Some of the beat writers are putting together a little contest (NO MONEY IS AT STAKE AT ALL, NO SIR) where the object is to predict as many of the 49ers’ upcoming nine draft picks (or whatever they end up with) as possible. Uh oh, was I not supposed to mention this publicly? Great, now I have to worry about Matt Maiocco chasing after me with a trident the next time I see him. Oh well, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Since this is a lot of work for someone who admittedly doesn’t do a lot of draft research throughout the year, the work I did this week is going to produce this post. It’s the least I could do, since I’m not going to win this contest. Matt Barrows is kind of a wizard with this kind of stuff — I don’t have much of a chance of beating the guy whose 2013 “Draft crush,” Tank Carradine, was actually chosen by the 49ers.
There are so many Trent Baalke draft strategies we’ve come to know and love: Long arms, big hands, recent ACL tears, plus an expect-the-unexpected-in-the-first-round element (except when they drafted Eric Reid to replace Dashon Goldson). But my intuition tells me the 49ers will attack this draft with two ideas in mind.
1. Run the ball. 2. Stop the run. That doesn’t mean they won’t address needs at wide receiver and cornerback, but after losing Mike Iupati, Frank Gore, Ray McDonald, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and possibly Justin Smith over the last year, they have a lot of work to do to maintain any sort of run-dominance on either side of the ball.
First round (15): DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State (6-4, 336)
A former teammate of Tank Carradine, Goldman has the arm length (33 1/8″) and hand size (10 1/8″) Trent Baalke likes, plus he’s just a large human being in general. Goldman is a run-stopper with “no pet move to create an opening” according to NFL.com, which also notes that he “plays the run like a full-grown man.” Sounds like a perfect project for Jim Tomsula.
If not Goldman: Marcus Peters or
La’el Collins Ereck Flowers … NOT Arik Armstead
Second round (46): ILB Denzel Perryman, Miami (5-11, 236)
An aggressive, physical tackler (110 in 2014, and 22 for loss in three seasons) who some consider to be too short to succeed at the next level. Hmmm … sounds familiar! Rob Rang says Perryman is “arguably the best traditional Mike ‘backer in the draft.” That’s the same position Patrick Willis played when he was paired with NaVorro Bowman.
If not Perryman: Bernardrick McKinney, Paul Dawson, Danielle Hunter
Third round (79): WR Chris Conley, Georgia (6-2, 213)
Conley ran a 4.35 40-yard dash and had the best vertical jump (45″) and broad jump (139″) of any wideout at the combine, where he also hurt his stock by dropping too many passes. Baalke hasn’t had much luck with regular-sized receivers in previous drafts, so a big guy with crazy athleticism AND long arms (33 3/4″) would be a welcome change of pace. He’s also pretty smart (SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year) and kind of a nerd (no offense intended, but he “wrote and directed his own Star Wars fan film featuring Georgia teammates, students and head coach Mark Richt”).
Fourth round (126): OT Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin (6-7, 321)
What are the chances of the 49ers making the 126th overall pick? 20%? It seems like with two fourth round picks so close together, Baalke will trade either one or both of them, possibly to move into the third round or something. Anyway, the 49ers would get a guy who opened up a ton of holes for Melvin Gordon if they stay in this slot and draft Havenstein. He’s probably a guard in the NFL, but he played tackle in college and could possibly contribute as a swing tackle or even as a starter at right tackle down the road.
Fourth round (132): CB Steven Nelson, Oregon State (5-10, 197)
I thought the 49ers might go with a cornerback as early as round one. However, for whatever reason I changed my mind after doing some research on these prospects and decided that they’d end up going with what they have while adding a mid-round guy like Nelson, who’s physical and defensed 16 passes in the last two seasons.
Fifth round (151): RB Mike Davis, South Carolina (5-9, 217)
Maybe after getting a glowing report from Marcus Lattimore on Davis’ skills and work ethic, the 49ers will take Davis. That is, unless they take Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne or David Cobb out of Minnesota. This running back class is fairly deep, and it’ll be a bit of a crapshoot in the middle rounds as teams try and figure out how to correctly value this position. Davis played at 225 in 2014, and played through a rib injury while accumulating 982 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground and 368 yards and two more scores as a receiver out of the backfield. He rushed for 1,182 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013.
Sixth round (190): OLB Max Valles, Virginia (6-5, 251)
49ers try to find the next Aaron Lynch with a raw, athletic player who had nine sacks in 2014, his redshirt sophomore season. He’ll need coaching, but the 49ers would probably rather take a gamble on a guy who looks the part with rough edges than a middling athlete who might be a more finished product. Valles also had eight pass breakups in 2014, which means he’s pretty good at swatting throws at the line of scrimmage.
Seventh round (246): QB Cody Fajardo, Nevada
I wrote about the 49ers possibly taking Fajardo back in February. His stats were surprisingly similar to his predecessor, Colin Kaepernick, as the two are the only quarterbacks in Division I history to throw for 9,000 yards and rush for 3,000. Kaepernick is bigger, stronger and more dynamic as a runner, while Fajardo completed a higher percentage of his passes.
Seventh round (254): CB Tray Walker, Texas Southern (6-2, 187)
Walker is a tall, press-type corner with long arms who’ll get a lot of attention from teams if he doesn’t get drafted.
Surprise, surprise — no Washington Huskies (although Marcus Peters could go to the 49ers in the first round, and if Shaq Thompson falls to San Francisco in the second, who knows). Also … no ACL guys! Baalke doesn’t have the luxury of waiting multiple years for his vision to come together, or at least that’s how I’m feeling before this draft. I’ve never been a fan of the whole “redshirt” thing, so watch Baalke grab three guys over the weekend who’ll get stashed on injury lists before hitting the field, proving me 100% wrong in the process. That’s OK, I’m prepared for my draft predictions to be met with the same percentage of incorrectness.