COMMENTARY | The 2013 NFL season officially came to an end with the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl parade on Wednesday. Sorry for the reminder, San Francisco 49ers fans. In any event, it's now time to turn the page to what promises to be an interesting offseason for the 49ers as they prepare to open up a brand-new stadium in Santa Clara next year.
As many of my readers already know, the NFL draft has become the best possible way to build and sustain a strong roster. This is what San Francisco and Seattle have both excelled at over the past three seasons or so. Let's take a look at my initial 49ers mock draft for Yahoo.
1st Round, 30th Pick: Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
Many think that San Francisco needs to address the wide receiver position first in May. While that may very well be true, there are a couple things keeping me from thinking that it will do just that. First, Quinton Patton has a ton of upside and could be slotted in as the No. 3 receiver this season, especially if the 49ers are able to retain Anquan Boldin. Second, the wide receiver class is tremendously deep this season. Why go after that position in the initial round when you can receive value later on?
Gilbert is a first-round lock at this point in the draft process. He has the size and physicality to be a solid bump-and-run cornerback, which is something the 49ers desperately need. In addition, the Oklahoma State product is a plug-and-play defensive back, much in the form of what we saw from Eric Reid at safety last season. Even if San Francisco retains Tarell Brown or is able to acquire an upper-echelon cover guy in free agency, Gilbert will be able to come in and play the nickel role out of the gate.
2nd Round, 56th Pick: Davante Adams, Wide Receiver, Fresno State
I currently have Adams slated as a top-20 pick, but the rest of the armchair scouting community really haven't fallen in place. CBS Sports currently has Adams as the 58th-best prospect in the draft.
The former Fresno State star boasts the highest upside of nearly any receiver in this class. At 6'2" and 216 pounds, Adams has the prototypical wide receiver frame for the NFL. Nearly the same exact build of Keenan Allen, who was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the third round of the 2013 draft. He does a great job catching passes in tight coverage, is among the best receivers in the class at going up to get the ball and would be an immediate red zone threat for the 49ers. While Adams ran a limited route tree at Fresno, he is polished in and out of his breaks. This would be an absolute steal.
2nd Round, 61st Pick: Deone Bucannon, Safety, Washington State
In an article I wrote here earlier this week, I suggested that Bucannon would be the perfect fit to replace Donte Whitner at strong safety. He's a plug-and-play defensive back who loves to hit and possesses a tremendous amount of physicality. At 6'1" and 216, he's actually two inches taller and a dozen pounds heavier than Whitner.
Interestingly enough, Bucannon's coverage skills stood out to me on tape. While solely a strong safety prospect at the next level, he can hold his own against tight ends and slot receivers down the field. Bucannon would be a perfect complement to Pro Bowl free safety Eric Reid in the back end of San Francisco's defense.
3rd Round, 77th Pick: Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle, Florida
A first-round talent with injury concerns, Easley is the exact type of player that San Francisco has taken shots on in the past. Just think about Tank Carradine an Marcus Lattimore in the 2013 draft. CBS Sports currently has the 6'2", 285-pound defensive tackle as the 82nd-ranked prospect in the draft. He combines great interior pass-rush technique with plus athleticism to be a threat both on the outside and the inside. Where Easley may struggle against the run, he's more than capable of playing a rotational role on the outside in San Francisco's 3-4. Two major knee injuries have impacted his stock a great deal.
3rd Round, 94th Pick: Dee Ford, Linebacker, Auburn
A standout during Senior Bowl week, Ford can come in as a pass-rush specialist behind the likes of Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith and former Auburn teammate Corey Lemonier. Ford played mostly with his hands down in college, but fits better as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He struggles against the run and needs to hone his pass-rush technique to be an every-down player in the NFL, but the talent is definitely there.
3rd Round (comp pick): Lache Seastrunk, Running Back, Baylor
Note: Projected compensatory selection due to the loss of Dashon Goldson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency last March.
Once thought of as having one of the best running back situations in the NFL, San Francisco might have to actually spend yet another pick at this position. Frank Gore is 30 years old and will be earning nearly $7 million next year. The 49ers will approach him about a possible restructure or extension, but there is a slim chance that Gore may not be on the roster in 2014, however crazy that might sound.
