Year three of LTL’s shadow draft along side the San Francisco 49ers. Here are links to the 2013 and 2014 squads. I would happily take my haul both years. One rule: draft when 49ers are on the clock. No alternate trade projections. This will be updated throughout the weekend with my picks and analysis of the newest 49ers.
1. Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
2. Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
3. Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
4. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
4. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
4. MyCole Pruitt, TE, Southern Illinois
5. Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary
6. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
7. Erick Dargan, S, Oregon
7. Rory Anderson, TE, South Carolina
1. Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
2. Jaquiski Tartt, S, Samford
3. Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
4. Blake Bell, TE, Oklahoma
4. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
4. Deandre Smelter, WR, Georgia Tech
5. Bradley Pinion, P, Clemson
6. Ian Silberman, OG, Boston College
7. Trenton Brown, OL, Florida
7. Rory Anderson, TE, South Carolina
So many directions Trent Baalke could go here. My gut says to expect a trade back. Not in love with any prospects at this slot for San Francisco. Some of my favorite players on the field (Randy Gregory, Marcus Peters, Dorial Green-Beckham) have off-field issues, so it’s really hard to tell if they are in play. Of the players that are squeaky clean off the field, Byron Jones and Arik Armstead make a lot of sense. Devante Parker would have been a very likely selection, but he just went off the board at No. 14 to Miami.
And there we go…. The Chargers have traded up to 15 (Melvin Gordon). SF gets No. 17, 117 and a 2016 5th rounder. Wouldn’t be surprised if they move down again.
Shadow pick: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Armstead is my selection at No. 17 due to future need at DE, size/athleticism combination and upside. Not only is he huge, but has strong hands, is stout versus the run and can push the pocket. Armstead is still raw, but can be as good as he wants to be. A perfect fit at 3-4 DE. Sky is the limit for the former hoopster. WR and CB can both be found later and potentially one of those players with a checkered past mentioned earlier will be around for a value pick in round 2. I know Baalke will love Armstead’s length (6-7, 292, 33 inch arms, 10.5 inch hands).
49ers pick: Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Well, for once Baalke and I are in lockstep. Or maybe his tendencies have sunk into my subconscious. I expected one of those “huh…wow” selections. I’m sure he’ll throw me for a loop on day two or three. As for Armstead — he isn’t a slam dunk. There is defintely work to do for the young man. To reach that immense potential, he will need to apply himself in the weight room, something he didn’t do a lot of while splitting time between basketball and football at Oregon. One thing that worries me is how he wore down in games. Hopefully Armstead adopts the maniacal on-field attitude of new teammates Justin Smith and Darnell Docket.
As round two gets underway, it’s clear the 49ers are in one of the draft’s sweetspots at pick 46. There is still a group of players that don’t have vastly different grades from who was on the board midway through the first round. Included in that group are WRs Dorial Green-Beckham, Jaelen Strong, Devin Smith, DBs Landon Collins, Ronald Darby, Jalen Collins, Eric Rowe, LBs Randy Gregory, Denzel Perryman, Eric Kendricks, Bernardrick McKinney, Eli Harold, Preston Smith, Owa Odighizuwa, and OLs La’el Collins, Jake Fisher, Donovan Smith. Storyline of the day: How far will red flag players fall? Thursday was not a good day for the Collins (unrelated) family.
Shadow pick: Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
DGB was my target here all along. Wanted to continue building my front court, but he went off the board at 40 to Tennessee. Randy Gregory is still the best player available, but there are obviously too many character concerns there, so I will stay away. Ditto for La’el Collins. It’s between CB Ronald Darby, LB Denzel Perryman and WR Jaelen Strong. My gut feeling is Strong will be the pick here, but I’m going with one of the last starting corners on the board in Darby. He may not be the most physical tackler, but he’s an athletic cover man who offenses avoided versus Florida State, even with PJ Willaims on the other side. Darby is 5-11 with 4.3 speed, a 41 inch vertical and is my choice at 46.
