If the speculation is true, it's unlikely the San Francisco 49ers will be picking at their allotted slot at No. 30 overall in the draft's first round Thursday. Instead, all indications are general manager Trent Baalke will use his collection of early-round picks to move up and address a need much like he did last year when he jumped 13 slots to get safety Eric Reid. The 49ers have six picks in the first three rounds to work with.
It would be a relative shock if San Francisco didn't use their first pick on a cornerback or receiver. And it's the right draft to address one of those positions early on. This draft might feature the most talented receiver class in years, with as many as eight wideouts considered first-round possibilities.
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But perhaps the more pressing need is at corner after the team lost two of starters in Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown - who both signed one-year deals to join the Oakland Raiders. With Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree set to be the team's starting receivers, a corner would likely have a larger role initially. The 49ers use three-wide receiver sets at one of the lowest rates in the NFL, although Jim Harbaugh hinted earlier this offseason that could change in 2014. The 49ers had the NFL's 30th ranked passing attack last season.
Quinton Patton - a fourth-round pick in 2013 - saw time as the third wide receiver late in the year and made some key catches after missing 10 games with a fractured foot. But Boldin will turn 34 in October and Crabtree is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The 49ers would be wise to add a potential starter in the form of an early-round pick to add to the mix and compete with Patton for that role.
Baalke's draft history indicates he's after big, physical players that have become the standard in the NFC West. In 2010 he traded up two spots to take physical right tackle Anthony Davis, six picks before taking another player of similar ilk in left guard Mike Iupati. Reid was the biggest of three safeties to be taken in the first round last year.
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If history is any indication, San Francisco won't be using its first-round pick on a player that isn't big, long and physically imposing. But there could be a few exceptions.
At receiver, a player that's received a great deal of attention is wideout Odell Beckham, who possesses all the speed, hands, route running and toughness many believe the 49ers need to compliment their possession receivers in Boldin and Crabtree. There's little doubt surrounding San Francisco's interest, but the question becomes whether or not he'll be available at the right price. Beckham is likely to be taken within the first 8-12 picks, meaning the 49ers might have to give up a future first-round pick to move up. That's a price the team has been unwilling to pay in any trade since Baalke took over personnel decisions in 2010.
And given the depth the receiver class and speed available in the later rounds, it might behoove the 49ers to wait until the second and/or third round to find a deep threat to get behind the Seahawks' physical secondary.
But Beckham isn't the only player that fits the criterion. Oregon State's Brandin Cooks and USC's Marqise Lee also provide a similar speed element, but aren't slated to go as high as Beckham. Cooks (5-10) was tabbed "vertically challenged" by Baalke during his pre-draft visit with the media. But his combination of speed and production is difficult to overlook. Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award in his final season with the Beavers when he made 128 catches for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. He ran a 4.33 at the combine - the best number among receivers.
Lee didn't measure out as well, but plays faster than the 4.52 he ran at the combine. His production took a significant hit in 2013 after he made 118 catches for 1,721 yards while catching passes from Matt Barkley the previous season - also taking away the Biletnikoff Award. But in 2013 he suffered knee and shin injuries forcing him to miss three games leaving many to question his overall durability. He's could afford to add some weight (192) if he's going to be taking hits as a return man.
Other, bigger and more physical receivers that are possibilities are Indiana's Cody Latimer, Fresno State's Davante Adams, Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin. All four have the traits the 49ers covet when it comes to receiver. They will be options if San Francisco elects to stand pat at 30.
Among the corners, there are also players with varying skill sets. Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert is viewed as the No. 1 corner available thanks to his outstanding athleticism and cover skills. But he isn't known for his overall physicality, which might put him lower on the 49ers' board than others at the position. Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State) is perhaps the most NFL ready corner in the draft that could compete for a starting job right away. But he doesn't possess the same speed as Gilbert.
Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller is a blend of size and speed (6-0, 192 pounds, running a 4.49 at the combine) with versatility to boot. Fuller played safety and "whip" linebacker in his early collegiate season, making him a fit to compete for the vacated nickel role Rogers left behind.
The wild card of the group is Bradley Roby of Ohio State. Roby is one of the classes most physically gifted corners, but questions arose after struggling in 2013 after have a great season in 2012. On the night of April 20, Roby was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated in Columbus, Ohio. Those charges were amended and he plead guilty to physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol - but will avoid a penalty of 180 days in jail and 30 days probation if he completes a three-day driver intervention program.
Roby was viewed by many as the third-best corner in the draft likely to go in the mid first round. But with his recent arrest he might have fallen completely off the board of some teams pushing him into the second round - or the 49ers at 30.
Roby is known to play bigger than his size (5-11, 194) and is an aggressive player. But he had lapses in coverage in 2013 that stood out when defending double moves. Given the 49ers' off-the-field troubles this offseason, it's unlikely they would trade up to take the former Buckeye. But should they stand pat, he could be possibility to add to the mix.
Fairfield, Calif. native Jason Verrett is another possibility. He was one of the countries best corners last year at TCU. And while he ran a 4.38 and jumped 39 inches at the combine, he stands just 5-9. But there might not be better nickel corner in the draft.
If the 49ers go a different direction, they could to add a pass rusher or outside linebacker. They elected to pick up Aldon Smith's 2015 option making addressing the position less likely in the first round, but there will be talented players available. Auburn's Dee Ford, Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence, UCLA's Anthony Barr and Georgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu are all possibilities at 30.
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