With the 2012 NFL Draft just hours away, four San Francisco 49ers beat writers have weighed in on seven rounds worth of 49ers prognostications.
This year, we’re examining the selections from Matt Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, Eric Branch of The San Francisco Chronicle and Cam Inman of The San Jose Mercury News, in our very first 49ers beat writer “Draft Challenge.”
It’s quite simple. The writers will try to predict the correct 49ers draft pick in the correct round, to earn two points. If they pick the correct player in the wrong round, they’ll earn one point. (Fans can play along in the comments section below).
There’s a common thread in the first round forecast as three of the four writers have Midwestern State guard Amini Silatolu as San Francisco’s No. 30 overall selection.
Whether if that selection, or six other rounds of projections, will come true remains to be seen. But we’ll track their picks all weekend long during our #Draft49 coverage. So without further ado, let’s examine the 49ers seven-round draft predictions from the Bay Area football minds.
First round: No. 30 (No. 30 overall)
–G Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State — Silatolu grew up in Tracy as a fan of the 49ers. He has been a popular person during the pre-draft routine, as he took 11 trips to visit teams. He did not visit the 49ers, but they visited him. Offensive line coaches Mike Solari and Tim Drevno drove to meet Silatolu last week at his old high school. They drew up several 49ers offensive plays on the board, along with the corresponding adjustments based on the defense. And then they had Silatolu repeat the plays back to them. Silatolu told CSNBayArea.com on Wednesday that the zone blocking scheme he ran in college is similar to the 49ers’ system. “With our school, it was mainly a zone scheme and I did a lot of pulling, so it’s a good fit,” Silatolu said. “San Francisco loves to pull their guards. But with us, we pulled our tackles.” Silatolu played left tackle at Midwestern State, and he proved adept at getting to the second level — much like 49ers left guard Mike Iupati — and crushing linebackers. “I was in a two-point stance playing tackle, so when I move to guard I’ll be in a three-point stance,” he said. “That should help me because I’ll be playing lower.” Silatolu measured 6-foot-3 5/8, 311 pounds at the combine in February. While working out with Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater in Southern California, Silatolu has also added about 10 pounds in the past two months while tightening up his technique.
Second round: No. 30 (No. 61 overall)
–DT Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati (6-5 1/8, 295): He’s another player who fits the 49ers’ style. A former wrestler who plays with toughness and aggression. He would not start as a rookie, but he’d get defensive coordinator Vic Fangio a player to insert into the rotation behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald.
Third round: No. 30 (No. 92 overall)
–RB Bernard Pierce, Temple (6-0 1/4), 218): A decisive runner who has good size and the feet to go along with it. He left school after his junior season after rushing for 3,570 yards and scoring 53 touchdowns in three seasons. He might not see a lot of action as a rookie, but he’ll play a major role in the future.
Fourth round: No. 30 (No. 125 overall)
–WR Tommy Streeter, Miami (6-4 7/8, 219): He has great size and tremendous downfield speed. He’s very similar to Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill — only he arrives three rounds later. Veteran Randy Moss has a lot of knowledge to share, and Streeter would be wise to take notes.
Fifth round: No. 30 (No. 165 overall)
–OLB Miles Burris, San Diego State (6-2 1/8, 246): He recorded 17.5 sacks over his final two seasons. He was also a team captain, and the 49ers love that about him. He’ll be a dynamite special-teams player as a rookie and supply strong depth with his ability to rush the passer and drop into coverage.
Sixth round: No. 30 (No. 199 overall)
–SS Duke Ihenacho, San Jose State (6-0 1/8, 213): The 49ers paid close attention to him at the local combine last week. He could be the team’s third safety as a rookie, but he’ll be expected to use his physical style of play to provide immediate dividends on special teams.
Seventh round: No. 30 (No. 237 overall)
–WR Chris Owusu, Stanford (6-0 1/8, 196): The concern over his concussion history has dropped his stock into an area where the 49ers will take a chance on him. He has tremendous speed and the ability to return kicks.
