Some 49ers fans are visibly upset about the 49ers draft class this season. Some say that the 49ers didn't address their most important needs and reached for "tweener" type players. Well, that might be true but I think we should give the front office the benefit of the doubt at this point.
It isn't whether or not the 49ers got quality players. The question is: did they address their primary needs? And, did they get value in the mid-late rounds? I believe the answer to both questions is a luke warm yes!
So, onto my breakdown of the draft...
1st Round, 7th Pick: LB Aldon Smith Missouri
2010 Stats: 48 Tackles, 5.5 Sacks 1 INT
Strengths: Pass rushing skills and elite physical ability. Aldon Smith can speed rush from the end and tends to keep opposing offensive line off balance because of his enormous hands. Smith has not completely developed into his frame, but once he does watch out. Extremely comfortable when asked to drop into coverage on nicks packages for Missouri, looks like he will have no problem transitioning to the 3-4 OLB position
Weakness: Rush defense. Sometimes, Smith looked a little lost in who to take out during rushing plays. Many times I noticed him read the play a wrong way and takes himself completely out of the play. This is something that can be learned, but he is going to have to work hard at fixing this problem.
NFL Comparison: LB- Demarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys Grade: A-
2nd Round, 36th Pick: QB Colin Kaepernick Nevada
2010 Stats: 64.9 Completion %, 3022 Yards, 21 TD, 8 INT, 1206 Rush Yards
Strengths: Kaepernick has the ability to take the ball to the outside on roll outs and make a play out of nothing. His accuracy when rolling out of the pocket is much above average. Additionally, Kaepernick ran for over 1000 yards in each of his final three seasons at Nevada.
Arm Strength: Kaepernick has the ability to make any throw that he will be asked to in the NFL. He has a cannon for an arm and can zip the ball in their ala Tony Romo. The combination of accuracy and arm strength is something that cannot really be learned. Either you have it or you don't; he has it.
Weakness: Running the pistol offense at Nevada may hinder his ability to make an immediate impact in the NFL. Kaepernick's learning curve is going to be pretty extensive because he didn't run an offense that even remotely resembles the system that Harbaugh is going to be installing. His release is pretty slow compared to other NFL QBs, but this is something that can be fixed with the right coaching.
3rd Round, 80th Pick: DB Chris Culliver South Carolina
2010 Stats: 34 Tackles, 1 Sack (Missed 5 Games Due To Injury)
Strengths: Really good fluidity when back stepping into coverage and switching coverage on routes. Has the ability to play multiple positions and act as a rover on certain plays. Is an extremely good on the ball defender and possesses good hands and recognition on the outside
Weakness: Sometimes Culliver is caught peaking into the backfield a little too much which opens him up to be burnt on play action passes. I noticed that Culliver got caught turning around a little bit too much when at corner and played off coverage at safety, limiting his on the ball coverage ability
NFL Comparison: Cory Chavous Grade: C
4th Round, 115th Pick: RB Kendall Hunter Oklahoma State
2010 Stats: 1548 Rush Yards, 5.7 AVG, 16 TD (0 Career Fumbles in 708 attempts)
Strengths: Doesn't give up the ball on the ground and holds natural ability to carry the ball. Hunter has really good instincts and vision of the football field, hits lanes real strong when past the line of scrimmage and is good in reactionary situations. He shows real good balance, runs low to the ground and is frequently hard to bring down to the ground. Good ability to change speed on the outside and cut away from the flow of the play to pick up extra yardage.
Weakness: His size will be an issue in terms of handling the rigors of the NFL and he could get lost up the middle because how low he runs to the ground and his short makeup.
NFL Comparison: Maurice Jones-Drew Grade: A
5th Round, 163rd Pick: OL Daniel Kilgore Appalachian State
Strengths: Was on an offensive line unit that allowed 8 combined sacks in 2010, this helped App. State lead the nation in all three major statistical offensive categories. At only 308 pounds he has the ability to be flexible along the offensive line and act as a rover at pretty much all three positions.
Weakness: Doesn't have the ceiling in terms of talent to be viewed as a future standout NFL offensive linemen. Viewed as a grinder that is not quick off the snap and is sometimes caught out of position standing to high in his stance and being bull rushed a bit.
NFL Comparison: Kyle Kosier Grade: B+
6th Round, 182nd Pick: WR Ronald Johnson Southern California
2010 Stats: 64 Receptions, 692 Yards, 8 TD
Strengths: Good speed that will add another element to the 49ers offense that they don't have with Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan. Ronald Johnson is a sure handed wide receiver that will catch most of the passes thrown his way. Has good balance on route running and can get behind defenders rather quickly. Re-fined route running skills because of USC's style of offense, easier transition to the NFL than most college receivers.
