COMMENTARY | Whether they will be moving up or moving down in Thursday's start to the 2013 NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers will be active, and the consensus around the NFL at the moment is that the 49ers have targeted the first round to make their biggest move of the draft.
Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole is reporting that San Francisco is eyeing the No. 13 or No. 14 overall picks in Thursday's opening round.
"The talk around the league is that the 49ers would like to get a defensive lineman who can eventually step in for veteran Justin Smith. The team also needs a safety, No. 2 tight end and could use an impact corner. All of that is possible."
There are a handful of players the 49ers could be targeting, but here are four players worth trading up for on Thursday.
WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
While the speed and game-changing ability are big reasons why Austin is a highly coveted player in this year's NFL draft, trading up to draft him may be a bit of a risk for the 49ers.
His Wonderlic Test score of seven out of 50 is a large red flag, even for a player with his skillset. In offensive coordinator Greg Roman's system, a player needs the smarts, as well as the talent, to produce.
There is also a good amount of skepticism over his height and weight, and if his body can hold up for 16 weeks of NFL football. At 5'8" and 174 pounds, he does not have the prototypical football frame, by any means.
DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
If there is a defensive lineman the 49ers will trade up to acquire in the mid-teens, it is Missouri's Sheldon Richardson.
San Francisco is looking for depth on the defensive line, as well as a successor to powerhouse Justin Smith in the year's to come, and Richardson definitely fits that mold.
Arguably the second best defensive tackle in this year's draft, Richardson's biggest asset is his great athleticism for a player standing 6'4" and weighing 295 pounds. Although he will not power past offensive linemen with his upper body strength, his quickness and all-around strength will make him a bona fide player in the NFL.
DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Along the same lines as Richardson, Lotulelei would be the heir apparent to Justin Smith in the coming years if the 49ers choose to trade up in the first round to acquire him.
Lotulelei thrives on the line of scrimmage due to his size, strength and wrap-up tackle ability. He is constantly the quickest player off the line, which gives him even more of an edge on the competition with his strength.
At 6'4" and 325 pounds, the only concern for NFL teams is his heart condition, in which medical tests showed an irregularity at the scouting combine. Although that does not appear to be a serious issue heading forward, it has caused a few teams to drop him on their draft boards.
The 49ers would have to move up a bit further than Richardson to have a shot at Lotulelei, who is projected as a top-15 pick at worst on Thursday, but the reward far outweighs the risk when it comes to the defensive tackle from Utah.
S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Vaccaro is the top safety in this year's NFL draft, and the 49ers have a need for a starting safety, after letting Dashon Goldson test the free agency waters. Safety is expected to be a high priority for San Francisco on Thursday or Friday, but trading up to the early-teens to draft Vaccaro could solve a clear weakness for the team right away.
Vaccaro is athletic, strong and physical -- a perfect set of skills for any team looking for a game-changing safety, and the 49ers are.
Although it is not imperative that San Francisco pursues a first-round caliber safety, if Vaccaro is available for the right price, he would be hard to turn down.
Other safeties that could convince the 49ers to wait until later in the draft to address the vacancy are Florida's Matt Elam, South Carolina's D.J. Swearinger, LSU's Eric Reid and Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien.
Scott Semmler is a senior at San Jose State University fortunate enough to have covered nearly every Bay Area professional sports team, including the San Francisco Giants' 2012 World Series title. Follow him on Twitter @ScottSemmler22.
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