core strength for good change-of-direction ability." That would fit right in with the Niners' current philosophy at O-line, where the team favors nimble, athletic linemen who can get to the second level in the run game, as opposed to bulky linemen who specialize in pass blocking. PFF also thinks Morgan may fit better at guard, because he can get overwhelmed by stronger edge rushers. That wouldn't be an issue for the Niners, however, who would be happy to have some help on the interior O-line.

Baumgardner thinks that the Niners will then reinforce the interior D-line in the second round. He has the team selecting defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus out of Oregon. A 6-foot-3, 290-pound Senior, Dorlus would fit the Niners' usual practice on the defensive line as he is a versatile, athletic lineman who can play both on the interior and as an edge rusher. His scouting report suggests that teams may want him to add some weight and move to the interior full-time, where he'd likely be more of a pass rusher than a pure run stopper. This tracks with the Niners' usual choices on the interior D-line, where the team has favored athletic pass-rushers over hulking run defenders. While fans may want the team to upgrade its run defense after that unit's poor performance last year, the Niners have showed no signs of changing course. The team traded for Maliek Collins to replace Arik Armstead, another defensive tackle who grades out much better rushing the passer than he does playing run defense.

Targeting the D-line also makes sense from a salary cap perspective. Leonard Floyd and Yetur Gross-Matos are both on two year deals, but both have team-friendly opt-outs after the first year. The contracts of Maliek Collins and Jordan Elliot are structured similarly, allowing the Niners to offload almost their entire salaries (with little to no dead money) after next year. Given that the Niners will be pressed for cap space in 2025, it makes sense to try to hit on a defensive lineman who would allow the Niners to opt-out of one or more of those contracts.

Lastly, Baumgardner has the Niners selecting Florida State wide receiver Johnny Wilson in the third round. Wilson is an absolutely massive receiver, standing 6-foot-7, and weighing 237 pounds. His "pterodactyl-like catch radius" comes with solid athleticism as well—he ran almost the same 40-yard dash time as Deebo Samuel (who stands only 6 feet tall). His scouting report also suggests that while his quickness off the line of scrimmage isn't the best, his stride length allows him to build up speed and separation when he has a full head of steam. That matches with Deebo, whose 40-yard dash time is nothing remarkable, but looks uncatchable when he gets space to move in-game. Wilson also excels at blocking in the run game, something the Niners value in wide receivers.

The big knock on Wilson is his drops, as he posted a drop rate of nearly 11% according to PFF. However, the Niners might not mind. The team already has three solid receivers, with George Kittle playing a large role in the passing game as well. This would allow Wilson to spend a year developing and learning before being thrown into the fire. After next year, Juan Jennings will be a free agent, and the Niners may have to trade either Deebo or Brandon Aiyuk for salary cap reasons. But with someone like Wilson, the Niners could have a receiver who's ready to come in and help reload the receiving core after a year as a backup.

You can read Baumgardner's full mock draft and analysis at The Athletic.
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