So I finally have the time to put this down having dipped back into the games and done a bit of catching up. Yes, I know the draft was in late April and it's now June. Work pays the bills and scouting takes a loooong time. Maybe in future if I do something like this I'll do it one pick at a time every few days? Much of the delay was caused by me having little free time for this in the run up to the draft, so I've sort of been working backwards in many regards (Ed; I've also spent the last hour and a half fighting against blogger to get this thing to format properly, so excuse the big spaces, this is the best I could manage with this crap).
As for today, basically I want to do a 49ers re-draft, mainly for my own amusement but also so we can dip through the draft with out me having to look at every single last player and give an opinion on all of them. My intention is to not just talk about the picks I would have made but also pick on some people along the way who would have been under consideration.
Couple of ground rules though before we start. Firstly - for quite obvious reasons - I don't have access to any of the medical data or interview information that the teams have (other than what has been openly reported) so I have to take those gambles when making a pick, something which the teams wouldn't have to.
Secondly, I have no control over the 49ers free agent practises. This has a massive influence on the draft. To me the draft is not about filling gaps on the roster. If you're waiting for the draft to fill an important hole in your roster then personally I think you're going about roster building the wrong way. The draft should be about acquiring talented young players who can be developed into starters. Can some of them play right away? Yeah, some. Is that an advantage for a guy? Yeah sure. But really free agency is the place to be plugging the major gaps and the draft is the proper place for picking up the stars of tomorrow. The fact that so few teams actually follow this basic rule of thumb and end up relying on the draft to try and field a competitive team is probably the leading cause right now of coaches and GMs getting fired across the league.
In the 49ers case I think they've done a horrible job in free agency. Keep in mind as well that the 49ers had cap space to piss on. That's before you even get into "fantasy cuts" if you want to call them that. Now the offensive line last year was an utter mess and yet it's received very little attention, despite the fact that a half decent crop of guards and the like were available to pick up, guys like T. J. Lang from the Packers and Riley Reiff from the Lions. Brandon Fusco isn't a bad pick up I guess, but certainly not my first choice. And yet one of the few decent linemen on the roster - Andrew Tiller - was allowed to walk to the Chiefs.
One big move I would have made would have been to trade Joe Staley, ideally for a second round pick but accepting a third if that's all that could be mustered up. That's not to say that Staley is a bad player, but I think the pick would have been more valuable to the 49ers in the long run than an aging left tackle on a rebuilding team. Trent Brown could have been shuffled across to the left side where he played well last season after Staley went down injured and I would have brought back Glenn Dorsey for the right price, considering he was probably the most solid D-lineman the 49ers had last year.
At quarterback I would have gone for Mike Glennon. Some people might grimace at the idea, but Glennon I think is a decent quarterback with some good traits that can be developed. Quarterback is such an important position in the NFL that it simply isn't acceptable to go into a season without at least one signal caller who has some potential. Kaepernick was never that guy, Gabbert was never going to be that guy, but Ponder I would have brought back as an insurance policy because he can be good at times.
On top of all this I would have been looking at safety, corner, tight end and linebacker to find some more serviceable guys than some of the rubbish that went out onto the field the previous year. While the lack of pass rush was also a major problem at times, free agency didn't have a huge amount to offer in terms of solving this.
Ultimately my aim would have been to dump as much of the crap from the previous years 2-14 roster as possible (which would have been a good chunk of it), clean out a ton of cap space and then go a little crazy in free agency to try and put in a solid foundation on which to build for the future. I doubt the resulting team would have been seriously ready to challenge for the playoffs, but I think it would have certainly been possible to put together a team that would at least improve its record by a decent margin, rather than the fairly stagnant side that the 49ers have produced this off season. This in turn would have at least left the draft as something of a free zone to go out and target the best players available, thinking about the long term health of the team. It's on that basis that I'm making this draft.
I should also mention for those that might be a bit skeptical, that I'm going to try and do this based off gut instinct of where I think I would have taken people and endeavour where possible not to use the power of hindsight to make convenient picks (Having now finished this and just editing it, I think you'll see that I've adhered to this pretty well).
And on one final note (we're nearly there, I promise) I'm going to honor the 49ers backwards trades down plus trades that were made from previous years, but I'm going to ignore trades that were made to move up. I'm personally not a big believer of moving up in the draft, unless your team happens to be far too good and have far too much depth to make use of all its picks, a position which even the very best teams seldom find themselves in due to free agency departures, let alone the current 49ers. As such this draft is going to involve a whopping twelve picks! But hey, the more tickets you buy the more likely you are to win the lottery, right? (right?) So let's get started.
First round: No. 3 overall
Having traded the #2 overall pick to the Bears in exchange for a decent bounty of picks I'd have been more than happy to keep moving back at this point. Depending on the demand for it I would have easily just kept going and going, knowing that this was a horrible football team that needed every spare hand it could muster to build something better for the future. We're talking borderline total turnover. As it is the 49ers stayed at 3 and took Solomon Thomas, who for fairness we'll now remove from the board. Because I'd want Derek Barnett.
I've already given my thoughts on Barnett, but just to recap here I think that what Barnett might lack in "elite of the elite" athleticism he more than makes up for in the use of his hands. He just keeps finding a way to get to the quarterback and make sacks and he did it against some of the best teams that college football has to offer. Let's put it this way; when you can top Reggie White's career sack record for the Volunteers you must be pretty good. White himself is still number two in career sacks in the NFL and if you count his USFL time with the Memphis Showboats he remains the all time career sack leader in pro football history. He's also the only player in NFL history to have nine consecutive seasons with at least 10 sacks. If Barnett can manage to emulate even half of what the "Minister of Defense" managed, he'll have had a pretty good career.
Selection: Derek Barnett, Defensive End, Tennessee
Second round: No. 2 (34 overall)
In reality the 49ers gave up this pick as part of a package to get back into the first round to take Reuben Foster. I'm not sure which is worse; that they traded away picks just to move up a few spots or that they did so to get Foster? As it is we'll remove Foster from the board, not that he was on it really anyway, as the Saints were expected to take him at 32. The Jaguars actually ended up with this pick in the end and selected Cam Robinson who we'll also remove the board. Not that I don't like Robinson, but I think playing in Alabama's offense didn't do him any favours in developing as a pass protector and that's not what I'd want at a tackle spot in the modern NFL, even though I'm a run heavy guy myself.
At this point then it might be fair to say that Dalvin Cook was the prime candidate. I'm frankly amazed that he made it through the first round untouched given what a quality time he had for Florida State. I'd have thought by now that someone would have bitten and if I'd been trading back further I might have done myself in the first round. I personally was hoping that Tre'Davious White would have fallen to this spot as most pre-draft predictions seem to have had him doing so, but sadly it was not to be.
But here's the thing. Now that we're into the second round another couple of players pop up on the radar who also caught my eye. We also get into the difference between who I would have been perfectly happy with the 49ers taking, like Cook, vs my own opinion on running backs. The trouble I have is that generally running backs don't hold their value in free agency for a reason, that reason being that the difference between the various tiers of running back from top to bottom is nowhere near as big as the vast gulf that exists between top and bottom quality quarterbacks.
