April is upon is. The talk of who the 49ers may select at No. 2 overall has been exhausted. There’s not a lot of hard news or data left to analyze. What’s in a pre-draft visit? Or a head coach or general manager saying how good a player is? And God bless the soul of the anonymous scout for extending our entertainment during this dragged-out process.
The top prospects have been very well-documented by now and San Francisco could theoretically select any one of them. That’s where it stands.
But these late-round gems are becoming more interesting to consider, mostly because a lot of them are gifted in one area, while lacking in others. And a lot of them, despite their perception as “Day 3 players” or “late-round sleepers,” could surprise and become starters, Pro Bowlers, and who knows, maybe there’s even a Hall of Famer in there.
And for San Francisco, well, they’ve got a whole roster to build out, so these late-round picks matter, too. If they could add 40 players in this offseason alone, they probably would. But these picks, across all seven rounds, will ultimately be replacing players from the old regime and locking in place to form the new DNA of the team.
And they can find worthwhile, ready-to-contribute talent on the final day of the draft.
The NFL’s infatuation with length is why good and sometimes great players go overlooked during the draft process. Because of this, I expect Price to fall through the cracks. There’s a lot to like about him, though.
He has four years of college playing experience, playing 12 or more games in three of four, including a full workload as a freshman.
And once Price found is footing as a full-time player in his junior and senior seasons, he was lights out, blowing up the stat sheet for double-digit sacks both years. With his bend, off-the-ball quickness and general compact stature and low center of gravity, he racked up 23 tackles for loss in 2016; 19.5 the year before that.
And the 49ers need someone who spends a lot of time in the opponent’s backfield.
Moreover, after watching Corey Lemonier struggle immensely, and seeing similar deficiencies in Eli Harold’s game—the inability to come off the edge with power or any unique specialty—it may already be time to be looking for serious competition. Even if Aaron Lynch can get right.
Price, a stout edge rusher, wins like an Elvis Dumervil or James Harrison. He attacks low, he’s quick and he’s competitive. He’s simply very good at using his arms to fend off offensive tackles. That’s not to make a comparison, it’s just to say that we’ve seen that combination of skills translate.The 49ers should make Price a priority in the mid-to-late rounds.
Again, physical traits are going to push a player down the boards, and in this case it could happen to Kareem Hunt.
Hunt looked draftable last year, and the year before that when he had 1,670 yards from scrimmage and 16 TD; he’s been a good player for a while. But his stock, I suppose, was never going to get much higher because he couldn’t blaze the 40 (he ran a 4.62 – yikes, but OK). While that’s not good for a tailback, speed isn’t what makes Hunt such an effective runner.
Now, 49ers fans can appreciate this, but it’s vision that makes him a special player with the rock.
The combination of vision, balance and patience is better than any 40 time, any vertical or three-cone. Look at who's currently the best back in the NFL in Le’Veon Bell, or Jamaal Charles before him. Arian Foster.
Or future Hall of Famer Frank Gore.
Hunt comes in that mold of player, and would be a low investment with a lot of upside that could not only be a solid backup for Carlos Hyde and present competition for DuJuan Harris, but he can handle the workload if Hyde gets hurt or he happens to outperform the rest of the depth on the team. Hunt would make a ton of sense for San Francisco as it looks to put the finishing touches on its draft.
QB, Virginia Tech
Quarterback may not be addressed this year. The man that Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch intend to be their franchise player at that position may not be available this year. But that’s okay.
The 49ers can still bring in a player like Cal’s Davis Webb, or the less talked about, Jerod Evans, who is more likely to be available in the late rounds. Evans surprised people when he declared. He played only one year for the Hokies, performed well, but hadn’t really cemented himself as a top player.
Nevertheless, he looked like a gamer that could become a polished professional with development from the right people in the right environment.
Who knows where he might’ve ranked in next year’s class…
In any case, Evans is worth a Day 3 flier. In 14 games in 2016 he threw for 3,552 passing yards and totaled 41 touchdowns, while only turning it over eight times. Eight. That’s not nothing. The 49ers have Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, but their stories are more or less written. If the 49ers hang on to a third quarterback, it'd be best if he were a low-cost player with developmental upside.
Let’s get it out of the way: off-the-field issues make this an unattractive pick. If he and teammate KD Cannon are both on the board on Day 3, and the 49ers went with Cannon, although I think Zamora will be the better player—and San Francisco might think that too—that would be totally okay. Character matters.
But, if the 49ers’ new regime was daring enough—and we’ll find out just how much they value a person’s ethics and background soon enough—they could wind up with a Week 1 starter and potential receiving leader with just a fifth- or sixth-round pick.
Zamora is so talented. The Baylor product is 6-4 with a ball-attacking mentality and ample speed to go with. Oh, and he can sell routes.
He looks like the total package at wide receiver.
The 49ers’ receiving corps pre-draft currently consists of a 31-year-old Pierre Garcon, Aldrick Robinson and a stable full of shifty slot guys. They need to add a dangerous dose of size. Zamora could be it.
CB, San Diego State
I was a David Amerson fan when he was coming out of N.C. State in 2013, largely because of his reputation as a ball hawk. Kazee similarly captured my attention. He had 15 interceptions over his final two college seasons, including two returned for touchdowns. The ball skills are there, as is the mentality to aggressively make a play and get the defense off the field.
He’s a true playmaker on defense.
But due to his size—he’s just 5-10, 184 pounds—not only may he fall in the draft, but teams may try to pigeonhole him as a slot defender.
Hey, Vernon Hargreaves is only 5-10. Pro Bowlers Joe Haden and Marcus Peters aren’t much bigger, either. Kazee could be a full-time player, and potentially earn a starting spot opposite Rashard Robinson. And now that the 49ers appear to have an imposing CB1, they need to solidify that 1-2 punch, and it wouldn’t be too tall an order for Kazee to be cover the second and third receivers, taking over for Tramaine Brock, on a defense that ranked last in the NFL last year.
Media courtesy Orange and White report, HokieSports.com, YouTube, DraftBreakdown