Throughout the entire 2014 NFL Draft, beginning on Thursday, May 8th at 8PM E.T., the San Francisco 49ers are going to be kept very busy. The 49ers are in a great position heading into this year's draft as they possess 11 total picks throughout the seven rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. Although there may not appear to be many holes or needs for the 49ers to fill heading into the 2014 season, there is always room for improvement as well as the opportunity to add depth to their roster. Due to the fact that the 49ers have a plethora of picks this year, there has been increased speculation and hope that the team will trade up in the draft to grab a top receiver like Texas A&M's Mike Evans or LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. However, no trades are ever guaranteed on draft day as this is entirely left up to G.M. Trent Baalke and the rest of the 49ers organization.
Below is a seven round mock draft created based on the team's current needs as well as focusing on the best available players during the time of each pick for the 49ers:
Round 1, Pick 30 (30): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner and consensus All-American would definitely be a smart move by the 49ers to select allowing them to add one of the most physically gifted corners in the draft to their defensive unit. Although Dennard has been ranked by many scouts and NFL analysts as a top 20 pick, there is always potential for him to fall in the draft as well as the possibility for the 49ers to trade picks away in order to move up to grab him. Dennard may not the be the biggest cornerback (5'11", 199 lbs) but he displays a strong skill-set with his press coverage abilities as well as rare technique that will translate over well in the NFL.
The cornerback position is debatably the weakest position for the 49ers heading into next season after losing starter Tarell Brown in free agency to the Raiders and Carlos Rogers after he was cut by the team following a disappointing 2013 season. Both players were integral parts to the 49ers secondary for the past few seasons and now the team will look to rely on Tramaine Brock (led team in 2013 with 5 INTs) and Chris Culliver to both start and anchor the cornerback position. Brock and Culliver both possess a lot of potential and can be solid starters but the fact is that the depth behind them is not a strength.
Combining Culliver's recovery from a torn ACL last season and recent offseason troubles with the lack of depth at the position gives the 49ers organization a clear reason as to why Dennard would make sense to be the 30th player taken in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Round 2, Pick 24 (56) [from Chiefs]: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Davante Adams is an intriguing prospect that has the size (6'1", 212 lbs) and athleticism to succeed as a productive receiver in the NFL. After totaling 233 career receptions and 38 career touchdowns over two years at Fresno State, the potential to be an immediate addition to the 49ers passing game is definitely not far fetched. Although Adams can give some credit of his collegiate success to Derek Carr, there would certainly be no downgrade if he were to switch to catching passes from Colin Kaepernick at the next level.
Another thing to take into consideration is that Adams is a Bay Area native (Palo Alto) who played high school football for coach Earl Hansen at Palo Alto High School, which happens to be the same high school 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh attended and played at as well. Harbaugh is still in touch with coach Hansen as well so this may either end up being a simple coincidence or a benefit to the 49ers as to having some inside information about Adams that other teams may not have.
The wide receiver position for the 49ers has been one of much debate and focus this offseason including the hopes of many fans to draft a receiver early in the 2014 draft. Although there is the possibility for Trent Baalke to pull the trigger in the first round to trade up and grab a Mike Evans or Odell Beckham Jr., I personally believe that the cornerback position should be addressed in the first round. The main reason for this is that this year's draft class has impressive depth at the wide receiver position and there will be opportunities in the second round to select a playmaker like Davante Adams. The current roster already includes Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Quinton Patton and newly acquired Brandon Lloyd so depth should not be a worry for the 49ers. However, adding a player that can spread the field and elevate over defensive backs certainly wouldn't hurt the team.
Round 2, Pick 29 (61): Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Stanford
Defensive end and outside linebacker won't necessarily be main focuses for the 49ers heading into the draft but, after the continued off-the-field issues that have occurred with Aldon Smith, the organization may look to find a complimentary pass rusher in the draft. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula would love to have the opportunity to coach a player like Trent Murphy; 2013 consensus All-American and led the nation in sacks (15) while at Stanford. Two other closely related personnel that wouldn't be new to Murphy's skill-set is Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio who both coached Murphy at Stanford.
Having previous knowledge of what type of player Murphy is as well as having the opportunity to add a player that can pressure the quarterback should definitely excite and intrigue the 49ers organization with this potential pick.