LaMichael James has been a bust in his first two years in the NFL and Anthony Dixon is a free agent. While the 49ers do have two talented running backs in the form of Kendall Hunter and Marcus Lattimore on the roster, one has a serious injury history and the other doesn't seem to have taken that next step as a runner in the NFL.
Seastrunk jumps out on tape due to his low center of gravity and ability to break tackles at the line of scrimmage. At 5'9" and 210 pounds, he's built very much like Maurice Jones-Drew and possesses nearly the same running style. The Baylor product will use plus vision to find holes and break through the line. Pretty much a one-trick pony, he will need to improve as a pass catcher to be considered a three-down back in the NFL.
4th Round, 125th Pick: Bryan Stork, Center, Florida State
Jonathan Goodwin is about as good as gone. Even if he decides to play next season instead of hanging up the cleats, it will likely be for another team. It's also about time that San Francisco gets younger at the center position. Fortunately for Trent Baalke and Co, this class is loaded with starter-caliber centers.
Stork is one of those athletic centers that can pull to either side of the line and get out in front of the runner down the field. He has experience playing guard, which could also come in handy moving forward. The Florida State product took home the Rimington Trophy as the best center in the nation this past season. He's also a plug-and-play rookie.
5th Round, 158th Pick: Brandon Thomas, Guard, Clemson
At this point in the draft, it's all about depth. 2012 draft pick Joe Looney has shown a whole lot of nothing, pretty much representing that draft class to a T. He's nothing more than an average back up at this point. While Daniel Kilgore has shown a ton of promise, San Francisco could afford to acquire more depth. The good thing about Thomas is that he's versatile. He can play both tackle and guard, which would be huge for the 49ers moving forward. Thomas is also an above-average interior pass protector with solid mechanics.
6th Round, 189th Pick: Ben Gardner, Defensive End, Stanford
Jim Harbaugh has really stayed away from his former Stanford player, as the 49ers have yet to draft a single Cardinal in his three years with the team. Gardner hasn't exploded on to the scene as some thought he would. He's solid against the run, but hasn't done a whole lot to get to the quarterback.
Where I did project another defensive end to San Francisco earlier, Gardner and Easley have tremendously different games. In reality, the 49ers are likely to be doing a whole lot of trading in the draft come May. Just too many picks to fill a minimal amount of holes. If not, the later rounds are going to be all about acquiring value. Gardner represents that at the end of the sixth round.
7th Round, 218th Pick: Dri Archer, Wide Receiver, Kent State
The first of what may end up being four seventh-round picks, San Francisco nabs a player it envisioned it was getting in LaMichael James two years ago. Archer exploded on to the scene after an explosive 20-touchdown 2012 campaign. At 5'7" and 170 pounds, Archer reminds me a great deal of Dexter McCluster, who made the Pro Bowl for the Kansas City Chiefs this year. His athleticism and pass-catching ability indicates that Archer can line up as both a running back and a receiver at the next level. Listed as a wide receiver, Archer is CBS Sports 259th-ranked prospect.
7th Round, 219th Pick: Aaron Colvin, Cornerback, Oklahoma
Despite tearing his ACL in practice at the Senior Bowl, I have a hard time believing that Colvin will fall to the seventh round in May. He was an early day-two prospect prior to the injury and shouldn't fall past the fifth round. With that said, everything I am reading indicates that his slide might be more exaggerated than I think. He's now ranks outside of the top 200 according to CBS Sports. If that ends up being where Colvin drops in May, there is no reason to believe that the 49ers won't pick him up with an idea of redshirting him as a rookie.
7th Round, 222nd Pick: Colt Lyerla, Tight End, Oregon
Again, it's all about value. Lyerla would have easily been a second or third rounder if it wasn't for an arrest on cocaine possession last year, via ESPN.com. He is an athletic freak, who would represent a tremendous mismatch issues for opposing defenses. If Lyerla can get his head on straight, he's going to be an elite tight end in the NFL. If not, the 49ers will move on relatively quickly. After all, a seventh-round pick for a team that has been to three consecutive NFC Championship games doesn't represent tremendous upside in terms of making the team.
Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Bleacher Report and is currently the head editor at eDraft and a columnist at Pro Football Focus. Vincent co-hosts a weekly radio show called "Football Debate Central" with former NFL player Ryan Riddle and has seen his work featured on CNN, BR and Los Angeles Times, among many other outlets.
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