1. G Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State. He’s a 315-pound guy who can dunk a basketball. Silatolu has tremendous upside and pairing him opposite Mike Iupati is enough to make defensive coordinators tremble. His biggest downside is his level of competition. But the 49ers are confident he can be coached up to speed quickly. Mike Solari last week had Silatolu diagram and digest plays on a whiteboard just as he did with Iupati before the 2010 draft.
2. CB Trumaine Johnson, Montana. He’s just the kind of cornerback the 49ers love – tall (6-2) with long arms to jam defenders. Johnson has first-round ability but character concerns will knock him down teams’ draft boards. Will he last to the end of the second round?
3. RB Chris Polk, Washington. He has durability concerns (shoulders) and wasn’t impressive at theSenior Bowl. However, he’s a big-bodied runner, who was consistently productive at Washington and who is best between the tackles. Polk is just the kind of runner position coach Tom Rathman covets – one cut and he hits the hole. He was particularly good at the goal line (12 TDs) last year and added four more scores as a receiver.
4. WR Rishard Matthews, Nevada. His production notably improved after Colin Kaepernick’s departure. Matthews caught 91 passes for 1,364 yards last year. He’s got good size (6-1, 208), adjusts well when the ball is in the air, and perhaps best of all, he is very physical after the catch. An added bonus: He also returns punts and has a touchdown return in each of the last two years.
5. LB Miles Burris, San Diego State. The 49ers will love his leadership, versatility and hustle. He could be a backup at two positions, inside and outside linebacker, early in his career and would be a special teams demon right off the bat. A weight-room freak, he had 18 sacks in his last two seasons with the Aztecs.
6. S Trent Robinson, Michigan State. The 49ers need a fourth safety and Robinson has the ability to play free safety behind Dashon Goldson. Robinson is small at 5-9 ½, but he was productive at Michigan State with eight interceptions in the last two seasons. He’d be an immediate special teams contributor.
7. OL Jeff Adams, Columbia. Adams would be a project, but he has the length and the athletic abilty to warrant a late-round draft pick.
FIRST ROUND (No. 30) AMINI SILATOLU, G, MIDWESTERN STATE
A wide receiver? A certain pass-catching tight end from Stanford? Sorry. At their core, Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman are all about a power running game that takes over fourth quarters. Silatolu, known for his athleticism and on-field nasty, will put a little more pop in a power-running attack that will feature four first-round picks up front.
SECOND ROUND (No. 61) BRIAN QUICK, WR, APPALACHIAN STATE
After passing on a first-round wide receiver, the 49ers grab another physically gifted, small-school, coach-‘em-up prospect in Quick. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, Quick has the size to be a much-needed red-zone target and the speed to stretch secondaries. About coaching him up: Quick played one year of high school football and has spent the past four seasons running routes against Elon and Furman in the Southern Conference.
THIRD ROUND (No. 92) ROBERT TURBIN, RB, UTAH STATE
The 49ers already have the NFL’s biggest running back in 264-pound Brandon Jacobs. With Turbin (5-10, 222), they’ll add the league’s first running back with 64-pound biceps. Did we mention a power running game? Turbin, Frank Gore’s heir apparent, did 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the combine, more than 28 offensive linemen.
FOURTH ROUND (No. 125) CHASE MINNIFIELD, CB, VIRGINIA
A year after another Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling was surrounded by injury questions, the 49ers grab Minnifield, whose underwhelming pre-draft season was attributed to knee surgery. San Francisco believes the two-time all-ACC cornerback will return to form. The son of former NFL cornerback Frank Minnifield, he’s a savvy and physical corner with excellent ball skills (13 INTs). Added bonus: he returns punts, offering versatility the 49ers prize.
FIFTH ROUND (No. 165) AARON HENRY, S, WISCONSIN
After the free-agent departures of Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams, San Francisco gets some safety depth with Henry, a starter on back-to-back Rose Bowl teams who earned first-team all-Big Ten honors last year. A converted cornerback, Henry has good size (6-0, 208), speed (4.53 40) and one eye-popping measurable (39.5-inch vertical jump).