Round 3, Pick 13 (77) [from Titans]: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
The 49ers will benefit from having most of their offense starters returning to the team in 2014 besides center Jonathan Goodwin. Goodwin is currently a free agent and the 49ers have made no indications that he will be resigned especially after backup center Daniel Kilgore signed a three-year extension with the team earlier this offseason. However, Kilgore's extension does not necessarily mean that the 49ers are content with him immediately stepping into the starting role, which is why they may look to the draft in order to bolster the position. In my own opinion Kilgore is definitely capable of filling the gap left behind by Goodwin but, due to his lack of experience, there are always going to be questions and skepticism about his abilities.
Travis Swanson has been ranked by numerous NFL analysts and scouts as the top center available in the draft and deserves to be given such appraisal. The 49ers may not want to spend a top pick on drafting a center but, if one of the top names is still available in the third round, do not be surprised if they bring in someone to compete with Kilgore this offseason for the starting center job.
Round 3, Pick 30 (94): Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
Cody Latimer's name has begun to skyrocket up teams' draft boards. He has even been talked of as a 1st-round talent while being revealed as one of the thirty players invited to Radio City Music Hall on May 8th. No Indiana University player has been selected in the first round in 19 years so Latimer will definitely arrive in New York with eager expectations. However, if he does happen to fall from where he is projected to be picked, the 49ers can come away with a huge steal by grabbing him in the second or third round. Latimer has a solid frame (6'2", 215 lbs) with exceptional speed, as he was timed running an unofficial 4.39 40 yard dash at his Pro Day workout.
The wide receiver focus for the 49ers in this year's draft will be interesting to see how it unfolds as there is a plethora of talent that runs deep at the position. Putting trust into the past draft success of Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh, the 49er faithful should be eager and excited to see what playmakers are brought in to upgrade the passing arsenal for Colin Kaepernick heading into the 2014 NFL season.
Cody Latimer Highlights
Round 3, Pick 36 (100) [compensatory]: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
Adding more than one cornerback during the 2014 NFL draft wouldn't be a terrible idea for the 49ers. Roberson is a talented athlete who has fallen down draft boards due to ankle and knee injuries as well as off-the-field issues while attending Florida. After an alcohol arrest in 2011 and a one-game suspension in 2013 for violating team rules, his character has been in question and taken a hit with skepticism. However, Roberson is a big bodied corner (6'0", 191 lbs) that has the ability to gain good position on receivers to break up passes and play shutdown defense.
While Roberson has been on the field and healthy he has lined up against some of the top receivers in the SEC including Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Mike Evans as well as top ACC talent like Kelvin Benjamin. If Roberson is able to stay healthy and regain the ability to play the type of football he was as a sophomore at Florida, the 49ers would be adding another great addition to the secondary and cornerback position with this third round selection.
Round 4, Pick 29 (129): Dri Archer, RB/WR, Kent State
Dri Archer is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft as he ran the fastest 40 yard dash (4.26 seconds) at the NFL combine and simply has an element of explosiveness to his game that all teams should want. This past season at Kent State, Archer set school records with 23 total touchdowns including 1,429 rushing yards, 561 receiving yards, and 3 kick return touchdowns all in 14 games. Archer has been similarly compared to Darren Sproles as he has the ability to contribute to three different aspects of the game; on the ground, through the air, and on special teams.
Drafting Archer to play the running back position is highly unlikely for the 49ers but, if they do pull the trigger on him, he can immediately have an impact on special teams and on offense as another weapon for Colin Kaepernick and offensive coordinator Greg Roman to utilize. There has also been speculation as to whether or not LaMichael James will be traded on draft day, who is currently the 49ers starting kick and punt returner. If this were to officially happen; even though I personally hope that James stays with the 49ers, the team should definitely look to the draft in order to find a player that can boost the return game (CB Perrish Cox, RB Kendall Hunter, and WR Quinton Patton are the other options currently on the roster with return experience). A similar prospect to also watch in this year's draft is Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas who shapes his game very similarly to Dri Archer. If LaMichael James is traded, both Archer and Thomas should be options on the draft board for the 49ers to consider at some point during the draft.
Round 5, Pick 30 (170): Marqueston Huff, FS, Wyoming
Marqueston Huff is a converted free safety who played cornerback most of his collegiate career until switching positions for his senior season at Wyoming. He still appears to play with the quickness and fluidity more so fitted to play cornerback at the next level but, he can also be physical and versatile from the safety position as he recorded 127 tackles last season.
