COMMENTARY | This is exactly what the San Francisco 49ers should do in the upcoming draft, which starts Thursday, April 25.
1. Trade up with the Dallas Cowboys, who own the 18th pick, and draft cornerback Desmond Trufant from Washington. The 49ers have 14 picks, but only six or seven rookies will make the team. So the 49ers need to consolidate picks - trade up, or trade for picks in next year's draft. First, they should trade up. They should give up one of their second-round picks -No.34 - and both of their third-round picks - No. 74 and No. 93 - to the Cowboys for Dallas' first-round pick. With that pick, the 49ers can choose between the top cornerback available - Trufant - or Cornellius Carradine, a defensive linemen from Florida State who could develop into Justin Smith's heir apparent one day. The 49ers should take Trufant over Carradine because cornerback is their No.1 need. Trufant could take Carlos Rogers' job right away as the left cornerback in the base defense, and slot cornerback in the Nickel defense. Carradine, on the other hand, would not have a clear role as a rookie. He'd play as a defensive end in the Nickel defense if Aldon Smith or Ahmad Brooks gets hurt.
2. Trade back with the New York Jets for the Jets' third-round pick and the Jets' 2014 first-round pick. The 49ers are in a great position to trade down from their first-round pick, No.31 overall. Draft experts expect many teams to draft quarterbacks at the end of the first round and the beginning of the second. The Jets are desperate for a quarterback. Their current starter, Mark Sanchez, is one of the worst in the league. His career completion percentage is 55.1. The Jets own the eighth pick in the second round, and if they don't trade up, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills all could take quarterbacks ahead of the Jets. So the Jets could leap-frog those teams to No. 31 by trading to the 49ers the 72nd pick this year (see below) and a first-round pick next year (it could be a top-10 pick). The 49ers also give the Jets a fifth-round pick - No.157 - in the deal.
3. With their second-round pick - No.61 - draft safety D.J. Swearinger from South Carolina. Swearinger probably will be the best safety available at this pick. He would start at free safety right away for the 49ers, a spot vacated by the departure of Dashon Goldson. Swearinger is a ferocious hitter and he has experience playing cornerback. He's the total package, but he'll drop to the end of the second round because he ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, considered a slow time for NFL safeties. He plays faster than his 40-yard dash time would indicate.
4. With their third-round pick - No.72 (which they get from the Jets) - draft wide receiver Quinton Patton from Louisiana Tech. The 49ers need to draft a wide receiver with one of their first three picks because they will have just two receivers under contract after this coming season - Michael Crabtree and A.J. Jenkins. Patton could start at split end as a rookie and eventually become the 49ers' flanker if Crabtree signs with another team in 2015.
5. With their first fourth-round pick - No.128 - draft defensive lineman Lavar Edwards from LSU. Edwards was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, but a backup defensive lineman at LSU. He came off the bench and played both defensive end and defensive tackle. 49ers' defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, the best in the business, could develop Edwards into Justin Smith's eventual replacement. Edwards and Smith have similar frames - both are 6-4 and both have long arms. Edwards' arms are freakishly long - 35.5 inches. But Edwards weighs a "mere" 277 pounds, so he'll have to gain 10 to 15 pounds before he'd be Justin Smith's size.
6. With their second fourth-round pick - No.131 - draft cornerback Sanders Commings from Georgia. Commings is a big corner who plays press coverage. The 49ers have been looking for a cornerback like him. That's why they signed Nnamdi Asomugha. But Asomugha is old and has a non-guaranteed one-year deal with San Francisco. The 49ers need to find their press-corner of the future.
7. With their fifth-round pick - No.157 - draft inside linebacker Gerald Hodges from Penn State. The 49ers need a young, inexpensive inside linebacker to back up Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman if either player gets hurt.
8. With their first sixth-round pick - No.175 - draft H-back Matt Furstenburg from Maryland. Furstenburg is small for a tight end - 6-3, 242 pounds - but he's the ideal size for an H-back, which the 49ers need. Delanie Walker was the 49ers' H-back the past few seasons, but the Tennessee Titans signed him this offseason. H-back is a critical position in the 49ers' offense, especially in their Diamond Pistol formation -- the H-back and fullback line up parallel to Colin Kaepernick in the backfield.
9. With their second sixth-round pick - No.180 - the 49ers draft guard Jeff Baca from UCLA. The 49ers' backup offensive tackle, Alex Boone, is their starting right guard. If Joe Staley or Anthony Davis gets hurt and Boone has to move to tackle, the 49ers will need another guard. That's why they draft Baca.
10. With their first seventh-round pick - No.227 - draft running back Latavius Murray from Central Florida. Murray will compete with Anthony Dixon to be the 49ers' short-yardage back.
11. With their second seventh-round pick - No.246 - draft defensive tackle Quinton Dial from Alabama. Dial is huge - 6-6, 318 pounds - he played in a premier college program, and the 49ers reportedly have worked him out.
12. With their third seventh-round pick - No.252 - draft wide receiver Terrell Sinkfield from Northern Iowa. Sinkfield ran a 4.19 40-yard dash at the University of Minnesota's Pro Day and a 4.33 at Northern Iowa's Pro Day. If he shows he's a deep threat, he has a chance to make the 49ers' final roster.
Grant Cohn covers the 49ers daily. He writes the "Inside the 49ers" blog for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, and has written columns and features for CSNBayArea.com. Follow him on Twitter @grantcohn.
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