The 2014 NFL Draft is just nine days away and with all the anticipation and media hype given to the annual festivity, you can be sure there will be plenty of smoke-screens and ridiculous rumors as the draft gets closer. However, with the San Francisco 49ers owning 11 draft picks, I believe they will be looking to trade up for either a wide receiver or cornerback. Below is a list of the top 10 players that I believe the 49ers will target as the chips fall on draft day. And while some players may sound ridiculous now, think back to a draft where everything when exactly as planned. So without further ado, the top 10 players I think the 49ers will target are:
Analysis: Evans will be their No. 1 target and will be looking to make an “aggressive” splash according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. A top 10 pick with the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowler year in and year out, you can be sure Evans sits atop the totem-pole. He won’t come cheap however as Evans will likely be targeted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and as a result will need to strike a deal with the Oakland Raiders (No. 5) or Atlanta Falcons (No. 6). If that happens, the 49ers would likely need to part ways with at least their first-round (No. 30), second-round (No. 56) or No. (61) and third-round (No. 77) draft picks. A hefty asking price but one that could potentially catapult the 49ers as Super Bowl favorites.
Analysis: If the 49ers can’t strike a deal with either the Raiders or Falcons, look for them to them try and target their plan B option, Cooks. A player I had them drafting over a month and a half ago, Baalke seems to have fallen in love with the Pac-12 product. A question I specifically wanted to ask him in his pre-draft interview, as I asked him to compare Cooks to Evans, he then compared Cooks to WR Steve Smith. And who does Cooks model his game after? You guessed it, Steve Smith, so you can see see where the logic lies. Look for the 49ers to try and strike a deal with either the Dallas Cowboys (No. 16) or Baltimore Ravens (No. 17) as they need to jump ahead of the wide receiver needy New York Jets (No. 18). A trade value that would be more economically favorable as the 49ers would only likely have to give up their first-round pick (No. 30) and third-round pick (No. 94), Cooks may be more of an ideal option without breaking the bank.
Analysis: Just like the analysis for Cooks, the 49ers would need to jump ahead of the Jets to secure Beckham’s services should Evans and Cooks come off the board. A scenario in which a run on wide receivers affects the wide receiver draft class as a whole, they may elect to stay pat at No. 30 and hope that WR Cody Latimer (Indiana), WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt), or WR Davante Adams (Fresno State) falls in their lap.
Analysis: The 49ers sent Director of College Scouting Matt Malaspina to Verrett’s Pro Day and he put on a show. However, he clearly does not fit GM Trent Baalke’s protypical cornerback in terms of H-W-S. At 5-9 and 189 pounds, Verrett is what Baalke would call “vertically challenged.” However, his game-film depicts a different picture as his coverage skills are as good as any cornerback in this year’s draft. A true shut down cornerback that excels in zone coverage while possessing the speed to play man-to-man, it would not surprise me if Baalke takes a chance on the TCU product. In order to grab Verrett, the 49ers would likely need to trade in the 20-25 range to grab his services and in return give up their first-round pick (No. 30) and likely a fifth-round pick (No. 170).
Analysis: Unlike Verrett, Fuller has the ideal H-W-S that Baalke covets. A player that has a 50-50 chance of being available with the No. 30 pick in the first-round, look for Baalke to weigh his options as the chips fall before him. An aggressive cornerback that excels in zone coverage, Fuller has the intangibles which allow him to make plays on the ball naturally.
Analysis: Matthews continues to be one of my favorite wide receivers in this year’s draft class. The cousin of WR Jerry Rice, I would be very happy if the 49ers were able to grab his services with the No. 30 pick. A player that has the H-W-S to excel and become a big playmaker at the next level as he stands 6-3 and 212 pounds, Matthews would be a nice addition to the 49ers receiving core.
Analysis: The speedy wide receiver spent 90 minutes with 49ers WR Coach John Morton after his Pro Day to test his football IQ. That says enough about him to think the 49ers think highly of him. If the Niners stay put at No. 30 Latimer may be their deep-threat in 2014.
Analysis: Baalke had high-praise for the Palo Alto hometown kid as he gave this assessment: “A good football player, guy with exceptional hands. Guy that can get in-and-out of breaks. You can see the numbers show up in his play. He’s got an explosive vertical jump, he’s got an explosive broad jump, you can see those numbers come out in his play. Smart football player, knows how to stem DB’s, knows how to create space, you can obviously see the basketball player in his background. Good football player.” Need I say more, if he’s there at No. 30 along with Matthews and Fuller there will be a huge debate in the war room.
9. OLB Ryan Shazier (Ohio State)
Analysis: No one has given much attention to Shazier, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the 49ers grab him as the BPA (Best Player Available) at No. 30. A physical freak where the stage isn’t too big for him, no Big 10 linebacker had quite the year that Shazier put together in 2013. And with the 49ers scheduled to have Jaguars OLB Dekoda Watson in for a free-agent visit, that all but reveals their interest in selecting an outside linebacker and Shazier has a similar skill set to Watson, keep that in mind.
Analysis: There’s no selection here because if none of the above players are there, look for the 49ers to trade back into the second-round while picking up possibly a future 2015 first-round draft pick in the process.