By: Zach Hernandez (@Zachhernan)
The 49ers hold the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. It is a very good thing they hold a pick in the top three, because ex-GM Trent Baalke has left this roster out to die. What was once a talent-oozing, NFC powerhouse has now become the laughing stock of the entire NFL. One could argue even lower than the wretched Browns before Jed screwed his head on straight and hired Kyle Shanahan & John Lynch. Which I must say, I was not too high on the Lynch hiring mainly due to his lack of experience. However, so far he has done very well at impressing me and the rest of the 49ers fans. The 49ers have suddenly become aggressive in free agency – something that fans ripped Baalke for not doing. If one positive thing came out of the Baalke era, it’s that his lack of spending left John Lynch’s 49ers with a hell of a lot of salary cap space (a whopping $69,921,376 after free agents according to http://www.Sporttrac.com) to sign as many free agents as he’d like! The 49ers need to nail this draft and probably the next at least one or two to find themselves back in the race for NFC supreme.
And now.. The Picks:
RD1: Pick 2 TRADE CAR: Pick 8 – REUBEN FOSTER LB ALABAMA
In this scenario, Myles Garrett goes #1 overall to the Cleveland Browns. The 49ers trade back with the Carolina Panthers to pick #8 overall & receive a RD2: Pick 32 as well. At 8, SF is able to still get Alabama LB Reuben Foster to line up side by side next to Navarro Bowman. Foster is a man on fire when he plays and he would be manning the middle of the field with and after Bowman’s time.
RD2: Pick 2 – TAKKARIST McKinley OLB/DE UCLA
The 49ers select a Bay Area native to wreak havoc on QBs. Takk has a high motor that seems to almost never stop. McKinley is freakishly quick with extremely long wingspan. Any D-Line coach has got to be watering at the mouth to get a chance to work with Takk. In 2016, McKinley put up 10 sacks in 11 games. He also had 18 tackles for loss in 2016 alone, with three forced fumbles to go with that. The 49ers desperately need production from their defensive front, Takk could provide just that back home in the Bay.
RD2: Pick 32 (From CAR) – JUSTIN EVANS SS TEXAS A&M
There may be a lot of safeties in this draft garnering their fair share of attention, but Justin Evans might be my favorite when it comes to value at the position. In a class with Jamal Adams & Malik Hooker, it might be easy to be overlooked. With that said, Evans is the real deal. He is athletic, versatile, and as passionate as they come. He has the ball skills of a WR, because he used to be a WR in high school. Disrupts WRs routes & contests balls as well as anyone in this draft. He doesn’t shy away from contact at all (he took out the freight train that is Derrick Henry in 2015). Evans could come into SF and start day 1 at a couple of positions.
RD3: Pick 2 – PATRICK MAHOMES II QB TEXAS A&M
Depending on who you ask, Mahomes might very well be QB1 in this draft, and being able to grab the QB1 in the third round would be one hell of a steal for the 49ers. Mahomes has the big-play-ability that the 49ers have lacked for so long. With 4,619 yards & 50 TDs as a senior, it is easy to see why Mahomes is so intriguing. His confidence and swagger go unmatched as he very well does have all the makings of a starting NFL QB. His ability to extend & create plays is Russel Wilson-esque, it can drive defenses crazy! Trust me, I’ve seen Wilson do it to the 49ers too many times unfortunately. Mahomes is still raw though, and will need some time to sit and marinate, as you might say. However, San Francisco might be the perfect situation for Mahomes – as there is no pressure to win right away. The general consensus is that this team is at the very least a few years away from being back in playoff-contention.
RD4: Pick 2 – CARLOS HENDERSON WR LOUISIANA TECH
The 49ers are begging for guys to come in and produce at the WR position. Torrey Smith did not produce & Shanahan felt he did not fit the mold so he was cut. Henderson is fast (4.46 40) and has great separation skills. Henderson excels at catch-and-go routes (screens, short passes, etc.) He has great hand skills and is amazing at protecting the ball when thrown away from his body. Even with all his success at Louisiana Tech, Henderson did not let it get to his head, as he never gave up special teams duties & even had two kickoff return TDs. Henderson can come into SF and be WR3 instantly. His return duty experience certainly helps him, especially when Jeremy Kerley was leading the 49ers in receiving and taking back punts. He has the potential to move up and start in the future.