49ers pick: Jaquiski Tartt, S, Samford
Yes! Trent Baalke picked the man with the best name in the draft. And probably surprised the hell out of some casual fans who didn’t know who he was. A big, tough, athletic, small-school safety, who flies to the ball and will deliver a shot, but needs to wrap up more. We’ll see if Tartt can make the jump from the Southern Conference to the NFL. He has all the tools, including instincts. Should excel on special teams early in his career. Maybe the 49ers are planning to unleash some form of four safety scheme with current starters Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea to go along with 2014 1st rounder Jimmie Ward and now Tartt. It’s clear the 49ers put more value in the safety position than cornerback, instead developing late rounds picks of the latter.
Crossing fingers for Denzel Perryman at 79. Love his toughness and fit as a thumper in SF. He could fall due to lack of height and timed speed. Welp, nevermind. Perryman just went at 48 to Miami. And there goes Darby to Buffalo at 50. Randy Gregory’s fall ends at pick 55 and the Dallas Cowboys. Strong still on the board.
Didn’t think there was a chance Jaelen Strong would still be around to start round three. Especially after we saw guys like Agholor and Dorsett go in the first. There is trade up potential, although it’s probably not worth moving up too far. Looks like NFL execs agree Strong is not a WR1, after getting tons of pre-draft round one media hype. TE Clive Walford, DL Carl Davis (prob not an option after Armstead selection), OLBs Owa Odighazuwa, Eli Harold, LB Paul Dawson and RBs Jay Ajayi, Duke Johnson, Jeremy Langford, Tevin Coleman and Mike Davis are some of my favorites. OL La’el Collins still looms if teams can get clearance on his legal situation.
Jaelen Strong is finally off the board at 70 to Houston and Clive Walford was taken No. 68 by Oakland. Looking like RB or OLB for me at 79. All three second-tier QBs are still available as well, so don’t sleep on Baalke locking up a developmental backup in Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley or Garrett Grayson. Rashad Greene is a WR I really like. High upside WRs Chris Conley and Sammie Coates could be in play as well.
Shadow pick: Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
Don’t love how the board has fallen here. Tempted by DL Carl Davis. Surprised he’s still around. Was eyeing Odighizuwa hard at this pick, who went 74 to the Giants. Ajayi would be a nice compliment to Carlos Hyde due his third down skills and ability to step in and carry the load if Hyde went down. You can’t have too many good RBs with the pounding they take.
49ers pick: Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
I like, don’t love Harold. He’s athletic with long arms and plays tough versus the run for being an undersized college end. High motor. Decent value here, as some had him rated much higher. He was on my radar, but just don’t see a future starter. More of a rotational player with a lack of moves to disengage from blocks. Too often just fires into an offensive lineman and stays locked in for a stalemate, getting nowhere near the quarterback. Seems to lack instincts as a rusher. Harold has physical abilities to work with, though, which has been a theme for Baalke so far in this draft.
If we know Baalke, he will be active today, moving up, down and all around. He will add a RB, at least one sleeper (Jaquiski Tartt doesn’t count) and a medical redshirt player that is falling like TJ Clemmings or Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
Short list for me early in day three: QBs Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty, WRs Rashad Greene, Tre McBride, Justin Hardy, DLs Grady Jarrett, Michael Bennett, TEs Jesse James, Mycole Pruitt, Rory Anderson, Wes Saxton and DB Josh Shaw.
Shadow pick: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
The last QB with starters potential after Bryce Petty went earlier in the round. Hundley has a lot of work to do, but owns a big arm, a ton of athleticism and a good head on his shoulders. That’s a lot to work with. Pretty surprised he’s still on the board. Hundley is too talented and there are too many QB-needy teams.
49ers pick: Blake Bell, TE, Oklahoma
Converted quarterback with only one year of experience at tight end. Not a ton of upside either, but is big and willing to hit people. Could develop into a solid backup. Not super excited about this selection.
Shadow pick: Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
Love Greene’s pure hands and ability to get open. My 10th ranked WR in this class. Will out-produce bigger, faster players that go ahead of him. One thing is clear — LTL Shadow 49ers have proven capable of finding starting caliber wide receivers in the draft. Trent Baalke has not thus far as GM in San Francisco.
