Teams that pick relatively late in the NFL Draft have usually had a great amount of success the previous season. The San Francisco 49ers find themselves in such a situation this season and boy has it been a long time coming for the franchise.
Another aspect of success, which is much more beneficial, is the fact that San Francisco might actually have the ability to go best player available in certain rounds, rather than having to reach for a position of need.
That said, the 49ers do have some clear needs on both sides of the ball that they will have to address in the draft and supplement via free agency. Today I am going to give you my full seven round San Francisco 49ers mock draft.
1st round, 30th pick: CB- Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama
Carlos Rogers will probably re-sign with the San Francisco 49ers prior to the start of free agency. Tarell Brown also had a breakout 2011 season, matching his number of passes defended from the first three years of his three years of his career combined.
This doesn't mean that the 49ers don't need an upgrade at the corner position. They ranked near the middle of the league in pass defense despite having the best front seven in the NFL.
Janoris Jenkins has his fair share of off-field and character issues. This is something that has been well documented and caused his draft stock to plummet. The former Florida Gator' has somewhat rebuilt that stock over the course of the last season, but he is still to drop some come April.
He has top ten talent. You are looking at a corner that has the ability to play press and man coverage, does really well reading the quarterback on the outside and has extremely fluid hips. These three factors lead me to believe that Jenkins is going to be an elite corner at the next level. Not only this, he would give the 49ers an electric player in the return game, sorry Kyle Williams.
2nd round, 62nd pick: WR- Nick Toon, Wisconsin
Some could make a solid argument that Alex Smith struggled getting the ball to his receiver in the 49ers NFC Championship loss to the New York Giants. However, I believe the larger issue was the inability of the receivers to get open.
Of course the release of Braylon Edwards coupled with injuries to both Joshua Morgan and Ted Ginn Jr really didn't help out all too well. In reality, the 49ers were going with just two wide receivers that started with the team on opening day: Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams.
Morgan and Ginn are both set to be free agents, while Michael Crabtree probably didn't endure himself to the 49ers coaching staff following a lackluster postseason performance and cop out explanation of his lack of success following the Giants game.
I fully expect, and have been told by a source close to the 49ers organization, that they will target a No. 1 receiver this off-season. Even with an addition of a player like Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe or Marques Colston: the 49ers will have to draft one early in the 2012 NFL Draft.
This is where Nick Toon comes into play. Much like Janoris Jenkins, his stock had dropped considerably. But unlike my projected first round pick, Toon's performances on the field is a main culprit. He is a lengthy receiver that can use that size and frame to get separation, fending off receivers down field. You would expect Toon to be much better in terms of yards after the catch, which is a huge bonus in a west coast offense. However, he does tend to struggle in that aspect of the game.
What Toon will provide the 49ers is a true red zone threat on the outside, something they have been missing since the Terrell Owens days. In picking up the services of the former Wisconsin wide receiver late in the first round, San Francisco gets value at a need position.
3rd round, 93rd pick: RB- LaMichael James, Oregon
I might get some grief for this, but Frank Gore is on his last legs. This is a running back that has touched the ball over 2,000 times in his stellar career. As we all know the shelf life of running back's aren't too great. He probably has another year or two of above-average play remaining in those tires.
Kendall Hunter is the 49ers running back of the future, he proved that this season by playing extremely well when he spelled Gore on occasion. That said, we are currently in an era of the NFL where you need to capable running backs in order to succeed.
LaMichael James will never be an every down back in the NFL. He just doesn't have the build to shoulder the load. Instead, the former Oregon running back is going to be a great complementary guy. Just think Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush.
4th round, 125th pick: LB- Shea McClellin, Boise State
Aldon Smith went absolute nuts this season. He was probably the most surprising defensive rookie in the entire league. Despite transitioning from defensive end in college to outside linebacker, Smith was able to break Charles Haley's rookie franchise record in sacks. He also stepped up a great deal in the postseason
Opposite of Aldon Smith in the 49ers' linebacker group is a different story. Ahmad Brooks is set to become a free agent and will probably demand in excess of five million dollars per season. Despite this, I do expect the 49ers to re-sign him. After that the 49ers have absolutely nothing. Parys Haralson just doesn't have what it takes to get it done on a consistent basis.
Shea McClellin, who played defensive end at Boise State, translates very well as an outside linebacker in the NFL. He is very good dropping back into coverage for someone his size and has the ability to recognize offensive schemes in order to stop the run, when necessary.
McClellin has an extremely strong first step, which enables him to get outside the tackle and to the quarterback on a consistent basis. He will be a nice complement to Aldon Smith.
5th round, 157th pick: TE- LaDarius Green, Louisiana Lafayette
Even with Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker etched in stone as the 49ers No. 1 and No. 2 tight ends, they will definitely look at that position in the later rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft. Jim Harbaugh, as evidenced by his scheme at Stanford and in his first season with the 49ers, absolutely loves to utilize multiple tight end formations.
San Francisco does have 2010 sixth round pick Nate Byham, who missed the entire 2011 season due to injury, as a perfect blocking h-back type of player. However, I see the 49ers letting Moran Norris go and implementing Byham as the back up full back behind Bruce Miller.
Ladarius Green would give them just another receiving threat from the tight end position. He is a physically dominating tight end with a massive frame (6'6” and 236 pound). Truly one of the biggest sleepers in the 2012 NFL Draft. He creates a ton of mismatches against undersized linebackers or safeties attempting to cover over the top. The 49ers offensive scheme utilizes Davis and Walker on the outside a lot, which means that Green should make an immediate impact.
6th round, 188th pick: OT- Jeff Allen, Illinois
One of the standouts of Senior Bowl week, Jeff Allen is one of those “under the radar” players. He is extremely athletic, played against elite competition in the Big Ten and even in practice (Whitney Mercilus) and can get around against faster pass rushers.
The San Francisco 49ers don't necessarily have a need at the tackle position with the improved play of Pro Bowler Joe Staley and second year man Anthony Davis. They also have an up-and-coming Alex Boone as a rotational tackle and drafted Mike Person in the seventh round last season.
This doesn't mean that they wont go best player available towards the back end of the draft. Teams that win 13 games during the regular season and were one muffed punt from a Super Bowl have that luxury
7th round, 220th pick: QB- Kellen Moore, Boise State
You can tell me he is too short, can't make every throw on the football field and doesn't translate well to the NFL. Well, these all might be correct but Kellen More has one thing on his side: moxie. This is a dude that ended his Boise State career as one of the most successful college football quarterbacks in the history of the game.
The 49ers west coast system fits his game to a tee. Even if San Francisco is getting nothing more than a career backup here, it is still good value depending on what Moore does in the Senior Bowl this weekend. If he has a disastrous performance then there is a strong possibility the former Boise State star gets a free agent grade from me.
The San Francisco 49ers have build a really good young team, supplementing it via free agency. Don't expect this to change anytime soon. It has been a blueprint for some of the most successful franchises in the NFL and the 49ers are fully prepared to follow it.
This gives an added importance to the draft and obtaining not just star players, but role players that will contribute in the future.
This is what my mock draft has done. You cannot expect to get multiple Pro Bowl performers in each draft. Rather, it has become increasingly important to build a strong team from 1-to-53.