Sorry for the clickbait-y headline, but you know good and well that I have absolutely no idea. My predictive skills are comically shabby — on Saturday I wrote that Casey McGehee should go on the DL and would get a few days off, and he went 2-for-5 that evening — so 49ers fans should realize that it meant absolutely nothing when I predicted that the team would finish 6-10 this year. Now, it might mean something that bettors put huge cash on the “under” after seeing that Vegas had the 49ers at 8.5 wins, so much money that the O/U was dropped to 8, but the 49ers’ roster isn’t a finished product just yet. That’s where this week’s draft comes in.
Here’s what we do know: Trent Baalke will not pick Arik Armstead, simply because a staggering number of mockers have the 49ers taking the ginormous defensive lineman out of Oregon. He’s supposed to be more of a run-stopper, but just 87 tackles and four sacks in 39 games? Surely the 49ers can do better than a 6′ 8″ project with the 15th overall pick.
That being said, the 49ers are liable to do just about anything. They could trade up or back. They could take a wide receiver, something I have a difficult time envisioning after they went with Torrey Smith as their most expensive free agency purchase. They need a middle linebacker badly, they’re very unsettled at the cornerback position, etc. I’ve gone over the 49ers’ positional draft needs, and despite what Baalke might tell us, there are plenty of gaping holes on this roster. That’s a long way of saying they’ll go after the best available player. One guy away from Super Bowl contention, this team is not.
So let’s move on to draft crushes. Everyone has them, except for people who think it’s dumb to get so wrapped up in a neatly-packaged made-for-TV spectacle like the NFL Draft. I’m actually one of those people, but I get sucked in anyway. Besides, have you WATCHED the first round of the NBA Playoffs? Good for the Warriors that they got through with a sweep, but by and large these series have been nearly unwatchable. I tried to check out Hawks/Nets on Saturday, and doing so motivated me to wash some dishes and change my daughter’s diaper before it was even necessary. The NFL Draft is candy, and if there’s one thing I always say on this site and elsewhere, it’s that people will choose candy over vegetables nearly every time (myself included).
My problem is that I don’t watch an incredible amount of college football, and since I also do a hacktastic job covering MLB (OK, the Giants) and the NBA (OK, the Warriors), I don’t have time to be one of those YouTube scouts you see on Twitter. As a result, I don’t know Breshad Perriman’s catch radius, and I never will. My tried-and-true method is to latch onto guys I’ve seen play in actual games that jumped off the screen. It limits me mostly to Pac-12 guys, particularly Washington Huskies (my wife is a UW alum, and since I went to UCSC I’ve adopted them as my Division I team), along with whoever I watched during Bowl season.
*** No. 1 Draft Crush: Danny Shelton ***
Shelton’s arms aren’t as long as Baalke would probably like at 32 inches, but how many guys who weigh 340 pounds come through with nine sacks in a season? That’s what Shelton did as a senior, when he had 16.5 tackles for loss and treated offensive linemen like beanie babies. He’s a monster. He seemed bigger and stronger than everyone else in every game I watched, and since he did 34 bench reps (which put him in a three-way tie for second among all draft prospects), that was probably the case on most occasions.
The 49ers have never gotten far without dominant defensive line play. Now that they’re without Ray McDonald and possibly Justin Smith, they’re looking at an average d-line unless several things turn out well for them. Shelton is more of a nose tackle, but can the 49ers count on Glenn Dorsey (injured last year) and Ian Williams (always injured)? Shelton would make everyone’s jobs easier and looked like a future All-Pro, at least to me.
*** Draft Crush (might be crazy edition): Marcus Peters ***
“Doesn’t take coaching.” That’s probably not a good sign for teams looking at this corner from McClymonds High (Oakland) who got kicked off the Huskies by Chris Petersen, but he’s physical and he can cover. If the 49ers are going to take a risk in the first round, I’d go with Peters over Dorial Green-Beckham. Fans are in love with DGB, and he could be a good kid for all I know, but 237 pounds is kind of big for a wide receiver — if conditioning isn’t a priority, he seems like the kind of guy who could balloon, Mike Williams-style.
*** Draft Crush (second round possibility): Maxx Williams ***
He’s the best tight end prospect in the draft, so he’ll probably be off the board before the 49ers make their second pick (No. 46 overall). Plus, they seem like they’re going to give it one more go with Vernon Davis, they drafted a tight end in the second round two years ago in Vance McDonald, and they brought back Derek Carrier AND Garrett Celek. Besides, I’m probably too obsessed with this play Williams made in the Citrus Bowl, anyway. But holy crap, this play …
Bonus: There are two players who I wouldn’t be surprised to see holding up 49ers jerseys next to Baalke and Jim Tomsula fairly soon.
Why Gurley? He hasn’t played since tearing his ACL, and when he played he was ridiculously good (6.4 yards per carry in his 30-game career at Georgia). The doctors think he’ll be ready for training camp, which has propelled Gurley into the top half of some mock drafts. Baalke loves ACL guys, and the 49ers GM may think the “value” is there at No. 15 if Gurley is available. And we all know the 49ers want to run, run, run in 2015.
Why another UW guy? Thompson could see time as a safety, although he’s probably better suited to play middle linebacker. He’s undersized (about 220-230 pounds), but he does nothing but make plays. Baalke had luck with a guy who had size questions coming out of college in Chris Borland, until Borland retired. Thompson is taller and faster than Borland, and he has two things going for him that Baalke loves: he’s got really long arms (33″) and he’s the most versatile player in the draft. He scored one touchdown as a defensive player (he forced three fumbles and intercepted a pass) and two as a running back (he rushed 61 times for 456 yards in 2014 — 7.5 ypc).
And that concludes our Huskies NFL Draft roundup. Remember to point and laugh at my silly draftnik ramblings when the 49ers trade up for Brandon Scherff, the guard from Iowa who’s known for being a good run-blocker, or draft Eddie Goldman (a 3-4 DE from Florida State with long arms and big hands). Goldman seems most likely conclusion to the headline, actually.