49ers pick: Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
Love this selection. I even wrote that Davis reminded me of Frank Gore on film. The 5-9, 217-pounder could absolutely be a future starter in the league. Better runner than some players who ran great 40 times and were selected in third round, though he does lack big-play top speed. Baalke goes back to South Carolina after drafting Davis’ predecessor, Marcus Lattimore in 2013.
Shadow pick: MyCole Pruitt, TE, Southern Illinois
Pruitt is short for a tight end (just over 6-2), but is long-armed and extremely fast (4.5) for a 250-pounder. Competitive blocker, but not your traditional inline tight end. Could be used in the old Delanie Walker “Joker” TE role that has been sorely missed in the 49ers offense.
49ers pick: Deandre Smelter, WR, Georgia Tech
And here we have our medical redshirt player. Smelter was on my radar for 5th and 6th rounds, so I’m not upset about taking him slightly early. Great athlete who excelled at baseball and basketaball. Tore his ACL in November, so he probably wont play in 2015. Has a history of shoulder problems too. Long term project with big potential.
Brett Hundley is finally off the board to the Packers in the fifth round. A great landing spot for him. Oddly enough Jay Ajayi is still available and there have been some reports about his knee that could be scaring teams away. The 49ers have now traded down from 151 to 165 with the Colts, gaining an third seventh-rounder. I might grab my own medical redshirt player soon. Still need some depth at inside linebacker, too.
Shadow pick: Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary
Looking at a few players here, but had to take a shot at McBride’s upside as a well-built small-school receiver with 4.4 speed. I took the boring, productive undersized WR already in Greene. McBride is a more raw, tooled-up lottery ticket.
49ers pick: Bradley Pinion, P, Clemson
A punter. Gotta admit, that’s a bit of a shocker. Although, if Pinion actually beats out Andy Lee, which would be a huge upset, then good on ya, Trent. I think the general consensus of how 49ers fans feel about Baalke’s draft so far can be summed up below:
Looking at special teams and long-term projects in the sixth and seventh rounds. Ifo and his bad knee are still on the board. I also like fellow defensive backs Cody Prewitt, Erick Dargan and Troy Hill. Antwan Goodley, Lynden Trail, Wes Saxton, Rory Anderson, Dezmin Lewis and Darren Waller are sleepers to look out for.
Shadow pick: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
A nasty knee injury caused Ekpre-Olomu’s fall. I never thought he was a first round corner, but he plays smart, fast, tough and has ball skills. Could move inside to safety if his knee injury saps athelticism. At 5-foot-9, probably doesn’t have the length Baalke covets.
49ers pick: Ian Silberman, OG, Boston College
Not surprised Baalke has reached the portion of the draft where he starts selecting players I never studied. Scouting reports say Silberman is a tough, unathletic 6-5, 294-pounder, who played right tackle at Boston College, but projects inside at the next level.
Shadow pick: Erick Dargan, S, Oregon
My third Oregon Duck on the weekend. Dargan is a tough, instinctive strong safety with more athletic ability than given credit for. He should be able to excel on special teams right away.
49ers pick: Trenton Brown, OL, Florida
Just a massive human being. The biggest man in the draft at 6-8, 355. Obviously movement skills will be a weakness at that size. And… wait for it… 36-inch arm length. Surprised Baalke was able to wait that long to take Brown with those antennas for arms. Looks like a practice squad project.
Traded away to Dallas, no info on return. Likely for a late 2016 pick.
Shadow Pick: Rory Anderson, TE, South Carolina
Rory “Busta” Anderson was moved around the formation as a tight end at South Carolina. He has small hands, but is a really athletic 6-5, 244-pounder and seems to love the physical aspect of playing TE. Has dealt with some injuries. Love the upside here. WR Antwan Goodley and ILB Taijuan Jones were in consideration here.
49ers pick: Rory Anderson, TE, South Carolina
Boom! Wow, that is surprising. Book-ended the 2015 shadow draft with the same selection as the 49ers.
Time will tell how our squads fair. As always, I like my haul better than the real thing. The big question is if I still feel that way in three-plus years. 2013 and 2014 shadow drafts remain strong. How do you feel about the real or shadow Niners? Let me know in the comment section below or on Twitter @LeadingLeague.