SIXTH ROUND (No. 199) BRETT ROY, DT, NEVADA
Jim Tomsula gets another young lineman to groom in Roy (6-3, 275), who had 33 tackles for loss and 18 sacks in his final two seasons. A fiery leader — the guy sported black face paint on game days during college – Roy is known for his on-field passion. Pro Football Talk termed him a “hard-playing, all-out war daddy who leaves everything on the field.” He should get along just fine with Justin Smith, the original all-out war daddy.
SEVENTH ROUND (No. 237) DESMOND MARROW, CB, TOLEDO
For the third straight year, the 49ers take a cornerback in the final round and the latest one is the most promising of the bunch. Marrow (6-2, 208) has the size and length the 49ers covet. He’s also unpolished and was granted a sixth year of eligibility after hamstring and knee injuries wiped out two seasons.
Round 1 (30th overall): WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
Analysis: Alshon Jeffery. He is my projection for the 49ers’ first-round draft pick at No. 30 overall Thursday night. Alshon, meet Aldon, as in Aldon Smith, whose first-round selection a year ago also surprised some folks.
Alshon Jeffery? Sure, why not. They could go with another wide receiver, such as LSU’s Rueben Randle, Baylor’s Kendall Wright or Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. Or they could do the unlikely and trade up for Michael Floyd out of the Yorks’ alma mater, Notre Dame.
But after reviewing film of Jeffery’s dominance for South Carolina, I can’t help but think he has the play-making potential the 49ers need from the improved wide receiver corps, even with the additions of Super Bowl-hero Mario Manningham and a coming-out-of-retirement Randy Moss.
Jeffery would have been a much higher draft pick a year ago. And many draft analysts project him as a second-round pick (which could lend credence into Trent Baalke’s contention that their ideal candidate will be there at 30). But Jeffery got his weight back down on that big 6-3, 216-pound frame. He also ran a sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.
He could be the red-zone target and breakaway receiver they need, not just now but in future years when Moss slips back into retirement (and who knows how Crabtree will evolve in this offense). Jeffery’s finale for South Carolina: Capital One Bowl MVP, even though he got ejected for fighting with Nebraska’s Alfonzo Denard, but because he had four catches for 148 yards and caught a Hail Mary touchdown pass.
Round 2 (61st): DT Kendall Reyes, Connecticut
Analysis: The 49ers may have to move up a few slots here to snag the Huskies’ captain and add depth to an underrated front featuring Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Isaac Sopoaga. I like Nebraska defensive end Jared Crick as another option here, maybe Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin.
Round 3 (92nd): G Brandon Brooks, Miami-Ohio
Analysis: Not invited to the combine, Brooks’ stock has climbed this month, but let’s assume he’s still around here. He can step in and compete with Daniel Kilgore, Alex Boone and Mike Person for this slot.
Round 4 (125th): RB Robert Turbin, Utah State
Analysis: They may have to grab him in the third round, instead, and take a guard later. But Frank Gore and Brandon Jacobs likely won’t be in the backfield in three years (no knock on them; hope they can last) and Turbin would be a nice complement to Kendall Hunter.
Round 5 (165th): CB Asa Jackson, Cal Poly
Analysis: Full disclosure: I’m a biased, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo graduate. But many experts project him as a fourth- or fifth-round prospect. He played in the Senior Bowl and returned a punt, so he has versatility. A product of Christian Brothers High-Sacramento, he returned to interceptions for touchdowns last season.
Round 6 (199th): S Sean Richardson, Vanderbilt
Analysis: The 49ers need depth at safety following the departures of Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams.
Round 7 (237th): Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M
Analysis: Full disclosure: The 49ers will be biased, as he is the son of the former 49ers safety with the same name. Plus, at 6-4, 220 pounds, he is a big target like my first pick, Jeffery.
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