Even merely good backs can put up good numbers with the right O-line and the reality is there are good running backs literally all over the place in the NFL. Teams are practically tripping over them each year in free agency and the draft. Just look at the 49ers who have binned Mike Davis, DuJuan Harris and Shaun Draughn all in this off season, despite all three being decent if unspectacular running backs (personally would have kept Harris as the back up to Hyde and Draughn as a third down guy). So if I'm the guy with my finger on the metaphorical button when it comes to make this pick, I'm not taking a running back this early, as much as it pains me to see Cook walk away.
He will be an excellent back providing he can stay out of trouble. He has his flaws, but once he finds a seam in the defense and gets going the kid just flies down field. His college yardage numbers are no fluke and he was able to pull them out of the bag against some really good opponents. I just wouldn't be that desperate for a running back at this stage, feeling fairly comfortable with what I already had.
So what are the other options? One was his Florida State team mate DeMarcus Walker, defensive end. One was Jarron Jones, the defensive tackle from Notre Dame who I think has the potential to be a monster, but we'll get into that later. One was Zay Jones, wide receiver out of East Carolina. Another was Rasul Douglas, corner from West Virginia. We have defensive end Jordan Willis from Kansas State, defensive tackle Montravius Adams from Auburn, Tarell Basham, defensive end from Ohio, and Daeshon Hall, defensive end from Texas A&M.
Starting with Douglas keep in mind that I hate corners, as everyone who has read more than a few pages of this blog would know. But I love Douglas, which speaks volumes. He's tall, long armed and much faster in pads than he was at the combine. He holds his ground really well and redirects receivers around him rather than letting them bully him. He can match the receivers patterns pretty well and closes on the ball quickly. Watching him chase down Dede Westbrook in the open field gives you an idea of just how much "long speed" (open field running at full sprint) that Douglas possesses.
He's a willing tackler with good technique, which for a corner is virtually unheard of. His take downs might not always be absolutely textbook in execution, but he gets the job done effectively pretty much every time which you can't really argue with. I like the way he also looks for strips only when he's the second tackler to the ball and strips are something he does pretty well (side note - not that anyone cares - but it is actually illegal under NFL rules to punch the ball out with a closed fist. The refs just never call it because f**k consistency). I also like the way that he plays the pass break up first before trying the interception and has great instincts in reading the play. A true ball hawk in the sense of always being around it and routinely finding a way to make a play. Could easily convert to safety if needed and I think he has special teams potential as well, both as a gunner and disruptor.
Zay Jones was pretty much off most peoples radar, or at least well down the order, until he broke out in a big way at the Senior Bowl. 6'2", 201 pounds, with a decent 40-yard dash time as well as some top combine numbers in other drills, Jones set a career record for receptions in college, of which almost half came in his final year where he broke the single season record for receptions. Part of that was scheme based as the offense was a bit gimmicky, but that doesn't really do Jones proper justice.
As he demonstrated at the Senior Bowl (and on college game days if people had bothered to watch them) he was able to get open down the field as well, particularly excelling in getting open on intermediate patterns. He had a decent release technique and good quality hands, coupled with his size and pretty good route technique. There's room for improvement there for sure, as he's still a little stiff in some of his breaks and he doesn't really have burning down field speed.
That's probably the biggest knock on Jones is that he never really seems to threaten to take the roof off a defense, but then that was in part just a feature of the East Carolina offense which didn't really ask its receivers to do too much in terms of trying to generate explosive deep plays. When he was allowed to run at people full speed down the sideline there was some promise, but again he doesn't really have the top, top end speed. His performance at the Senior Bowl helped alleviate some of these concerns. Run blocking can be an issue however and needs some work. Overall though a pretty sound receiver.
Jordan Willis from Kansas State lit up the combine with his numbers. At 255lbs on a 6'4" body you get the impression he could pack on some more weight and still retain close to that level of athletic explosion (39 inch vertical jump, 4.53 40-yard dash). The only down side for Willis at the minute is that he's mainly a performance rusher, i.e. he wins on pure athletic ability as opposed to technique. He'll get away with that to a degree at the next level, but eventually he'll start butting heads with bigger, more athletic tackles and at that point he better have some moves and counter moves in the bag ready to pick out.
Montravius Adams, defensive tackle from Auburn, is basically a tale of two players. Auburn played with three down linemen last season which meant that Adams had opportunities to play both as a single gap and a two gapping rusher (so either rushing between two linemen (single gap) or having to go head on with a linemen and protect two gaps either side of him (two gapping)). When he has to two gap - or if he's asked to perform a stunt or twist - he struggles. He's a big guy, but his lateral agility and the use of hands is lacking. He tends to get stuck to blocks in these cases.
When he's allowed to one gap and just shoot the hole between two offensive linemen he performs much, much better. Still doesn't really use his hands much, basically just relying on his size and his initial quickness to pass the offensive lineman's shoulder and start causing problems. As such a lot of what happens with Adams will depend on how someone uses him (that someone being the Green Bay Packers). If you wanted him as a single gap rusher, such as a three technique in a 4-3 defense then great. The Packers are a 3-4 front however and in that I think he might struggle a little.
Tarell Basham from Ohio gets a look due to his size and speed not being in any doubt. He actually has the frame to probably carry more weight without losing too much speed, much like Willis. A relentless guy who just keeps on going until the whistle is blown and doesn't give up on a sack while the QB is still alive, which I love. He chases running backs across the field from sideline to sideline as well. Still has a few things to learn in pass rush and has room to grow in terms of his technique, which is the main thing letting him down. That will intrigue people looking for a future starter, as it does me.
Daeshon Hall from Texas A&M tested well at the combine and appears to be quick out of the blocks in pads, quicker than even his combine numbers suggest. Another guy that could easily carry another 15-20lbs I think, which would certainly help him in the run game where admittedly he got pushed around a little due to his inevitable high pads (6'5"). Very much a case of drafting potential, not production, but with the hope that his ceiling will be very high.
Jarron Jones gets discounted at this stage because there were major concerns about his off field issues such as his work ethic. Supposedly his own coaches raised flags with NFL teams when they were interviewed and he also has an injury history that seemed to have a lot of people concerned. On the field Jones can be inconsistent from game to game, but when he's good, he's really good. He's a big dude who generates a ton of push when blocked one on one and when he manages to hit a single gap he became a real handful for offensive linemen.
His numbers were quite inconsistent but I'm not convinced from watching him that that was caused by a lack of effort so much as it was by the fact that people started double teaming him in order to keep him contained. Even then I felt he handled himself well and I couldn't see any drop off in effort. Sometimes he was just smart and realising he wasn't going to get through he would back up and play effectively as a quarterback spy and look at potentially batting the ball down.
When he was let loose against a single blocker he really looked like the dominant force that I think he can be. The great thing about a guy like Jones is that if you can find two guys like this to play inside then you make it really difficult for the offensive line to maintain a proper pocket, as one guy will inevitably be left to go it alone against one of your monsters who can then collapse the pocket from the inside out. And that's what I judged him on, not necessarily the total numbers but what he did for his team, which is really how all defensive linemen should be judged.