Weakness: Will have problems at the next level with bump and run coverage. Appears to get overpowered at the line of scrimmage and cannot break off of cornerbacks within the five yard zone. I noticed him not being able to break free on slant routes when lined up against other teams inside cover men.
NFL Comparison: Santonio Holmes Grade: A-
6th Round, 190th Pick: S Colin Jones Texas Christian
2010 Stats: 80 Tackles, 3 Sacks, INT
Strengths: Has the ability to close on receivers really fast because of his speed. Jones takes away separation rather quickly and can be a sound defender in that regard at the next level. Jones plays the ball rather than the defender, which means that he could create a lot of turnovers at the next level.
Weakness: Talented, but extremely raw; Jones needs to get a better understanding of offensive schemes before he can make an impact at the next level. Will be somewhat of a project and won't really contribute beyond special teams in his rookie season. Needs to take better angles when chasing down receivers and understand the role that a strong safety represents in a defense.
NFL Comparison: Danieal Manning Grade: B
7th Round, 211th Pick: DL/TE Bruce Miller Central Florida
2010 Stats: 56 Tackles, 8.5 Sacks, 2 INT
Strengths: 34.5 sacks in four years at Central Florida, has a knack for getting to the QB. I am not entirely sold that the 49ers are going to utilize him full-time as a FB, rather I think you will be looking more at a hybrid type of player. Miller has shown a tremendous amount of consistency in terms of his play. He is extremely strong (bench pressed 520 pounds), but has the agility to play OLB as well in the 3-4 scheme. Miller's athletic ability enables the 49ers to look at him at a wide array of different positions early in his career. I view him more as a situational pass rusher on defense.
Weakness: Isn't polished enough to play full-time at the LB position in the 49ers 3-4 scheme. He does have the speed, but not the coverage ability to withstand dropping back into coverage. Gets caught up in the play a little bit too much and needs to read lanes better at the next level. Offensively, he hasn't played the FB position since high school and needs to be coached up in order to succeed at that position
NFL Comparison: Patrick Kerney Grade: B
The 49ers final two picks are really hard to judge, neither of them were on my radar and I had not watched any game film in regards to them. So, instead of pretending to know much about them I will attach some tidbits for each player.
7th Round, 239th Pick: OL Michael Person Montana State
Person played left tackle in the Big Sky but probably rates as an NFL guard. He was the captain of his college team and was voted the Bobcats' toughest player. Losing his mother his redshirt freshman year not only made him tougher but more mature. (Pro Football Weekly)
7th Round, 250th Pick: CB Curtis Holcomb Florida A&M
Holcomb's experience and speed are among his best traits, but he has some work to do in cleaning up his technique for the next level. (Draft Nasty)
I am going to give the 49ers an overall grade of B+ for this draft, I really think they got some good under the radar type of players. Just because some of us have never heard of a certain prospect doesn't mean that he isn't going to pan out.
I think that Aldon Smith has the ability to be a premiere pass rusher in the NFL. He has the skill set to beat offensive linemen off of the snap and get to the QB: what else can you ask for? The 49ers headed into the draft with three primary needs, and got one with their 1st pick.
Colin Kaepernick is going to surprise those of you that question his ability to play at the next level. I have heard many respected scouts say that he is the most "unheralded" QB prospect in years. I have to admit that it took me a while to get on board with Kaepernick during the off-season. However, since I have watched him play on tape, pretty much most of the Wolfpack's 2010 season, I have noticed that he has what it takes to succeed at the next level.
Did the 49ers reach for Chris Culliver in the 3rd round? Of course they did. He wasn't rated anywhere near that high, but what does that really mean? A player is a player is a player. Culliver has the athletic ability and instincts to make an impact at the next level, lets just give it a little of time before jumping to hasty conclusions.
I really loved the pick of Kendall Hunter in the 4th round, he is going to surprise many folks with his ability. I envision him working well with Tom Rathman once the CBA is settled and making an immediate impact in 2010.
Overall, this draft class was extremely solid. The 49ers didn't reach for big name players from the top universities towards the end of the draft. In fact, few teams did. Instead, the 49ers got what they were looking for in terms of athleticism and consistency. It is extremely hard to grade a draft a couple days after it has ended. Hindsight is 20-20, but maybe we should go back to this in 2-3 years.
Keep in mind that my NFL comparisons of each player doesn't mean that they are going to be as good as their counterparts. Instead, it just gives you an idea of who each player reminds me of.