Last year, I made predictions that the San Francisco 49ers would draft FS Jonathan Cyprien, WR Quinton Patton, and RB Marcus Lattimore. And despite hitting on only two of those three picks, hopefully I can redeem myself in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. Just like GM Trent Baalke who had WR A.J. Jenkins’ name sealed in an envelope hours before the draft began in 2012, I have now done the same as I have the 49ers trading up and drafting explosive WR Brandin Cooks of Oregon State.
It’s no secret the 49ers are in the market for a young wide-receiver to groom while adding versatility in the return-game. And with the uncertain futures of WR Michael Crabtree and disgruntled RB LaMichael James, Cooks is the logical choice. The 49ers may have already showed their hand as they were interested in WR Julian Edelman in free-agency, and Cooks would certainly be a younger version of that type of player. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke on the need for a No. 3 receiver as he said:
A No. 3 receiver, a third guy that can get open, make plays, another option for the quarterback to go to. A chance to attack all areas of the field. A playmaker. That’s what we’re looking for.
So why did I have the 49ers selecting Cooks over WR Mike Evans and WR Jordan Matthews? For one, Evans will likely go in the top 10 and with Evans being selected by the Buffalo Bills in my mock draft, as GM Doug Whaley favors SEC talent evident by his last three first-round draft picks, Evans will be too rich for the 49ers blood to strike a deal. As for Matthews, I believe the 49ers are higher on Cooks based on his explosiveness and ability to play the slot, flanker or split-end, making him a more valuable asset in the passing game. Baalke covets versatility and Cooks brings plenty of it.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) March 26, 2014
In addition to Cooks’ versatility, it’s his combination of talent, high-character, and football IQ that will solidify him with a Gold Helmet next to his name. A player that understands the art of fluid route running while possessing the strength to separate from defensive backs, Cooks is the perfect complement to WR Anquan Boldin and Crabtree.
A player that continues to “wow” as he had an exceptional NFL scouting combine as I labeled him a winner, Cooks’ is no doubt a first-round talent and top five wide receiver in this year’s draft. And although no reports have been written about any Niner talent evaluators being present at Brandin Cooks’ pro day as you can “google it,” I can assure you there were. In fact, it was not noted because many of the 49ers high ranking scouting officials are not seen in 49ers gear. But if you look closely you will find them, as Senior Personnel Assistant Ethan Waugh was on hand, just like he was with Jenkins.
With the 49ers holding the No. 30 pick in this year’s draft they will surely need to trade up to secure Cooks’ services. And with Cooks currently being slated to the New York Jets at No. 18 in my mock draft, look for Baalke to strike a deal with either the Dallas Cowboys (No. 16) or Baltimore Ravens (No. 17) as they have been willing trading partners in recent past.