That said, suffice to say that it became obvious as draft day closed in that Jarron Jones was going to fall quite sharply (and I do mean sharply) despite his obvious talents. That leaves Zay Jones, Douglas, Willis, Adams, Hall and Basham, all of whom might have lasted till the third round. Someone who quite clearly wouldn't have and who I think has the potential to be a tremendous player at the next level is DeMarcus Walker, who I'm going to take with this pick.
Walker took a lot of crap pre-draft because apparently a 6'4", 280lbs guy, quote, "lacks the desired size... teams look for off the edge". Which is funny, because the number one overall pick Myles Garrett, also an edge rusher, is err 6'4" and 272 pounds. Figure that one out for me someone. That's definitely going in the upcoming scout speak special.
Personally I don't care much about the talk of his size. This is a guy that posted the second most sacks in the FBS for 2016, finishing half a sack behind Hunter Dimick except having to do it against a better quality of opposition. Like Barnett he makes up for minor deficiencies in elite level athletic talent with his exceptional use of the hands, such as his outstanding swim move. He has good closing speed on the quarterback once he's past the offensive line and has even kicked inside to play as a 3 technique defensive tackle a few times.
Not the greatest run defender it has to be said, but in a pass first league Walker has a lot of the traits you're looking for in a defensive end. When you consider the potential for him to develop and play in a tandem opposite Barnett, that's just something I wouldn't be able to turn down.
Selection: DeMarcus Walker, Defensive End, Florida State
Third round: No. 2 (66 overall)
Back in reality this pick was used by the 49ers to select Colorado corner Ahkello Witherspoon. He tested very well at the combine and combined with his 6'3" height it's easy to see where the 49ers were going with this one, drawing parallels with Richard Sherman. The problem is that Sherman was still something of a raw product in college, having started as a wide receiver, and was learning the position gradually. The Seahawks at least had the excuse that they wanted to see where Sherman would go and didn't take him till the fifth round as compensation for the uncertainty over how he would develop. Not sure what the excuse is with Witherspoon.
I really didn't like this pick. Witherspoon seems to to end up out of position an awful lot. In the red zone he cheats far too much to the inside and leaves the fade to the outside wide open. He couldn't live with some of the better receivers he faced downfield and to top it all off he's very much a non-contact guy, refusing to commit to tackles and help his team in the running game. Not my cup of tea at all.
So who would I have used with this pick? A few names jump out immediately, obviously still including Douglas, Adams, Hall, Basham and Willis, though Zay Jones is gone. Others include Pat Elflein, center from Ohio State; LSU linebacker Duke Riley; Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp; Michigan receiver Amara Darboh; and North Carolina receiver Ryan Switzer.
Staring with Riley, I think he could come in and given that the 49ers are switching to a four man front (my preferred defense) he would slot right in at the Will linebacker spot. Riley is quick and agile, able to read and react to what's in front of him immediately. He comes flying downhill to meet runners, can sniff out opportunities to get after the quarterback and holds up well in coverage against running backs and even some slot receivers. I think he's a versatile guy who gives the defensive coordinator plenty of options and can play special teams as well. What's not to like?
As for Pat Elflein, he was the starting center at Ohio State and so you know he got to face some tough opponents in the trenches such as the Michigan D-line and I thought he did well. Decent sized guy who was solid in pass pro and blocked down well at angles as well as straight ahead rushes and reaches, which gives him a bit of offensive scheme versatility.
Receiver Cooper Kupp played mainly out of the slot and is quite a lazy route runner who's pretty slow off the blocks initially. In his favour however he has virtual ball magnets for hands, is a solid run blocker and by pure accident is actually quite good against zone coverage as his poor route breaks, which tend to be elongated and rounded, actually helps him to drift into the holes between zones. Absolutely benefited from poor quality opposition, but does have good top end speed once he has the ball in his hands and is off to the races. Kupp is another development guy really and for that I'd want to wait I think, but he's intriguing enough to be considered at this point. Will be interesting to watch as a slot based possession receiver with the potential to make some big plays up the seam against safeties.
Amara Darboh from Michigan gets a look as a great route runner who creates space with his skills, speed and size. He has a real knack in particular for getting open deep as he uses subtle moves and technique to gain separation. Bit butter fingered when it comes to catching and very much a body catcher, so maybe not the guy you want to target when the game is on the line, but he makes enough catches to count.
Ryan Switzer from North Carolina rounds out this group with his excellent burst off the line, very, very good route running technique, able to find space against either man or zone and a pretty safe pair of hands for the most part. Can take screen passes and turn them into decent gains. Short guy though who is virtually guaranteed to be pigeon holed as a slot receiver for most of his career, with just occasional opportunities to play outside.
So if those are the runners and riders for this pick then who crosses the finish line first? For me it's Rasul Douglas. The 49ers secondary last year had its moments, but by and large it was horrible (injuries didn't help), like much of the team. Douglas makes a nice upgrade who would probably have to pitch in right away.
Selection: Rasul Douglas, Cornerback, West Virginia.
Third Round: No. 3 (67 overall)
So back in the real world this pick was traded away to the Saints in exchange for their seventh round selection and their 2018 second rounder. That's not a bad trade, though it would have been nicer to get a fifth or sixth this year. It's mainly the acquisition of that valuable second rounder for the next year that makes it tempting to a team in rebuilding mode. Ultimately more tempting would be to keep this pick and use it to take Jordan Willis, banking that raw athletic ability for future years.
Selection: Jordan Willis, Defensive End, Kansas State.
Fourth round: No. 2 (109 overall)
Originally this was traded to Minnesota along with a seventh rounder in order to acquire the 104th overall pick. That's basically trading away a seventh rounder to move up 5 spots, in order to take quarterback C.J. Beathard from Iowa, who was graded by most as maybe a 6th or 7th rounder (and for good reason). I really hated this move by the 49ers.
Now although I'm an LSU fan when it comes to college ball, the Iowa Hawkeyes might just be my second team. I just like their offense, bit old school and unashamedly so. As such I saw a decent amount of Beathard throughout the season and he looked viable as a late round development guy. Played in a pro-style offense, though that doesn't mean quite as much as it used to. Didn't throw the ball a tremendous amount because... Iowa. Had his moments though with some really nice looking passes, especially on some of the deep shots.
His ability to read the field and process everything in front of him was solid, but he did check the ball down quite a bit and showed something of a reluctance to pull the trigger on difficult throws. It's a shame because Iowa did have a decent crop of receivers and tight ends for Beathard to work with, but just a reluctance on the part of the coaching staff to push the ball down field a little more. It's really that which makes Beathard a late round project. Not that he's a bad quarterback, just that there are a number of question marks over him and creases that need ironing out.
I sure hope he pans out in the long run because to say the 49ers were hindered by an appalling level of quarterback play is a bit like saying water is wet, and frankly I don't think it's got much better with their free agent pick ups. We're now going to try and fix that with this pick, but not with Beathard. So who then? The answer is Nathan Peterman.