Prior to the offseason acquisition of Antoine Bethea (four-year contract), the 49ers were faced with a decision to make by either signing a veteran or looking to the draft in order to replace Donte Whitner. Bethea has consistently been one of the most reliable safeties in the NFL during his career and I believe that he will be able to step in immediately side-by-side with Eric Reid to create a solid safety duo. However, the depth behind Bethea and Reid is a bit scarce as C.J. Spillman and Craig Dahl are the only primary backups who saw time on the field last season. Spillman is an exceptional special teams contributor and Dahl has never disappointed with his play but, the 49ers should look to get younger at the position. Marqueston Huff could still be in play for the 49ers in the fourth to fifth round and if so, the position should become an area of focus for the team heading into next Thursday.
Round 7, Pick 27 (242) [from Saints]: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Having the opportunity to select Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd as late as the seventh round is fairly unrealistic but, regardless of where he is chosen, I believe that he would be a great fit for the 49ers. According to NFL.com Boyd has been quoted telling SiriusMX NFL Radio that; "Everything I'm hearing is pretty good right now. I'm hearing no later than the third (round), so hopefully it plays out that way,". Choosing Boyd in the third round may be too early for the 49ers but, if for any reason Tajh sees his name take a decline during the draft, there is certainly an interest that the 49ers organization should express in this signal caller.
Tajh Boyd became the starting quarterback at Clemson in 2011 and only seemed to impress for the rest of his collegiate career. In 2012 Boyd was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and set an ACC record for most touchdowns responsible for in a season with 41. This past season, Boyd threw for 3,851 yards with 34 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, which were very similar numbers to both his 2011 and 2012 seasons at Clemson. He was also able to add 400 yards on the ground with 10 rushing touchdowns which solidified his dual-threat abilities. Tajh Boyd has been noted for his inconsistency and inaccurate throws from time to time but, after watching what he was able to accomplish at Clemson, he is a very intriguing prospect that I hope the 49ers have both evaluated and watched closely.
This offseason the 49ers have already made a move to alter the quarterback position by trading for Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert is joining the 49ers from the Jacksonville Jaguars where he was unable to live up to expectations after being selected 10th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Gabbert is still only 24 years old and is definitely in a much better situation now, learning behind both Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick. Drafting another quarterback in this year's draft would not only give Gabbert competition this offseason for the backup job but, it will also potentially develop a young prospect to step in as a reliable backup quarterback for Kaepernick. Another factor to consider is that according to numerous recent reports, Jim Harbaugh told San Jose State draft prospect David Fales that the 49ers "will" draft a quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft. This conversation most likely occurred during the 49ers' local pro day and although there may be no credibility behind it, there is no surprising element to the reports of the statement made by Coach Harbaugh.
Round 7, Pick 28 (243) [from Panthers]: Brock Coyle, ILB, Montana
No one should expect the 49ers to be picking an inside linebacker for as long as Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are wearing red and gold. However, one of the most brutal injuries that the 49ers witnessed last season was to Bowman in the NFC Championship game. Bowman suffered a torn ACL as well as partially damaging his MCL and the timetable for his return has been stated as more realistically mid-season. He will most likely be placed on the PUP to begin the season which could lead him to return week six or even sooner; as NaVorro is certainly capable of recovering sooner than expected. Due to NaVorro's extended recovery timetable, the 49ers should enter the 2014 NFL Draft looking to address the position.
Brock Coyle should be available late in the draft and could be an option for the 49ers to make a move for. This past season Coyle led the Montana Grizzlies with 125 tackles and was able to impress many scouts and coaches at his pro day where he ran the 40 yard dash in 4.60 seconds. Coyle has the ability to track the ball while forcing fumbles and also runs his feet through contact once met with the ballcarrier. Combining his frame (6'1", 235 lbs) with his above-average speed; the attributes that Coyle possesses should grab the 49ers attention. Inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite is currently expected to replace Bowman at the start of the 2014 season next to Patrick Willis but, adding some depth to the position will be important. Second year linebacker Nick Moody is another player that has a lot of upside and could further develop this upcoming season especially with the noted absence of Bowman.
Round 7, Pick 30 (245): John Urschel, OG, Penn State