SANTA CLARA, Calif. - You can't consume build up to the NFL Draft without seeing countless mock drafts. If you have, you know that one player, more than any other, has been projected to go to the San Francisco 49ers with the 15th pick in Thursday's first round: Oregon's hulking defensive lineman Arik Armstead.
Mocks at places like ESPN and Sports Illustrated have consistently projected Armstead to the 49ers for a number of obvious reasons. The 49ers have a need at defensive end with the pending status of Justin Smith and the departure of Ray McDonald - and Armstead is viewed by many prognosticators as a mid-first round talent. He's also a good fit for as a five technique in a 3-4 defense, and might be the only player at that position slated to go in the first round.
Bleacher Report's resident draft expert Matt Miller said Tuesday he heard from within team headquarters that Armstead would be the pick, as many project.
"What I'm told, within the 49ers' front office, they really like Arik Armstead, the big defensive lineman from Oregon," Miller said in a video. "And if they don't trade up or out, then the expectation is he would be their pick."
Armstead (6-7, 292) is viewed as raw prospect that wasn't as productive at Oregon as his natural talent would dictate. But some believe he is a late bloomer that will continue to grow his game in the pros. He played basketball following the 2013 season instead of focusing on football, which may have stunted his development before his final collegiate season.
At 20-years-old, many believe Armstead has the highest ceiling of any defensive lineman in the draft. He showed it at times during his play for the Ducks, but those examples didn't come consistently enough for there to be a consensus. Armstead managed just 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in his three-year career at Oregon.
Would Armstead fit with the 49ers? Absolutely - on the surface. But he would join a crowded group along the defensive line that will enter 2015 with Darnell Dockett, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Mike Purcell, Garrison Smith and Kaleb Ramsey. And that's without knowing Smith's status for 2015.
If Armstead isn't the selection, the 49ers will have plenty of opportunities later in the draft to find a defensive end that fits, allowing them to look for a receiver, cornerback or edge rusher with their first-round pick.
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