Peterman is also from a pro-style offense, one with a bit of flair (coming to LSU in 2017...). Peterman has had the opportunity to throw the full range of passes, from short to deep, and generally is an accurate passer even on those deep shots. He stands in the pocket well, keeps his eyes down the field even under pressure and has demonstrated the ability to make good throws as he's being hit. Very comfortable making quick reads underneath such as on play action to get the ball to his fullback (love fullbacks!) to make first downs when he needs them and scores in the red zone.
Overall a productive college quarterback who held up well even behind a suspect looking O-line. His early career was plagued by injuries and a lack of starting time before he transferred to Pitt. In his two years there he not only excelled but got better in his second year and just seems to be growing into the role of a quarterback. I'd argue Peterman might just be the most "pro-ready" quarterback in this years draft and still has room for further development.
In the draft proper he wasn't taken till the fifth round (171 overall) by the Bills, so in this scenario I'm biting almost two rounds earlier than I could have (if you see what I mean), but quarterback is such an important position and I'm a firm believer that if you want a player that much, just go get him. If he pans out and becomes the player you hoped he would, nobody will care in a few years time whether or not he was "over drafted". It's a bit like surprise onside kicks or going for it on fourth down early in the game; if it works, you're a genius; If it doesn't you're an idiot. He shouldn't have to wait long to get a shot in Buffalo and they may find that they got one of the steals of the draft. In this hypothetical though he comes with me to the 49ers.
Selection: Nathan Peterman, Quarterback, Pittsburgh.
Fourth Round: No. 4 (111 overall)
This pick, acquired from the Bears, went AWOL during the draft to Seattle as part of the package that got San Francisco back into the first round to take Reuben Foster. In this case I'm going to keep it, but who to use it on?
By this point a lot of the names I was talking about such as Darboh, Elflein and Kupp are gone. Switzer remains. But we have a new name in the mix now and that's wide receiver Josh Reynolds of Texas A&M. Pre-draft it seemed Reynolds would last to the fifth round so now is the time to start considering him. Reynolds had a solid Senior Bowl which started tongues wagging about him, but surprisingly nobody seemed to be on the Reynolds train during the season. That I don't get.
Reynolds had a really good run of scoring touchdowns in consecutive games, largely because he's 6'3", has a pretty good release and does a good job catching the ball over his shoulder. Tested well in the vertical jump at the combine but ran a fairly average 40 time. On game day that is noticeable it has to be said. He doesn't blaze away from defenders on vertical patterns and few corners seemed to be threatened by his deep speed. And yet he kept finding ways of beating people and making those deep, field stretching catches.
Some of this better work is actually done close to the line. Despite being somewhat slight due to a light frame carried on a tall body he didn't struggle that much with press coverage because his early footwork on the release was really good. He found ways to create space and get open on quick patterns, which suggests he can be more than just a one trick pony.
Also getting a look in now is Shelton Gibson, the wide receiver from West Virginia. Have you guessed at this point what I think of the 49ers receiving corps from last year? Gibson is very quick in pads and though he ran an average time at the combine he topped that with a much better run on his pro day, producing something closer to what scouts were expecting.
Just as a side note, this demonstrates a serious problem with the 40-yard dash that people should be aware of, but seemingly everyone seems to forget. One false step or other mistake in the transition from one phase to another, such as the starting phase to the acceleration phase, can cost a runner valuable time. Even if it's just a tenth of a second, that's the difference between running a decent looking 4.44 and a slow looking 4.55. Players also tend to be more rested and in better shape for their pro days.
In addition to his speed Gibson has some nice subtle moves down the field. Defenders fear his speed and he's learned how to use slight angles, not even real breaks, to exploit this. It's hard to describe it, but he bends the route slightly, often just for a step or two to force defenders into flipping their hips defensively which gives him a brief window he can then exploit. That tells us that either one of two things is happening, and perhaps both together. Either a) he just has a very natural feel for how to work the defenders or b) he studies his craft, on and off the practice field, looking for every edge he can. Both of those are desirable traits.
On top of that Gibson is a superb over the shoulder catcher down the field, turning his head late to minimise the window offered to the defender and tracking the ball with precision. He's mainly a hands catcher, normally taking the ball out in front and only after he's made the grab does he reel it into his chest. That too is a highly desirable trait. His route tree is a little limited due to the nature of the WVU offense and his break technique can be a little elongated, so there is room to develop. Run blocking is adequate but not amazing.
Those weaknesses in his game, combined with his lack of size, are what pushes him down the order. What you get with Gibson is a guy that right off the bat does a few very valuable things very well. He'll need to make progress in a number of areas to become more of a complete, number 1 type wideout, but he has a lot of interesting basic tools to work with that should help him see playing time early. Could also be a special teams return guy.
Next we begin to consider Damontae Kazee, the corner from San Diego State. Again, I hate corners, so it should make you sit up and take note when I say that I really like Kazee.
He flies down hill into contact and does it with a smile on his face. He's a very physical corner who makes excellent use of his hands and body positioning to disrupt, delay, leverage and redirect receivers. Sometimes he'll stack a receiver down the field (playing directly over the top of him) in order to prevent the receiver blowing by him. He matches the receivers routes well, gets his head turned to find the ball on deeper patterns and has excellent timing and concentration to make the catch (think Steve Smith, the one that played for the Panthers). Overall he's a natural ball hawk.
On top of that I can see Kazee contributing on special teams as a gunner and probably a blocker as well. Kazee is a little short at 5'10", which raises question marks about how well he will hold up against some of the taller outside guys, but even if you don't want to play him outside he could easily play as the nickel and possibly even safety. One way or another I think you can be sure that if you draft Kazee then he will find a way onto the field. That alone makes him a solid candidate for a pick. If he lives up to the hype? Could be another big steal in this draft.
Lastly it's another San Diego State guy, running back Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey is now the holder of the all time rushing yardage record for college football. So why is a guy like that all the way down here? Mainly because he's a short, lightweight guy who falls easily to arm tackles, is a so-so pass catcher and almost irrelevant as a pass blocker. He can't play third down and he struggles when the offensive line can't open those big, clean holes.
When they do however Pumphrey is very explosive. He can makes cuts that are virtually 90 degrees at times, then accelerates away like a lightning bolt. It's those runs that make him the yardage but also limit his value somewhat. He's not a consistent, down to down yard churner that can stay in the game and play as the primary back. Pumphrey is more of a secret weapon, an explosive back brought in selectively who might have to learn to play out of the slot and return kicks and punts in order to accumulate any kind of serious playing time to start.
At best, Pumphrey could be the second coming of LeSean McCoy. At worst, he could be a one season wonder who blows out a knee or ankle after one good season and is never heard from again. That's why you need to come all the way down here to the mid portion of the draft to find the all time rushing yardage leader in FBS history.
For this pick I'm really tempted to go with Kazee, but having drafted Douglas already and no receivers yet, I'd have to go with either Gibson, Reynolds or Switzer. It's a difficult choice as to which one, but generally I'd prefer to have a guy that can help the offense push the ball down the field, which makes me lean towards Gibson and Reynolds. I was all aboard the Reynolds train for the longest time and in the short run I think Reynolds might be the better day 1 player, but putting him side by side with Gibson I just feel the greater speed and higher ceiling of Gibson will be more valuable in the long run.
