A scout's eye view of the 49ers draft: Part 2

In Part II, former NFL scout Russ Lande, draft analyst & author of GM Jr. Guide to the NFL Draft, discusses the 49ers' final seven picks, why he feels SF may have done better on the second day of the draft than any other NFL team, why getting veteran WR Darrell Jackson for a fourth-round pick was a steal for the team, and how San Francisco did compared to its other division rivals in the NFC West.

SFI: Considering his production at Washington State, and the blazing 40-yard time he turned in at the NFL Combine, why did Jason Hill last until the No. 76 selection in the third round, and why was it that a dozen other receivers were taken ahead of him in the draft?
RL:
He had a great 40-yard dash time (4.36). He's a guy who will challenge for a starting job as a rookie. He's a really good football player. He's very polished and does everything you want in terms of running good routes; he's very knowledgeable about how to get open. The biggest thing against him is that despite his 40 time he's not an explosive guy. I know he ran great in workouts, but most teams that saw him looked at him and said, 'Geesh, he doesn't play like that 40 time. He plays like a 4.55 guy.' Which is fine because there are a lot of guys like that in the NFL. That lack of explosion is the reason why he was drafted where he was. A lot of teams have the thought process that the best he can be is a No. 2; he can never be your go-to guy. For some teams that's fine, but for others they would rather take a gamble on another guy who may be raw and who has a higher chance of being a bust, but has the potential to be a No. 1. What he'll be is a very good starting possession receiver in the NFL when all is said done.

SFI: Where is explosion most necessary for a wide receiver? Off the line, or when he is into his route and has to take it to the next level to get separation? Or both?
RL:
I think it's both of those. You want a guy who has a burst off the line, although most receivers, even the fastest ones, are just average off the line. There are very few guys that really separate themselves exploding off the ball. But you want a guy, who in those first three steps off the line of scrimmage, gets to full speed very fast. And you want a guy who has burst out of his cuts, because that is what gives him the ability to get separation. That is probably the biggest thing that teams are concerned with Jason Hill. It wasn't that he didn't accelerate off the ball and have decent speed running straight down the field; it was when he was running cut patterns, sharp routes, he didn't have that burst to just separate from defenders consistently. I think that's why teams are concerned because when you get to the NFL, if you can't get separation, it's real hard to succeed.

SFI: There's belief that guys such as Hill, Brown, Ray McDonald and Jay Moore fell to the 49ers and were great value picks. Did you expect some or all of them to go higher?
RL:
I think they went close to where they should go. I thought Brown would go higher, but he is a guy that had some off-field issues, but as a football player he's probably a third round prospect. He's a very good corner. The issue is that he had trouble twice in the last year with off-field issues, but he is a guy with a lot of talent. McDonald has everything that you'd want. I think in their defense he'll start at defensive end and be a very good football player. He knows how to use his hands well, keeps his knees bent. He's a good football player. Moore is an interesting guy because he played defensive end, and played at about 270 pounds. I think he will start out as sort of a rush linebacker for San Francisco, but I wouldn't be surprised that, in two or three years as he gets used to the NFL and puts on weight, he ends up being a starting defensive end in their 3-4 defense.

SFI: Do any of Niners' picks qualify as a "steal" in your mind?
RL:
I think Brown is probably the steal because of how low in the draft they got him, but I really think a year from now Dashon Goldson could be a starting safety for them. He's a very good football player. He sort of fell in the draft because he played both corner and safety at Washington, did a lot of moving around so he really was never able to get comfortable at one position. And I think the running back they got in the sixth round, Thomas Clayton, is going to be a great backup to Frank Gore. He has great hands and he's quicker than fast. He'd be a good guy to give Gore a blow every fifth or sixth series, let him take a series off, and let Clayton come in. He's very well built and runs hard.

SFI: Some have said Clayton "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane." You obviously disagree with that…
RL:
I don't think that's a fair observation. When you watch film of the guy, he was productive. He would have been Kansas State's main running back if he hadn't failed out of school. A year ago, he had a really good season. He had games against good teams where he rushed for 180 yards. He's a good football player, and he grows on you the more you watch him. He will definitely play in the NFL and be an outstanding third-down back as long as he can keep his stuff together.

SFI: In general, do you like what the Niners did on the second day of the draft?
RL:
I think they did a great job on their second day.

SFI: Will McDonald and Joe Cohen contribute to San Francisco's defensive line rotation as rookies?
RL:
Yes. I'd be surprised if McDonald wasn't a starter by midseason. He's a really good football player. He's a guy who is so good that as a junior at Florida he started at defensive tackle the whole year, and this guy is 275 pounds. So, for him to play inside there, and then he starts at defensive end as a senior, he's a versatile kid who is very smart. And I think Cohen will be a backup for them. He's the only one of the 49ers' second-day picks who I think doesn't have a chance to be a starter. He'll be a backup in the league, but that's not to say he's not worth having on your team. He can probably develop and move around and play all three defensive line positions. He's a big, athletic kid; he's just not a playmaker. I also think that two years from now Jay Moore may be a starting defensive lineman rather than a linebacker.

SFI: We just have to ask: How good a deal was it for the 49ers that they got veteran receiver Darrell Jackson from the Seattle Seahawks for a late fourth-round selection, and does he immediately become San Francisco's best receiver?
RL:
No question. That's a great trade - giving up a fourth for a guy who can legitimately be a definite very good No. 2 receiver, possibly a No. 1. It's a slam dunk. You just don't find those kinds of guys anywhere. He's a No. 1 receiver if he can catch the ball more consistently. That's his biggest problem; he drops some passes that he shouldn't. He's a really good receiver. I think it was his inconsistency that got him traded, not that he doesn't have talent. He can score touchdowns, he can run, he's athletic.

SFI: How did the Niners' draft compare to those of their division rivals?
RL:
The Niners probably had the best draft, followed closely by St. Louis, Seattle and then Arizona. I don't think the other three teams had terrible drafts, though I do wonder a bit about the Cardinals. None of them had a draft with as many guys who will make an impact. St. Louis got two very good players at the top in defensive lineman Adam Carriker and fullback Brian Leonard, but other than that they got a bunch of guys who may or may not make it. Seattle took a variety of different guys, but none of them look like instant impact guys. I think San Francisco definitely had the best draft in their division.


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