We all have draft crushes. Every year we settle on one and watch the draft, nervously anticipating where they’ll land. Of course, we don’t really watch the draft anymore, at least not in a literal sense. If you have a Twitter account, television’s draft coverage is pretty much background noise for Twitter-refreshing fingertips. Have things changed this year? It might behoove ESPN and NFL Network to go live, because last year insiders were nearly five minutes ahead of the TV side.
Then there’s Trent Baalke. Draft crushes were easy before Baalke because the 49ers used to be all too predictable in their draft process. For example, Michael Crabtree was an obvious choice in 2009. But since drafting Aldon Smith in the first round of 2011 and AJ Jenkins 30th overall in 2012, it has become pretty difficult to predict anything the 49ers’ general manager will do, let alone commit to one player.
Last year, my draft crush was Coby Fleener. I was so excited when he slipped to the 30th overall pick; I didn’t think he’d be there for the 49ers. Then Baalke made us all whiff, drafting AJ Jenkins and, well, the rest is history (just not the good kind).
This year, my draft crush isn’t even a first-rounder. I’m a big fan of Zach Ertz (naturally), but a.) it seems too obvious and b.) there are more pressing needs. I wouldn’t be mad at the 49ers trading up to get Tavon Austin, but again it would be neglecting the more pressing needs at defensive line and safety.
And that’s where I think the 49ers will go in the first round. “Who” is the part I don’t know. I’ll let Baalke do his thing, but the player I can’t live without is…
If you follow me on Twitter you know it. I wrote about it back in February, and I’ve been beating the idea to death ever since. Lattimore could end up being the biggest bargain in this draft. Had it not been for two devastating knee injuries, Lattimore would have been the top running back on the board and he probably would have gone in the first 15 picks. Of course, his latest injury was the most devastating the NCAA has seen in a long time, so both his recovery and his immediate availability are in serious question.
The 49ers have the luxury to redshirt Lattimore and, believe it or not, they’ll have a need for a running back by the time he’s ready. I love Frank Gore as much as the next guy, but his decline is coming faster than we know. Once he’s gone, the 49ers will be trotting out two undersized backs in Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James. Their only big-bodied running back is Anthony Dixon, more famous for his tweets than his yards per carry average.
Baalke discussed the “three-headed monster” backfield in his pre-draft press conference. They have it in 2013 with Gore, Hunter and James, but who will play the role of Gore when the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher is gone?
It’s a risk, but it’s the same risk that paid off for San Francisco when they drafted Gore in 2005. Lattimore could be the 49ers’ next feature back, and if he’s there in the third round they could get him after drafting for the immediate needs they have on their roster.
Today’s contest question: Who is your draft crush?
Now it’s your turn. We’re running draft-related posts all week — yesterday’s asked what the 49ers will do in the draft, and now we want to know who your draft crush is.
Do you want Ertz or Lattimore? How about a wide receiver? Or are you more conventional, with a lineman or a safety in mind to solidify the defense?
Here’s your chance to document your crush to all of the BASG readers. Hell, if it comes true you can screenshot it and brag about the call to all your friends (I know if the 49ers draft Lattimore, I’ll be referring back to these posts frequently). In the process, you can win one of two 10-person pizza parties from Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria. So let us know! Who do you want the 49ers to draft most?