Selection: Shelton Gibson, Wide Receiver, West Virginia.
Fourth round: No. 37 (143 overall)
This pick was the 49ers compensatory pick which was traded away to the Colts in order to move up to get Utah running back Joe Williams. There a number of things to like about Williams. He's quick and decently agile, though surprisingly give his size he doesn't break tackles as well as you'd think, though he can plough into a congested box and get you a couple of extra yards where someone like a Pumphrey would go down on the spot. He has the potential to break out big runs when you get him a clean running lane, but I don't feel like he creates runs for himself. Off field character concerns are quite significant and for me would make him a questionable choice for a draft pick. He could be good though, but is probably more a rotational player than a stalwart, every down back.
As for our fictional pick, we've lost Pumphrey, Swizter and Reynolds, who all went earlier in this round. Losing Reynolds was a bit of a blow in particular because I thought he might last till the fifth where he could be snatched up. Another notable name that came off the board was edge rusher Carl Lawson from Auburn. Lawson is a pretty strong guy, decent athlete, who always seemed to be just a second or two away from getting home. He wouldn't have been in contention at this stage though again due to the selections of Barnett and Walker earlier, which makes other areas more of a priority.
So, having grabbed Gibson I feel like now would have been the time to pull the trigger on Kazee.
Selection: Damonte Kazee, Cornerback, San Diego State.
Fifth round: No. 2 (146 overall)
This pick the 49ers kept a hold of for a change and used to select tight end George Kittle from Iowa, no doubt looking to bring in a best friend for Beathard to work with. Kittle ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the combine, which was better than some receivers, and it really shows on the field. He's quick out of the blocks though he seems to lose some of the speed as the route wears on. As an Iowa tight end he naturally did a lot of run blocking and I would argue he is one of the best in-line blockers (so in other words hand in the dirt next to the offensive tackle) I've seen at the position in the draft for years. He also runs good routes. Not amazing, but good. His height isn't amazing for a tight end (6'4") so there is also the potential there for a conversion to fullback.
Now the 49ers really struggled at tight end last year. It wasn't really an important position in Chip Kelly's offense and I think that manifested itself on the field. Me on the other hand I'm a big power football guy and for that it's very beneficial to have a tight end who has both a combination of great blocking ability as well as the speed and technique to be a mismatch in the passing game against linebackers. For those reasons I'm going to do something a little bit different and basically just agree with the 49ers by taking Kittle at this point.
Selection: George Kittle, Tight End, Iowa
Fifth round: No. 17 (161 overall)
This pick came from the Redskins as part of an existing trade. The 49ers then used it as part of the trade with the Colts to move up and get Joe Williams. We're obviously gonna keep this pick, but who to use it on? Jarron Jones is one candidate and honestly by this point I think I'd be getting pretty nervous about the risk that someone would take a flyer on him. There are some other names that pop up though.
First is Miami right guard Danny Isidora. Isidora held up pretty well in the 1 on 1 line drills at the senior bowl I thought and on game day for the Hurricanes he was very impressive for the most part. In the pass game he absorbs the initial blow from the defender well, though his counter punch needs some work. When not covered directly he protects his gap first then hunts for additional work, offering help where needed to fellow linemen.
He does however have a tendency to over reach for defenders, so sometimes he gets caught out by swim moves and sheds. When asked to take angle blocks in the run game he sometimes is a little slow getting to the target and thus lets them slip through. Gave up at least one what you might call "concentration sack" that I saw (mid-block he literally stopped paying attention to his man, turned around and let the guy run past him. I can't recall seeing anything quite like it). There's definitely something there to work with but he needs time as a backup to develop.
Next is Eujan Price, defensive end from Pittsburgh. Pre-draft the talk was of Price falling to about this region based purely off his size. Not many defensive ends who are 5'11" and under 250lbs, let's put it that way. But then you don't get many defensive tackles who are only 6'1" and weigh under 290lbs yet still manage to score 9, 11 and 8 sacks in their first three NFL seasons, ala Aaron Donald of the Rams (who ended up picking Price in the seventh).
Price is about two things really. One is speed off the edge. He wins in those first three steps for the most part. And because he's short he also has an easy time getting under peoples pads, whether it's bending the corner around the edge or cutting back under and inside. That's why I love Price. Highly productive, even against quality opposition, he just will not stop clocking up the sacks. In the NFL he could easily play as an outside backer and though he might have some struggles with the run game as a 4-3 end I think he can do it.
Next guy starting to creep in here is Tyler Orlosky, center, West Virginia. Orlosky makes excellent fits and controls his opponent well in both the pass and run game. He anchors superbly against power rushers. In the run game he swings his hips into the hole to protect the running lane and doesn't chase lost blocks, instead redirecting to the second level. When going straight to the second level he tracks his target well and once he makes contact he seldom loses the block. He controls with ease two gapping defenders who try to bench and shed him, and excelled at the Senior Bowl in the 1 on 1 line drills. Could probably transition to guard if needed.
Lastly another center, this time from North Carolina, is Lucas Crowley. Let me start by giving you a number and that number is zero. That is the number of sacks that I saw Crowley give up. He's 6'3" but only around 270lbs, which means he really needs another 10-15lbs to be able to stand up routinely in the NFL. Generally holds his position well, but when a defender gets onto his shoulder he often has to ride them in an arc into the backfield which can cause problems for other linemen. Run block wise he does ok with angle blocks which is what I'd be interested in, but sometimes over shoots the target. Oddly enough he might actually be too quick at times. Could probably play right guard if he had to, but natural home is in the center.
So who to pick? I'm going with Price at this point. I know I've already taken three pass rushers and that's why I passed on Lawson, but I'm generally of the opinion that you can never have too many really good pass rushers and I think Price is one of those. Price also has the speed (like Willis) to potentially convert to linebacker, probably on the strong side. As it turns out this would be two rounds ahead of where he actually went, but I think the jitters would have got to me and I wouldn't have been able to trust that he would last even till the end of the round. For the Rams he might have to make his start as a rotational guy and 3rd down stand in, at least until he proves the height issue has been over blown.
Selection: Eujan Price, defensive end, Pittsburgh.
Sixth round: No. 2 (186 overall)
In reality this pick was traded to Baltimore, but here we're going to keep it and finally my nerves would have given out on Jarron Jones. Even considering his off field concerns I'd be surprised to still find him on the board at this point. No more chances though, I'd have taken him. In reality Jones went undrafted which surprised me and has now landed as a free agent with the Giants, which is just about the best spot he could have landed in.
Selection: Jarron Jones, defensive tackle, Notre Dame
Sixth round: No. 18 (202 overall)
This pick came from Denver as part of the Vernon Davis trade and ended up being used in reality on Utah defensive end Pita Taumoepenu. I'm amused that some scouts think he lacks enough size to play the edge, despite being just a few pounds lighter than the listed weight for Khalil Mack.
