By Aaron Pennesi
It’s that time of year again, and the ever-so-popular NFL Draft is looming.
The blood of die-hard football fans everywhere is beginning to pump as they patiently (not by choice) await the day that their team adds some young prospects to either make or break their future. There will be busts, breakout stars, and diamonds in the rough; but who does your team take? The uncertainty is what makes this event all the more exciting, and every team will have their own strategy come draft day. The only question is, will it be the right one?
The San Francisco 49ers are currently sitting in a great situation with the 7th overall pick. They received this Top Ten pick as a result of a poor season a year ago, thanks to one of the harshest off-seasons (if not thee harshest) an NFL team has ever seen; along with some trials and tribulations they faced throughout their 16 game schedule. This off-season hasn’t been full of excitement for 49ers fans either. They fired their coach Jim Tomsula after only 1 year, and hired Chip Kelly who made some decisions that eventually crashed a Philadelphia Eagles team that was competitive not long ago. But, all of that is in the past, and Chip now dawns the scarlet and gold. He is speculated to have much less control over final player personnel decisions, and alongside Trent Baalke, they are looking to take advantage of the situation in which they are placed on draft day. There are many rumors about what the 49ers might do, but here is what I believe they should do…
Stay Away From Early Quarterbacks
Though some believe that this draft has some early round quality players at quarterback, I do not. When looking at the tape I see QB’s that are very raw, but do not possess the impacting skills worthy of an early pick investment. There is very little about these quarterbacks that jump off the paper to me, and nothing about them says “Guaranteed Franchise Player” either. I feel that taking a Quarterback in the first round this year would be a mistake, and I believe the 49ers should stay far away from doing so.
Go for the True Talent
With the Los Angeles Rams trading up to the #1 overall pick to select one of the “top” quarterbacks, and Cleveland rumored to be interested in selecting one at #2 as well, I believe this allows a lot of talent to slide to the 49ers, thus further emphasising my stance to fill other needs in the first round. They potentially have the chance to select a very talented defensive player, and doing so would be a big win for San Fran. If they can get a player like Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Jalen Ramsey, or Vernon Hargreaves, they should jump at the opportunity. Also, they could potentially strengthen an offensive line that was terrible in 2015 by selecting Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley, but I don’t believe they should pass on any of the defensive studs if they are available.
Take Advantage of the Draft Talent Spillover
This year’s draft is full of talent, and is very deep at multiple positions. It has one of the deepest WR classes we have seen, and the young talent at the position is looking like it is going to spill over into the second round. San Francisco owns 12 picks in this year’s draft, including the 5th selection (37th Overall) in the second round. They are poised to reap the benefits of this WR spillover, and should definitely consider selecting a player like Michael Thomas, Corey Coleman, or Tyler Boyd here, if they are still available.
Benefit From the Plethora of Picks
As previously stated, the 49ers are owners of 12 picks in this year’s draft, thanks to constant stockpiling by GM Trent Baalke. I believe that now is the time to finally cash-in and benefit from this by moving back up into the second round and selecting another talented player. They have many holes in their roster that need addressing and by trading up they would then be able to select the best player available that they see fits. They could go Quarterback here, but depending how the position is coming off the board, they may benefit from waiting just a little bit longer. I believe they should address offensive line or defense again here. They could have the opportunity to select a defensive player like Karl Joseph or Robert Nkemdiche, depending on where they move up to; or they could select a player like Jason Spriggs or Cody Whitehair strengthening that offensive line.
Late Value Quarterbacks
After taking advantage of the talent available during their earlier selections and filling other holes, San Fran should now (early third round – barring they didn’t deal this pick to move back up into the second) look to selecting a Quarterback. If available, I feel the player to select here without hesitation is Dak Prescott. As a collegiate QB, Prescott was very successful playing in the tough SEC. His skill set shows some very nice upside, and he could be an excellent fit in Chip Kelly’s offense. He has beyond the mobility needed to succeed in this offensive style, and his skills at accurately throwing short to intermediate passes make him exactly what Kelly looks for in a player to run his scheme. If Prescott somehow makes it this far and is available to the 49ers, he’s definitely the Quarterback they want in this draft. If Prescott is not available, they should then look to players like Connor Cook or Cardale Jones. Both of these players show potential, and recently QB Guru Jon Gruden says he believes Cook could be “perhaps the best quarterback in this year’s draft”. Though Jones on the other hand seems to be more of a project, he would still be a solid pick here for the Niners. If all three players are gone by now, I suggest they continue to add a player with value here such as Su’a Cravens or Kyler Fackrell, and hope to add Vernon Adams later on in the draft.
Depth Where Depleted
San Francisco in the past has prided themselves on adding skilled athletes late in drafts in hopes they pan out (See: Aaron Lynch & Jaquiski Tartt), while also moving back for said athletes and gaining more picks in the process. This draft, however, should be a little bit different. They are currently in a rebuilding phase and they need to add depth where they can. If they see the draft as I do, and decide to sacrifice some picks to move back up into the second round, they should finish the draft out by stocking up on players to potentially garner a couple breakouts.
All in all, no matter how you put it, San Fran is in a rebuilding phase and adding any quality talent that can perform on Sundays will help. They are fortunate to be sitting in a very nice position for this draft. They have the opportunity to sit back a bit in the first round and see how the earlier picks unfold, while still being able to select a Top Ten talent. They also possess the ammunition to make Draft Day moves that could help them quickly impact their roster. If they make wise decisions and take advantage of the opportunity at hand, they could come out of the 2016 Draft as winners. But, the NFL Draft has been known to be an unpredictable event, so only time will tell how they will react during the heat of the moment in Chicago.