The 2013 NFL Draft is one that is stocked with a lot of good players.
“We probably have better depth than we’ve had in the last 10 years,” Mike Mayock, draft analyst for the NFL Network, said in a teleconference on Monday. “The quick snapshot of this draft: more depth, not quite the difference-makers at the top end and a whole lot of holes in the quarterback class.”
The 49ers can really have an influence on how the draft works because they have a total of 13 draft picks. Five of those picks are in the first three rounds (31,34,61,74,93). It is very likely that the 49ers are active in this draft. They have a few needs starting with the safety position. They need to add depth on the defensive line by way of a versatile guy that can play inside and outside. The cornerback position is another area that can use a quality addition specifically a corner that can cover the slot.
The biggest need for the 49ers is at safety. There really is no standout starter opposite of Donte Whitner. Craig Dahl will be a core special teams player along with CJ Spillman. Trenton Robinson, Darcel McBath and Michael Thomas are also on the roster. The good thing is that there really is not much separation amongst the top five or six prospects.
Kenny Vaccaro from Texas is the top safety. Some are saying that the 49ers should trade up to get Vaccaro. I wouldn’t suggest doing so. Eric Reid – LSU, DJ Swearinger – South Carolina and John Cyprien are a few guys that should be there for the 49ers with their 31st pick. Swearinger acutally stood out more on film than Vaccaro. Vaccaro is a bit better as a cover safety that can drop down and cover the slot but Swearinger is capable of doing just the same and makes more impact plays. Eric Reid is a very intriguing size/speed prospect that played well last year but even better in 2011. Cyprien has gained a lot of momentum after impressing scouts at the Senior Bowl. The 49ers can stay put and get a really good safety so contrary to popular demand, there is no need to trade up and get a safety.
As we mentioned, the corner position is an area that should be a target for the 49ers. Carlos Rogers regressed slightly last year and will have a high cap number in 2014. He is the best option for the 49ers when it comes to covering the slot. A trade up would be warranted if Desmond Trufant is available in the 19 – 25 range. Trufant is able to lock onto receivers in space because of his excellent footwork which is mandatory for being nickel corner.
Jamar Taylor and Robert Alford are similar players that can cover the slot. Both are smaller but very explossive corners that have 40 inch verticals and broad jump 11 feet. They are very good press corners that can be a presence in the slot. Taylor is also good in press – bail coverage. He is the more physical player. Either of these players are options that may cause the 49ers to move up from the 74th pick which falls in the 3rd.
Tyrann Mathieu and DJ Hayden are both wildcards. Mathieu has worked out well and would help out in the return game but concerns about his off the field issues may cause him to go anywhere from the 2nd – 3rd round. Hayden burst a blood vessel in practice last year that was life threatening. He was one of the better corners prior to the injury. If he checks out medically he will be a very good player and could be a trade up target in the second round.
The one player that would make the most sense to trade up for is Star Lotulelei. He is the kind player that can be dominant at two positions. He can contribute both as a nose tackle and a three technique defensive end in the 3 – 4 defense. He can also play defensive tackle when the 49ers use four down linemen. Not working out at the combine due to a possible heart condition may have caused Lotulelei to drop on some draft boards.
Brian Baldinger recently called him the best defensive player in the draft. Trent Baalke will need to pick up the phone if he drops into the 13 – 20 range. Lotulelei has drawn comparisons to Haloti Ngata because of his size, strength and quickness. Ngata is one of the most dominant defensive linemen. The key to an effective defense is being strong up the middle. Lotulelei will surely stregthen the middle of the defense for the 49ers.
There are quite a few ways that the 49ers can upgrade their roster this year. This team has some needs to fill and plenty of draft picks to do so.