Overall this isn't a bad pick I don't think. The 49ers have him listed as a defensive linemen so it seems he'll play defensive end, but I think I'd prefer to see him as an outside backer, either strong or weak as I think he can play both. He didn't do a huge amount of coverage, but when he did he looked like he could handle it and that was often against proper slot wide receivers, not just tight ends or running backs. In the pass rush he lines up in a four point stance (which I love because I'm odd like that) and comes out of the blocks with a tremendous amount of speed.
Granted, once he actually gets up to speed it tails off fairly quickly. He's not a 200m sprinter that's for sure. But that initial burst often puts him in great shape against the offensive tackle he's facing and he holds up well when it comes to a strength battle. Not the stoutest run defender in the world but does enough and his pass rush ability is intriguing. If I wasn't removing the 49ers actual picks from the order this is someone who would get consideration with the next pick.
In this fantasy draft however we're going a different way and that's with Tyler Orlosky, the center from West Virginia. That offensive line really needs some work and I think Orlosky has potential as maybe a starter from day one, but certainly as a developmental guy.
Selection: Tyler Orlosky, Center, West Virginia.
Seventh round: No. 1 (219 overall)
The final pick in this draft that in reality was traded away to the Vikings as part of the move up for C.J. Beathard, but here we're keeping it and there are plenty of players to choose from at this point.
Obviously Crowley, the North Carolina center is one of them. But at this stage I'm also looking at a number of other offensive linemen that have slipped through the cracks. Starting with his team mate Caleb Peterson, left guard from North Carolina. Playing left guard means you get all the fun of blocking nose tackles and nose equivalents, often by yourself. Peterson held his ground well, consistently working to get his hands inside. Protected rush lanes well and worked well with his center Crawley to pick up stunts/twists. Did struggle a little at times, but as a late/undrafted guy he is solid and has some room to bulk up a bit more. As a project for an O-line coach I think he offers a lot.
Next Jon Toth, the center from Kentucky. Toth was a quality center in college who has great size, gave up very few negative plays and made some superb down blocks, as well as transitioning well from first level to second level blocks. He did however have surgery for a herniated disk, which is what kept him from being drafted back in the real world and makes him still a somewhat luke warm free agent at this stage until people can figure out how he'll heal up.
We also have Damien Mama, the left guard from USC. A solid if unspectacular left guard. Could probably do with shedding a few pounds down from 334 to more in the 314 range to give him a little more mobility as he seems plenty strong enough to handle the drop without losing too much of his anchor. Does most things pretty well, pretty stout against head on rushes and controls people that get onto his shoulder. Does struggle with moving targets in the run game and hasn't faced the biggest and baddest defensive linemen on a regular basis however.
Jake Eldrenkamp was a left guard a Washington, tall, but a little on the light side. Blocks well on angles and has experience pulling on power plays which is something specifically that interests me. Moves up decently to the second level to get linebackers. Generally sound in pass protection, but needs more work on recognising and countering blitzes/twists/stunts. Sometimes lets defender go early before the play has stopped, which a couple of times caused problems, hence why he's under consideration only now.
Lastly for the O-line we have Andreas Knappe, the right tackle from Connecticut. A true Danish giant at 6'8" with bloody great long arms. Generally engulfs anyone that comes near him, but not the most mobile guy. Question marks exist over how he will cope with NFL speed off the edge. His run blocking sometimes suffers as well from this lack of foot speed and the high pad level that is unavoidable for such a tall guy. He's also already turning 26 years this old this year and as a project for someone (the Vikings surely?) it's a battle of his basic traits vs his age.
We also have some other names to look at from other positions such as Keionta Davis, defensive end from Tennessee-Chattanooga. Did well at the Senior Bowl 1 vs 1 drills and had an excellent game against Alabama's Cam Robinson when the two faced off in the regular season. Has great hand technique to beat offensive linemen and create space for his rush, but lacks the athletic ability to properly exploit it. Basically a development project, to see how much extra weight he could put on as muscle.
At running back there's Dare Ogunbowale from Wisconsin. Ogunbowale is a great example of what I was talking about earlier with still being able to get value at the running back spot even much later in the draft. Ogunbowale is not Leonard Fournette and he's not Dalvin Cook, but the difference between him and those two is markedly less pronounced than the difference between say Keionta Davis and guys like Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett and DeMarcus Walker.
Ogunbowale has a set of all round traits that make him a potential three down back, though the passing game is his weakest area. He can pass protect soldily and runs some OK routes but there isn't much to really go on there and would be his main source of development. Carrying the ball he's more than ok, with a good combination of speed, vision and cutting ability.
Quarterback wise we have Trevor Knight of Texas A&M. Knight has been around the houses a bit before finally settling at A&M. There he was a mixed bag. On the plus side his deep passing is mostly accurate and he has a feel for throwing "touch" passes (passes that are a little softer, with more of an arc, to make them easier to catch). His ability to escape the pocket and use his feet to create yardage is also worthy of note. On the down side he never really seemed to be able to bring it all together consistently to win games with his arm, not helped by an offensive line that did him few favours, as well as being a pure spread quarterback for most of his career. As a late round/undrafted guy though you can see the obvious potential.
Finally, two receivers to top this off, both from LSU. The first is Malachi Dupre. Dupre has the advantage of height, a strong vertical jump and a decent 40-yard dash time at his pro day. He's a good deep ball catcher and that's probably where the Packers (who ultimately took him at 247 overall) will hope he can come into play, as both a deep threat and perhaps as a red zone target. The bad? Well he's an LSU receiver which means chances to actually run routes were limited, targets were even more limited, and catchable passes yet more so.
If I'm a wide receiver, even if I grew up living in the shadow of the LSU stadium, I have to confess I'd have to think twice about going there. Things might get better in the Matt Canada led offense, but boy it's not been pretty for LSU receivers for a long time now. Not that the quarterbacks and system are all to blame for Dupre's lack of production. He often looked looked slow off the blocks and was not a polished route runner. Quarterbacks tended to go to Dural when the chips were on the line, which suggests something of a lack of confidence in Dupre when it really matters.
In essence what you're doing if you draft Dupre is you're drafting the measurables. Which in fairness is partly what the draft is about, especially at this late stage. "Draft the man. Coach the player", is probably the best way to describe it. With Dupre that's all you really have to work with but I do think he's an intriguing guy due to that size and the athletic ability, especially available this late in the draft.
As for Travin Dural, height is good but overall measurables are a bit blah. Has decent hands, is a good but not great route runner who was able to create space underneath but struggled to create separation from the defenders down the field. He lacks any real sudden burst of speed to use as a weapon and needs a good polish added to his technique. Went undrafted ultimately and with a reason. Having signed with the New Orleans Saints (the guy clearly likes living in Louisiana) he'll have to work hard to make a roster spot, but you can see that basic nugget of a good possession receiver is there.
So who gets this final pick? I'm going with Ogunbowale. To me he's basically a 3rd/4th round quality pick just kicking around here in the 7th round because running backs are so ubiquitous now. I think he has a great collection of skills and room to improve with further coaching. And that rounds out this mock/fantasy/nightmare draft.
Selection: Dare Ogunbowale, Running Back, Wisconsin.
