Here we go. Year four of my San Francisco 49ers shadow draft. And, whats new? I like my squad much more than the real thing. History has proven that past shadow classes have measured up and I fully expect 2016 to be the same. Only one rule: when the 49ers are on the clock, I’m on the clock.
1. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
1. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
3. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
4. Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
5. Christian Westerman, OG, Arizona State
5. Kentrell Brothers, LB, Missouri
5. Kalan Reed, CB, Southern Miss
6. Keyarris Garrett, WR, Tulsa
6. Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky
6. Victor Ochi, OLB, Stonybrook
7. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
1. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
1. Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
3. Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State
4. Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU
5. Ronald Blair, DE, Appalachian State
5. John Theus, OT, Georgia
5. Fahn Cooper, OT, Ole Miss
6. Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida
6. Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
6. Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State
7. Prince Charles Iworah, CB, Western Kentucky
The 49ers should be looking to sit back at pick 7 and let one of the handful of elite players to fall into their lap. Mucking things up, though, is two of my favorite prospects potentially not being an option in the top-10. Reports about Myles Jack’s knee have gotten progressively worse leading up to draft day. Then there’s the bizarre tweet (or hacked account) just before the Rams went on the clock at No. 1 showing Laremy Tunsil taking a bong hit. Now, if you took every player who ever smoked pot off your draft board, there would be nobody left to select, so that isn’t a big deal. But the timing and circumstances surrounding the tweet are worrisome, along with the shocking nature of the gas mask contraption Tunsil is smoking from in the video. I wouldn’t be surprised if either player was off the board for a lot of teams — at least in the first round.
As expected, quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz went 1 and 2 to LA and Philly. Somewhat unexpectedly, they were followed by Joey Bosa (SD), Ezekiel Elliot (DAL), Jalen Ramsey (JAX) and Ronnie Stanley (BAL). That means San Francisco has their choice of Tunsil, Jack or DeForest Buckner, who is the cleanest prospect at this point.
Shadow pick: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
It would be shocking for the 49ers to go any other direction, and even though I have both Tunsil and Jack rated higher, there are too many unknowns with those players to take them this high when a player as talented (and clean from a character/health perspective) as Buckner is still on the board. I love his production and motor, but he needs to play with better leverage vs the run.
49ers pick: DeForest Buckner, DE Oregon
There was really no other way to go here, plus Buckner fits Trent Baalke’s length fetish and is a former Oregon recruit of Chip Kelly. Buckner is a perfect 3-4 right end to play across from former Ducks teammate Arik Armstead. With the injury history of both Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey, Quinton Dial will likely see a lot of time at the nose as well as rotating at both end spots.
In a surprising twist to a bats**t first round of the 2016 draft, the 49ers have traded back into the first round from pick 37. The oddest part of this deal are the players left on the board at 28. The run on wide receivers (Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell) is over and the only other first round caliber QB, Paxton Lynch, was taken by Denver, who traded up to the 26th pick. Myles Jack and Robert Nkemdiche are the most talented players on the board, but both have red flags for different reasons.
Shadow pick: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
I’m really hoping this isn’t Connor Cook. There has been way too much smoke with he and the Niners. Jack is the guy who stands out at this point in the draft. If the medical is good enough to believe he can be 100% sometime in 2016, and he looks to be moving well in workouts, then I have no problem pulling the trigger on a dynamic player like Jack.
49ers pick: Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
Not a fan of trading up for a guard. Garnett is a good player, but certainly doesn’t separate himself from the talent that will be available 12 picks later. He’s a beast in the run game, but not a great pass protector. I don’t believe you draft an offensive lineman in the first round who won’t keep your QB clean, and you certainly don’t trade up for one. Looks like Chip and Trent are paying more than lip service to running the football.
Some fantastic players were still on the board throughout the second round. The smarter play would have been to stand pat at 37, take Garnett if he was still there or BPA (Jason Spriggs, Chris Jones, Reggie Ragland, Noah Spence, Sterling Shepard, Michael Thomas, Jarran Reed) then try to move up from the third round into the second to get perhaps another player rated among your top-50 overall. Guys like Mackensie Alexander and Cody Whitehair went off the board in the final 10 picks of round 2.
Shadow pick: Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
Connor Cook is still on the board and he would not surprise me here. Not a huge fan of his, but almost had a heart attack thinking Baalke would take him in the late first. This would be a more acceptable slot. NT Andrew Billings is a consideration, but I already went D-line and the WR position needs a major influx of talent. Braxton Miller is a raw former QB, but that’s probably the only reason he’s still on the board. He lined up everywhere in college, displaying natural hands, elite athleticism, toughness and leadership. Development is needed, but Miller would be a nice fit in Chip Kelly’s offense as a bigger slot receiver, utilizing his RAC ability while refining his technique.
49ers pick: Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State
Quick, somebody kidnap Trent Baalke. Another member of #TeamACL. I guess it makes me a hypocrite to want an injured player in the first round, but be totally against this pick. The difference, though, is that Myles Jack could be the best defender in the draft and is already mostly recovered from his torn meniscus. As for Redmond, he profiles as an undersized slot corner and showed an elite burst when healthy. There is definitely some talent to work with if/when he gets back to 100%. Willing to support the run, but more of a flash tackler who dives low into ball carriers and doesn’t wrap up. Baalke says he’ll be ready to start the season, but if I remember correctly, the same was said of fellow #TeamACL members DeAndre Smelter and Tank Carradine.