RD4: Pick 36 (COMP) – CORN ELDER CB MIAMI
In Elder, the 49ers get a player who permanently plays with a chip on his shoulder. He has been constantly told he is too small, so Corn makes sure to play bigger than his size. Elder plays confidently, physically. He was a former high school basketball star, & the point-guard-quick reflexes are still there. He has great instincts & is able to jump on throws in the zone easily. Great at run support and finishes tackles exceptionally well. While he might get boxed-out easily by bigger WRs, Elder has the skills of a starting level CB. After Brock & Robinson the CB position is wide open in SF – so Elder can come in and compete. Perhaps a slot position is in his future, as not having to cover the taller WRs on the outside would benefit him.
RD:5 Pick 2 – JAMES CONNER RB PITTSBURGH
Carlos Hyde’s inability to finish a season for the 49ers will lead them to draft a RB. Let’s say Hyde is able to play about 80% of the snaps, Conner would be the perfect RB to spell him. Conner overcame Hodgkin’s Lymphoma & returned to the field, earning 1st team All-Conference honors. I’m 2014, Conner had 298 carries, 1765 yards, & 26 TDs. After missing 2015, Conner returned in 2016 with 216 carries, 1.096 rushing yards, & 16 TDs. Conner was a team captain who is known for his resilience. Don’t dare try to half-ass tackle him, he is a big boy that will run right through and punish defenders. He is a short yardage specialist and also thrives in the end zone. He can play the role that former 49er Anthony “Boobie” Dixon played for Harbaugh years back.
RD:5 Pick 17 – TASHAWN BOWER OLB LOUISIANA STATE
The 49ers get a beast in Bower! The man is 6’5″, 250 lbs & can run a 4.82 40! His frame is big enough to add more weight if the coaching staff feels he is not up to NFL size. He is strong enough to give OTs a problem consistently. Great footwork and could come in in sub packages and sufficiently create pressure while spelling the starters. He needs to work on his speed and not rely on his size and strength, as that will not work for him in the NFL.
RD:6 Pick 14 – RYAN SWITZER WR NORTH CAROLINA
The 49ers need production from their WRs out of the slot, and Switzer could do just that. He also has great rushing ability – 2,379 rushing yards & 32 TDs as a senior at UNC. Switzer tied the NCAA record of punt returns for TD with 5 as a freshman. His senior year he was named 1st team All-ACC as a WR with 96 receptions, 1,117 yards, and 6 TDs. John Lynch called Kyle Juszczyk an OW (offensive weapon), well Switzer could be just that. Like Henderson, Swizter is a catch-and-go specialist that excels in open space. He has exceptional vision and is great at making people miss. He is a very reliable pass-catcher with a very low drop rate. Switzer could become a security blanket to whomever is throwing the ball his way for years to come.
RD:6 Pick 18 – CHARLES WALKER DT OKLAHOMA
Walker’s 2015 tape proved him disruptive and productive as they come. Walker left Oklahoma midway through the 2016 season to focus on preparing for his professional career. Despite not starting one game in 2015, Walker still earned 2nd team All-Big 12 recognition with 10 tackles for loss & 6 sacks. Great power off the snap, high motor type of guy when motivated. Walker is great at switching his feet to change his direction. Charles is great at both run and pass defense. He has the potential to be a steal in the sixth round if he is able to fully commit. Also with two concussions, Walker might be one or two away from leaving the game permanently. It is a real hit or miss in his case. For the 49ers sake, let’s hope for a bulls-eye.
RD:7 Pick 1 – STORM NORTON OT TOLEDO
Norton was a huge factor in Toledo’s offense last year. He helped the QB stay upright long enough to throw down the field, and opened up plenty of holes for RB Kareem Hunt. At 6’8 311 lbs., Storm has prototypical NFL size. Norton has great footwork when pass-blocking. He has an exceptionally long wingspan that helps him recover when beaten by the defender. He is able to lead a power running offense, as he excels at pulling and lead blocking. His hands are very strong, but the placement is too wide, However, Norton only has experience in the two-point stance at Toledo, and will have to learn the three-point stance in the NFL.