So there you have it, 12 picks in the books. Just to recap they are:
- Derek Barnett, defensive end.
- DeMarcus Walker, defensive end.
- Rasul Douglas, cornerback.
- Jordan Willis, defensive end.
- Nathan Peterman, quarterback.
- Shelton Gibson, wide receiver.
- Damontae Kazee, cornerback.
- George Kittle, tight end.
- Eujan Price, defensive end.
- Jarron Jones, defensive tackle.
- Tyler Orlosky, center.
- Dare Ogunbowale, running back.
To me that's a great bunch of players, drafted pretty much solely on the basis of the best player available at each slot. The first two guys were some of the most productive pass rushers in the FBS last season and have both had good careers in college, and in my opinion will in the NFL. Douglas has the makings of a top cover corner who can actually contribute in the run game. Willis has the athletic traits to potentially be a nightmare at the next level if he can develop his game a little. Peterman is about as "pro ready" as quarterbacks come in this draft and should grow into a starting role fairly quickly. Gibson brings great deep threat potential. Kazee is going to surprise people with how good he is despite his height and could prove a highly flexible asset. Kittle I think will be an excellent tight end, both in the passing and running games. Price I believe will overcome doubts about his height and go on to be a great pass rusher. Jones (I hope) will prove the doubters wrong about his work ethic and become a big mover in the middle. I think it's just a matter of time before Orlosky gets a shot as a starter and finally I think Ogunbowale is going to be one of those names in the future that people look back on and go "man, how did that guy go undrafted?"
But we're not quite done yet, because now it's time for some real talk. You knew this was coming.
Because I'm sure some will wonder just how viable it is to go out and draft four defensive ends, even if at least one of them has the potential to be shifted to the Sam linebacker spot. In particular some may wonder how viable that would be on a team that already has two first round picks at the same position, one of whom was only selected in the top ten just last year. Well the 49ers sack tally in 2016 would argue the case for itself that some improvement is needed and I think guys of Buckner and Armstead's size could probably shift inside if needed to make way (both are listed at 6'7"). But if we're being brutally honest the draft above is a work of utter fiction, both figuratively and literally.
It's what a best player available draft would look like if you were asking me to do it and presuming that I'd had the liberty of juggling the salary cap and free agency to put together the foundation of the team I wanted. It's a draft with an eye on the long term future and assumes the team could tick by happily in the mean time waiting for some of those players to find their feet and come good. It would also probably leave the owner frothing at the mouth in indignation as to why I hadn't tried to build a Super Bowl winner right now and may indeed have cost me my fictitious job as the General Manager/Head Coach.
So if that's the case, what would a more realistic draft look like? I mean, if we're really getting down to the meat and bones of it and we make some much less rosey assumptions about free agency, for example arguing that we couldn't rustle up anybody we wanted (and no, I don't want Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley), instead having to fall back on the likes of Gabbert and Ponder. What would a 49ers re-draft look like that was designed to actually keep me my fantasy job under these less than ideal circumstances?
Well I'm glad I asked myself that, because here it is. First of all, let's begin with a fresh set of assumptions;
1) That we were able to hold on to some free agents from our own team that we want, guys like Dorsey, Harris, Draughn and Patton, but were unable to make any real splash signings like a Mike Glennon (I would never have matched that deal he got from the Bears) or even Earl Mitchell. Aside from maybe some cheapo back up type players there is no real movement in free agency, certainly not to our advantage.
2) That having decided to let Kaepernick go, we're left with Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder as our future at the quarterback position. And you thought your team had problems...
3) That the offensive line is still a mess, with Joe Staley at the left tackle spot and Zane Beadles at left guard being the only remotely competent persons present, though if we could find a way to shuffle Trent Brown to the left (as a back up) we might be in business for the future.
4) That at receiver we have Kerley and Patton... and that's about it. Tight end is ok, sort of, if Celek can stay healthy and Vance McDonald can stop dropping s**t. Running back is in good shape overall.
5) That the defensive line isn't actually that bad, because at least in theory it's not. We have two first round picks at either end of our shiny new 4-3 with veteran Ahmad Brooks ready to lead them and guys like Eli Harold, Aaron Lynch and Ronald Blair as potential development guys, who might play a mix of end and linebacker through camps. Glenn Dorsey, Quinton Dial and Chris Jones form a fairly solid base in the middle with the possibility that either Buckner or Armstead (or both...) could be shuffled in there as well depending on how camp experimentation turns out.
6) That the linebacker position is solid, providing Ray-Ray Armstrong and NaVorro Bowman can actually stay healthy, ideally both at the same time for a change, with the third spot in the corps up for grabs.
7) That the secondary is in ok-ish shape now that Bethea has been dumped, providing Tartt, Reid, Ward and Robinson can stay healthy. If they can't - and the odds are that at least one of them will go down injured for a period - the secondary is vulnerable, not least because it's very young.
8) That we're going to start this with all the picks the 49ers originally began with, accounting for trades made pre-draft, but discounting all subsequent trades. This is particularly important.
So with those assumptions set, let's begin (again):
First round: No. 2 overall
When the 49ers traded out of the second spot they were reportedly surprised to see the Bears then take Mitchell Trubisky, largely because they had already acquired Mike Glennon in free agency. Now granted it's a move by Chicago that causes a lot of head scratching. But more head scratching should have followed as to why anyone would think that once the Bears had made their intentions about a trade clear that they would take anyone but Trubisky.
The fact that the 49ers were a quarterback needy team and most pre-draft predictions had them taking Trubisky at number two should have clearly pointed to the target of the Bears move. I wonder then if all this talk about how the 49ers were surprised etc is a ruse, basically to hide the fact that they thought the Bears would move up to get someone else and were caught with their pants down when the Bears took Trubisky who they thought would still be there at number 3?
In this re-draft we're not going to take the trade. And the reason for that is because I want Mitchell Trubisky and I'm not going to risk letting anyone else get him.
I know, I know, in my first round review I said that I didn't think Trubisky was a top ten player. But that rather assumes that you have the luxury of being able to choose. He may not really be ready yet, but the cold reality of the modern NFL is that it's a quaterback driven league and without one you have no hope. This is a franchise trying to bounce back from its worse season since 2004 and Trubisky at least offers hope. It's not ideal to be using this pick on a one year starter in college, who's never played under center, lived in a spread offense, and had some issues with the accuracy of some of his deep passes.
But that said he has a lot of the skills and physical tools to potentially be a franchise guy in time and if nothing else he's an upgrade over Gabbert and Ponder (and Hoyer and Barkley for that matter) in the short term. In the long term (you would hope) he'll gradually grow into being "the guy". I just can't imagine a situation where you're going into a new era for a team, new GM, new head coach etc, and you don't have someone at the signal caller position who at least has a chance of staying there for the next decade or so. It's the one slot on the team that you absolutely have to get right and in this scenario Trubisky offers the best chance to do that.