As day three gets going, the Raiders traded up to pick 100 for QB Connor Cook. One of the strongest players in the draft, NT Andrew Billings, is still on the board and would have been my pick at the 49ers original 4th round pick that was traded away in the Joshua Garnett trade. Offensive linemen are flying off the boards, and there aren’t many players left I see as future starters, but there are a couple interior guys worth targeting late. Still some available talent at WR, RB, LB, CB and some late round backup QB types.
Shadow pick: Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
Running back isn’t as big of a need as some other positions, but Dixon is too good to pass up here. Thought he could have been a 2nd round pick. Dixon heads a group of mid-round backs I really like, including Tyler Ervin (who went earlier in the 4th), Devontae Booker, Paul Perkins, Jordan Howard, Johnathan Williams and Daniel Lasco. Dixon wins due to value in the passing game along with every-down ability if Carlos Hyde continues to battle injuries. It’s smart to get in front of a potential run on RBs here.
49ers pick: Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU
Robinson was not on my radar at all. Probably because he didn’t play in 2015 after being suspended from LSU in 2014. He’s a long, lean cover corner who has some talent, but the combo of a super slight frame, character concerns and whispers of work ethic issues sounds more like a UDFA than a 4th round selection. The new coaching staff must really not like the current crop of corners in San Francisco. We might see a lot more man coverage from Jim O’Neil’s defense. There will be a lot of bodies and competition among the 49ers defensive backfield. Baalke wouldn’t need all these CBs if he just listened to me and drafted past shadow 49ers like Xavier Rhodes and Ronald Darby.
Shadow pick: Christian Westerman, OG, Arizona State
Some interior o-linemen I really liked have gone higher than in most mocks (Max Tuerk, Joe Thuney, Evan Boehm). I have to take the last guy on the board I see as a future starter in Westerman. A Technician, who is more of a positional blocker than a road grader, but consistently wins. Has traits to move inside to center. He’s a good athlete with pedigree, experience and should be a great fit in Chip Kelly’s zone scheme. Although, if the Garnett choice in round 1 is and indication, Kelly might be employing more power elements than he did at Philly and Oregon.
49ers pick: Ronald Blair, DE, Appalachian State
Interior pass rusher with high motor and production. Really like this player. Sub packages are the new base.
Shadow pick: Kentrell Brothers, ILB, Missouri
Nick Kwiatkowski went off the board in the 4th round. He was one of four LBs that I was targeting late. Scooby Wright and Tyler Matakevich could be in for longer falls due to a lack of height/weight/speed. Brothers was the highest ranked of the four and could be a steal here. What Brothers lacks in 40 time, he makes up for with instincts and short area quickness. He could start immediately or provide depth depending on the health of Jack. Should be an asset on special teams as well.
49ers pick: John Theus, OT, Georgia
Theus has a ton of experience at both tackle positions at Georgia. Problem is, the film is mediocre. Depth player.
Shadow pick: Kalan Reed, CB, Southern Miss
Reed gets his hands on a lot of footballs and gets high grades from Pro Football Focus. To back up that production, the 5-11, 195-pounder threw down a 4.3 40 at his pro day workout. Thought there was a chance this sleeper would surprise and go on day two.
49ers pick: Fahn Cooper, OT, Ole Miss
That’s 3 picks on the OL now, so there is a clear focus in the 49ers draft room. I see Cooper, like Theus, as another body, but not necessarily a future starter at the position. Competitive. Might fit best at guard in the NFL.
Shadow pick: Keyarris Garrett, WR, Tulsa
The “other” Michael Thomas from Southern Miss is a sleeper receiver I like who just went the pick before to LA. Garrett is long (6-3, 220, 34.5″ arms), fast (4.53) and super productive (96 rec, 1588 yds, 8 TD). Pretty much only ran slants and go routes in college, but dominated those routes and has a ton of potential as a deep/red zone threat. surprised by the lack of WRs in this draft by the 49ers. As of now, Quinton Patton is the No. 2 across from Torrey Smith.
49ers pick: Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech
Good athletic profile with 4.5 speed at the combine to go with solid size and arm strength. Was a top recruit who never met his potential at Florida and lost his starting job. Transferred to La Tech, where he had a better year in 2015. Some talent, but a lack of instincts could limit potential. Worth a flyer to see if Chip can coach him up.
Shadow pick: Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky
Sort of the opposite profile of Driskel. Small school guy, not very atheltic, but has a good arm and produced ridiculous numbers in WKU’s uptempo offense. Posted top grade for accuracy at PFF.
49ers pick: Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
Fred Taylor’s kid. Great feet, decisive and hits the hole with vision. Not much in the way of speed in the open field or power to push the pile.
Shadow pick: Victor Ochi, OLB, Stonybrook
Small school pass rusher. Super productive and played well at Shrine Game. Short, but has long arms for his size and give non-stop effort.
49ers pick: Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State
I’ve been swinging for the fences with my WR/RB selections. Looks like Baalke is trying to hit doubles. Burbridge was productive and shows toughness going over the middle. Not much juice at all after the catch and has average size/athleticism. High floor, low ceiling. Should make the team.
Shadow pick: Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Really surprised at the lack of attention Boykin has gotten throughout the draft process. He’s one of the more athletic QBs in the class, was productive in college and has shown he can make NFL throws. Needs some work, but certainly has the talent to be drafted and develop into a backup. Wouldn’t be shocked if he becomes the next Tyrod Taylor.
49ers pick: Prince Charles Iworah, CB, Western Kentucky
Really like this player. He jumped out to me when I was doing a Western Kentucky game for PFF. Not big, but can really run. Will be interesting to watch all these CBs battle it out during training camp. Not all of them can make the roster.