The San Francisco 49ers' season came to a brutal end as Colin Kaepernick threw an interception in the end zone to end the NFC Championship game. This is the third consecutive season where the 49ers have either lost in the NFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl. Finishing the year with a 12-4 overall record, the Niners will have the thirtieth overall pick in the first round. San Francisco has plenty of key players becoming free agents, and with thirteen draft picks the Niners have an opportunity to fill some holes this May. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh should have both his coordinators return along with veteran presences like Frank Gore and Patrick Willis. Last season they traded up in the first round to draft safety Eric Reid and I wouldn't be surprised to see them do it again this year.
1) Strong Safety: Much like last season, the 49ers are expected to see another hard-hitting safety leave via free agency. Donte "Hitner" Whitner is likely to become a free-agent as he will be asking for more than the 49ers can offer. With Eric Reid having success at the other safety position during his rookie season, the Niners will be confident that they can once again pick up a safety via the draft to step in and play a big role. Craig Dahl is there but he is best suited as a rotational backup.
2) Cornerback: Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Tramaine Brock, Eric Wright, Parrish Cox and Darryl Morris. Those are the six cornerbacks who saw the field for the 49ers last season. Of those six, the two biggest names are set to become either a free-agent or a cap casualty, in the case of Rogers. Before last season the Niners approached Rodgers and asked him to take a pay cut, which he refused. Rogers reiterated the fact that he probably won't take a reduced contract again this season, “Ask yourself, ‘Would you take less so that they can pay someone else a bigger contract?’ ” Rogers said. “That’s stuff I’ll sit down with my agent and talk to him about.” That leaves Rogers out. Brown would like to stay but may be asking too much for the Niners. Eric Wright and Parrish Cox are also set to be free-agents. With both their price tags being much lower, the Niners are expected to bring back Wright and could also resign Cox to add veteran depth.
3) Wide Receiver: Anquan Boldin is another key name who is set to become a free-agent, but we have to believe that his resigning will be a priority. That is if he wants to stay in San Francisco. Even if Boldin returns, he isn't and has never really been a speedy, stretch-the-field type receiver. With Michael Crabtree on the other side, who also is not a solidified deep threat, the Niners need to find a way to add an explosive piece to their receiving corps.
4) Center: Veteran Johnathan Goodwin turning 35-years-old and is already admittedly considering retirement. Even if he decides to play, it will likely not be with the Niners who are looking to free up cap space. The team currently has Daniel Kilgore as Goodwin's backup, but will likely want to bring in a rookie and possible free agent center to create an open competition.
5) Quarterback: Colin Kaepernick is not losing his job any time soon but he does need a viable backup. Kaep is a quarterback that likes to run, which obviously adds more risk for injury. Colt McCoy is currently slotted in as the backup to Kaepernick and is headed to free-agency. The Niners will likely not resign him as he hasn't done much throughout his NFL career to prove he can be trusted when needed.
Deone Bucannon, WSU, S: Bucannon is one of the top safeties in this draft class and brings a great size/speed combo. He stands at 6' 1" and runs a 4.57 forty-yard dash. Bucannon finished with 113 tackles and six interceptions. Pairing him with Eric Reid in the defensive backfield could allow the Niners to have a solid pair of safeties for years to come. Losing Donte Whitner will leave a vacancy in the hard-hitting department and Bucannon can deliver plenty of those.
Jimmie Ward, NIU, S: Standing at only 5' 10" and 193 pounds, Ward doesn't have ideal size for the safety position, but has plenty of tools to be there. Ward is capable of playing all over the field and has better than average coverage skills for a safety. He is a very sure tackler who made all the big plays for the Huskies defense this past season. I touched on his strength and weakness in my bowl recap article. Ward is currently projected to go in round three, but has been impressing scouts so far at the senior bowl and could move up when all is said and done.
Justin Gilbert, OSU, CB: Gilbert is an incredibly athletic defensive back who has good hands for that side of the ball. Very dangerous once the ball is in his hands, he had six kickoff returns in his college career. He is not quite as fast, but has the playmaking ability of someone like Patrick Peterson, and what team wouldn't want to add that. If the Niners choose to go cornerback in the first round than Gilbert is a name that could be called.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, NEB, CB: Jean-Baptiste is an interesting player who has exceptional size for the position. Standing at 6' 3", he came to Nebraska as a wide receiver and has since been converted to cornerback. He uses his arm length and strong hands to come away with interceptions or pass deflections, and has fluid hips and good break-in speed to cut down on quick routes. If the Niners decide to go with safety and wide receiver for their first two picks than a guy like Bradley Roby could work, if Roby is gone and they wait a bit longer for CB then Jean-Baptiste is an option to consider.
Weston Richburg, CSU, C: Currently ranked as the no. 2 center coming into this draft, Richburg was a four-year starter and started a school-record 49 consecutive games. He was named first-team all conference in 2013. The Rams worked on running triple-option plays more this season to prepare for three teams in their conference that run that style of play. That experience could serve well when the Niners decide to run the read-option attack. Round 3-4 would be a great value pick for San Francisco to potentially grab an immediate starter or a solid option for years to come.
Tyler Larsen, USU, C: Larsen is the biggest of the centers in this class and stands at 6' 4" and 317 lbs. He has incredible strength and is much more mobile than most men his size. He gets to the second level well and rarely misses his target when blocking. He is able to get his hands up quickly and beat opponents to the punch. He also possesses a great mirroring technique, and constantly dictates the direction of the line by driving the nose tackle one way or the other. See more of my analysis on Larsen here.
Jordan Matthews, VANDY, WR: This pick would be based on the circumstance of the Niners not being able to bring back Anquan Boldin. Matthews has huge hands and a big body. He has shown plenty of big-play ability to go along with crisp route-running. His long arms allow him to have a large catching radius and refuses to go down. Matthews reminds you of Boldin in a few ways with possibly better traits in some other areas. He could prove to be a good pick in the second round as one of the more NFL ready receivers.
Martavis Bryant, CLEM, WR: If the Niners are able to bring back Boldin they will need to add another receiver to be a down-field threat. At 6' 5" Bryant has good size and takes long strides which allow him to get up to speed quickly. He also shows ability to adjust and find the ball. At his height he can go up and win the jump balls at it's highest level. Bryant decided to come out a year early, most likely due to Tajh Boyd graduating, and will be a bit of a project but could be a good receiver for years to come with the right coaching.
David Fales, SJSU, QB: Fales had an impressive college career and plays all-out each and every snap. He has a tendency to try and make too many things happen and can throw passes off-balance or into a crowded area. Those things can be coached out of him. Bottom line is that Fales is a competitor, and that is one thing that the San Francisco 49ers and Head Coach Jim Harbaugh welcomes in the locker room.
Tajh Boyd, CLEM, QB: Boyd surpassed Phillip Rivers in the ACC for career touchdowns this past season. He is a battle-tested, tough quarterback with athletic ability and a strong arm. Boyd looks to pass first and has improved his pocket presence during his time at Clemson. He can sometimes struggle with his accuracy but undoubtedly can become a solid QB in the league with the right coaching. Being a clear backup in San Francisco, Boyd will have plenty of time and coaching before he is forced into playing time. Good/smart pick for the Niners during day three.Back to the San Francisco 49ers Newsfeed