Sunday, May 11, 2014

Your overly in-depth Niners draft review (general thoughts at end)

As a Niners fan I was curious about our first overall pick – Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward. So I did what any twenty-first century man would do - I went on youtube and found two games films of every NIU defensive play, with Ward highlighted. [As an aside, I love whomever is making these videos – youtube is a very underutilized football guru resource]. Those films made me warm to Ward quite quickly. He's a very sure tackler who was rarely beaten in coverage (I can't say that about NIU’s secondary as a whole - wow). He can be blocked out of the way - but that is no surprise given that he is barely over 190lbs. He isn't exceptionally fast, but he’s fast enough. He also played man-to-man a TON for a safety.

As for the rest of the draft I am pretty happy. I loved the trade down and then right back up to get another 4th next year – which should cover the Stevie Johnson trade (a trade which gives us a GREAT receiving corps). I don't know why we traded down so much when we went into the draft with 11 picks but not 11 open spots needing filling on the roster – we ended up with 12 players drafted. We’ll have a full compliment next year, but with Denver’s pick in the 4th rather than our own.

At least two, and possibly three, of those 12 players are coming of ACLs and won’t play this year. The best is 3rd round pick G/T Brandon Thomas out of Clemson – who I saw in college and feel will be very good once he is healed. 5th round pick CB Keith Reaser has had to have surgery twice for one knee injury, played at a small school in Florida Atlantic (the Owls) and is only 5’10” – all of which makes him a less exciting pick. However before that knee injury he ran a 4.3 in the 40 so I can live with burning a fifth on him. They also took FB Trey Millard out of Oklahoma in the 7th. He tore his knee up in October so he might play this year. We have a fine FB in Bruce Miller already, but if a guy is talented you can take whatever position in the late rounds.

We did this last year too – drafting DE Tank Carradine (FSU) in the 2nd and DT Quinton Dial (Alabama) in the 5th.
There was also 4th round pick RB Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina who looked amazing in the SEC before a pair of gruesome knee explosions. None of them played, but hopefully Carradine and Dial will be ready to go as we need DL depth and took only an underachieving rush DE (Aaron Lynch of USF) and an injury prone DT/3-4 DE (Kaleb Ramsey of BC).

Despite having Lattimore we took Carlos Hyde in the 2nd (a counter argument to taking injured prospects) A bruising runner – and arguably the best backing he draft, Hyde helps with an aging Gore (who is going into his final year on his contract: this might be his last season). It is a good thing we run often because Kendall Hunter will get some carries too. This move may spell the end of LaMichael James’s time with the franchise – he was reportedly on the block before the draft. Not much return from a 2012 2nd round pick.

Besides the injured Brandon Thomas I was happy we took another O-lineman in the 3rd round - USC’s center Marcus Martin. He may start with Jonathan Goodwin now gone. We also took more DBs. In fact we carpet bombed that position with 4 total picks. It makes sense give that we lost Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, and Donte Whitner to free agency. Tramaine Brock is good for one corner, but Chris Culliver is likely to be suspended and Antonie Bethea (S signed from the Colts) is no all-star. Besides Ward in the first and the injured Reaser we also picked up CBs Dontae Johnson (NC State) in the 4th and Kenneth Acker (SMU) in the 6th. Johnson is big 6’2” + 200lbs (Acker is 6’0”) but the video I found of him (the only other guy I found on youtube) showed a good coverage guy with sub-par tackling skills. Hopefully a couple of these guys will pan out.

Third round pick ILB Chris Borland of Wisconsin wasn’t a need pick any stretch of the imagination given Willis and Bowman. Plus I think Michael Wilhoite showed he’s an NFL starting caliber LB last year (just not on this D). To be fair Bowman might not be ready to go when the season starts, but I would have rather have seen DL depth or another DB at that point

The most superfluous pick was South Carolina WR Bruce Ellington at the top of the 4th round. While Crabtree is injury prone and may walk next year, Boldin is aging, the reality is that they, Stevie Johnson, and Vernon Davis ensure that Ellington will at best be battling with last year’s 4th round pick Quinton Patton and Chiefs’ draft bust Jon Baldwin just to be active on Sundays. I know you draft for the long term and maybe there is something there, but he’s just 5’9” and was not dominant in the NCAA. He may also return kicks.

And of course the draft is a crapshoot anyway. Keep in that our Pro-Bowl alternate guard Alex Boone was an undrafted free agent.

I also had a few non-Niner thoughts:

The Patriots may have struck gold with Florida DT Dominique Easley in the first. I have seen Easley plenty and he is absolutely dominant. He is a risk coming off two ACLs, but if he can stay on the field you will learn allll about him. I would have been fine with the Niner's rolling the dice on his knees in the late first round for the potential pay out.

Of course we have to talk about the quarterbacks. Johnny Manzel went where he should have. He’s a headcase who might pan out spectacularly, but probably won’t – especially not in the mistake by the lake – especially not with no WRs. That is not a top five pick. Jerry Jones finally made a wise move for once in passing on him (but denying me hours of QB controversy entertainment). Still I can’t blame the Browns for rolling the dice – what have they got to lose?

Bortles was the best QB available, but I worry Jacksonville won’t develop him well. I should be more fair, it is a new crew in charge and while it is impossible to judge at first brush they had a good draft. I would say the same for the Ravens, Saints, and Rams.

Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater might be in a good position in Minnesota. AJ McCarron isn’t that good and doesn’t understand it. He’ll be selling insurance in Alabama in about 4 years. Aaron Murray on the other hand may (I stress may) make something out of himself under Andy Reid in KC. The Texans may like Clowney, but they won’t win a Super Bowl with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center (they should have traded down, but I bet did not find any takers). I don’t think much of Derick Carr, and going to the Black Hole certainly won’t help.

Finally make no mistake about it. Michael Sam fell into the late 7th because he doesn’t like girls. He wasn’t a first round pick, but he’s the first SEC defensive player of the year to fall out of the first round since 2003. 2003!! And that is despite having 11.5 sacks. He should have been a mid-rounder.


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