Selection: Mitchell Trubisky, Quarterback, North Carolina
Second round: No. 2 (34 overall)
So with the quarterback position addressed, we now need to start looking at some tools for our new toy to play with. The 49ers receiver corps was pretty bad last year, not helped by the tremendously poor level of quarterback play. Quinton Patton at least offered a bit of speed on the edge and Jeremy Kerley offered a possession type option underneath, but that's only two guys that we can count on and we're doing that off the basis of the few times they were able to shine, when their quarterbacks weren't throwing the ball to the other team or into the stands (and remember that we're assuming we weren't able to make any decent free agent moves, like acquiring Pierre Garcon).
For that reason we're going with East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones as our second round pick. Jones has the size I like. He has the hands I like. He's a good enough route runner for now and can potentially be improved. He has flashes of the athletic ability that I'd like to see. Ultimately he's a nice mix between a deep threat and a possession guy, neither truly one or the other, but capable of doing a bit of both. Importantly, if we're going to back Trubisky with our first round pick then it beehoves us to do all that we can to try and make him a success.
Selection: Zay Jones, Wide Receiver, East Carolina
Third round: No. 2 (66 overall)
Speaking of which, without question we're going with Ohio State center Pat Elflein in the third round. No ifs, no buts. That offensive line sucked last year and a big part of that was because of the absymal level of center play from the likes of Daniel Kilgore. I remember watching Daniel Kilgore as a collegiate right tackle, a position he was pretty decent at. I noted at the time however that I didn't think a move inside would be good for him and that has proven to be the case in abundance. Elflein is going to put all these nightmares to bed and add a bit of stiffness to an all too sieve like offensive line. He's a solid if unspectacular center at this point in his career and right now that'll do me just fine.
Selection: Pat Elflein, Center, Ohio State
Fourth round: No. 2 (109 overall)
Continuing the running theme here of collecting toys to support Trubisky, how about we go out and secure his favourite; Ryan Switzer. Overlooked in my earlier re-draft in favour of Shelton Gibson, here Switzer gains bonus points for being Trubisky's team mate at North Carolina and probably his favourite target. If we're going in on Trubisky this year we might as well go all in, right? And Switzer was his favourite target for a reason, being a solid route runner with good initial quickness and great hands. He poses a degree of vertical threat and certainly works his socks off, with special teams potential on top.
Selection: Ryan Switzer, Wide Receiver, North Carolina
Fourth round: No. 37 (143 overall)
With the receivers sorted and the middle of the offensive line upgraded, one spot on the offense that still looks a little vulnerable is tight end. McDonald, Celek and Blake Bell are ok, but none of them is that great of a run blocker right now and none stands out as a great receiver either. Servicable, yes. But none of them really looks like a number one tight end. George Kittle from Iowa on the other hand has a great combination of blocking ability and speed. In time he could be "the guy" at that position, so we'll take him a little earlier than we did before (and he went in reality) to secure (I hope) the future of this position.
Selection: George Kittle, Tight End, Iowa
Fifth round: No. 2 (146 overall)
That leaves us with an interesting couple of choices at this pick. And having so far gone "all in" on Mitchell Trubisky, we're now going to do something a little sneaky. I did say that quarterback was the most important position on the field and for that reason we're going to secure our plan B by drafting another one. It's one of the real head scratchers each year for me; why will teams happily double or even triple dip at certain positions, but never at quarterback? The one position on the field that you absolutely have to get right to have any chance as a franchise and yet consistently everyone seems to bank all their chips on just the one guy? Well, we're going to buck that trend by taking Nathan Peterman.
Selection: Nathan Peterman, Quarterback, Pittsburgh
Fifth round: No. 17 (161 overall)
Now that we've secured an alternative in case the great Trubisky experiment goes a bit awry (or he just gets injured), it's time to get back to normal running and backing our new quarterback to the hilt. To do that we're going to invest in Shelton Gibson to try and give us some more guaranteed speed on the edge. If Patton goes down and Zay Jones doesn't work out the way we think we'll still need a deep threat down the sideline, which is where Gibson comes in.
Selection: Shelton Gibson, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Sixth round: No. 2 (186 overall)
Although we scooped up Pat Elflein earlier, the offensive line still needs a bit of security. Suffice to say I'm not a fan of Joshua Garnett in the slightest. He's a late first round pick from the previous year with a modest salary (but an expensive cap hit to dump) so for now he gets the benefit of the doubt and the chance to develop. As insurance - and to account for the possibility of Elflein getting injured - we're going to take Tyler Orlosky as a future generic interior lineman.
Selection: Tyler Orlosky, Center, West Virginia
Sixth round: No. 18 (202 overall)
At this stage the temptation is to be absolutely sure about the future of the offensive line by taking Jake Eldrenkamp. But I'm actually going to go on a little tangent here and take Dwayne Thomas, corner, from LSU. Thomas was an odd piece in Dava Aranda's defense. He played mainly at the nickel spot, but was often used as an aggressive weapon to blitz the quarterback and attack runners in the backfield. His coverage skills are ok without being exceptional, but he's a willing tackler with decent instincts. Ultimately in the real world he was picked up undrafted by the Patriots who plan to convert him to safety and that's my thinking here. Well, nickel corner/back up safety/special teams guy.
Selection: Dwayne Thomas, Cornerback, LSU
Seventh round: No. 1 (219 overall)
Lastly we're going to echo the earlier re-draft by taking Dare Ogunbowale. Like I said first time around, he's basically a 3rd/4th round quality guy kicking about in the 7th round. He has utility on all downs as a back and could probably be a special teams contributor if you needed it as well. While he might see limited touches initially, he's a guy that I think can be plugged in immediately in case of emergency. In essence I see no good reason not to select him
Selection: Dare Ogunbowale, Running Back, Wisconsin
So that's our second - more tempered and realistic - re-draft done. Here's what we ended up with;
- Mitchell Trubisky, Quarterback
- Zay Jones, Wide Receiver
- Pat Elflein, Center
- Ryan Switzer, Wide Receiver
- George Kittle, Tight End
- Nathan Peterman, Quarterback
- Shelton Gibson, Wide Receiver
- Tyler Orlosky, Center
- Dwayne Thomas, Cornerback
- Dare Ogunbowale, Running Back
Just the one defensive player getting in on the action as the focus was very much on acquiring Trubisky and then building the foundation of the future offense around him in order to give him the best chance to succeed. Priority free agents would have been the likes of Knappe, Eldrenkamp, Crowley and Robinson in order to provide more depth at offensive line, especially in the case of Knappe who would have been eyeing that right tackle spot, the one position that I didn't really address. The defense was in alright-ish shape going into the draft and would probably benefit more from having a quarterback that could actually keep the offense on the field and scoring some points than it would from an additional young defensive lineman or linebacker. There's always next years draft after all...
Again my apology's for the lateness of this post, but time is always against me it seems. I hope you enjoyed this and if so, please take the time to share this on Facebook, Twitter, your favourite football forum etc. My intention next is to do a "Scout Speak Special" covering some of my favourite pieces of amusing scout speak that have popped up during the draft, as they do every year. Over the summer I'd like to get back into some of the Xs and Os of football, breaking out the old diagram maker (err, powerpoint) and going over some plays and concepts etc.
Time permitting of course...