With the NFL Draft set to take place next Thursday, most everyone has made their final predictions and mocks. After watching film on almost every conceivable prospect the 49ers would select with the No. 30 pick in the draft, I've concluded which player I strongly believe San Francisco will take.
With the 30th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select Coby Fleener, tight end, Stanford.
There are just too many things that make sense with this pick for it to not happen if Fleener's available at No. 30. I've broken down my reasons following the jump.
1. Tight End-Friendly Offense
The offense the 49ers run is unique; especially for us Faithful who have watched simple offenses like Jimmy Raye's or ridiculous non-fitting ones like Mike Martz's. The one the Niners run today is a west coast system, that is extremely keen on utilizing tight ends and taking advantage of mismatches. Fleener is a perfect fit, because he is in the simplest of words, a 'mismatch.' He can outrun linebackers and catch over cornerbacks and safeties. The coaching staff in San Francisco would get the best out of him.
2. Knows The Offensive System
Fleener is coming from Stanford, where he played under Jim Harbaugh in a Greg Roman-run offense. And on top of that, he had great success in that system. Harbaugh has brought in Stanford players like Chase Beeler to the 49ers, simply because they could excel because they know the system. Fleener was a star in the "49ers offense" in college, and would easily transition into it going into the pros.
The learning curve for him would be minimal, and he would for the most part, be able to let his freakish athleticism take over.
3. NOT Just A Tight End
Despite being 6'6, 247-pounds, Fleener still runs a forty-yard-dash in the mid 4.4's. He's got great speed, especially for his size. His leaping ability is outrageous and would be unchallenged lining up out wide against undersized cornerbacks. The 49ers need a big target who is always a threat to go up and catch the ball; Fleener might be the best option in the draft when it comes to that.
He's got soft hands and has a knack for finding soft spots in defenses. In his senior season, he reeled in 10 touchdowns, proving to be a capable scoring threat. He's also got wide receiver talent in that he is pretty great after the catch. At one point I also remember seeing Mel Kiper's big board after the combine, where he had Fleener as the No. 2 wide receiver in the draft after Justin Blackmon.
4. Draft History
The 49ers draft history with Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke shows they don't mind spending a first round draft choice on a situational player. A lot of first round draft choices bust for numerous reasons, a couple being that too much was expected of them and they didn't have the surrounding cast to help them succeed. There wouldn't be pressure on Fleener to perform right away, and I could see him being 2012's Aldon Smith for the 49ers offense.
This draft is also loaded with wide receivers, so why take the fourth or fifth best wide receiver (who could be a bust) when the number one tight end (who doesn't just play tight end) is still on the board? There are a plethora of receivers the 49ers could choose from later on, who will likely be much harder workers.
5. Long-Term Solution
As most of you know, Delanie Walker is going to be a free agent after this season, and after watching how the 49ers have operated these past two offseasons, it could mean the last year for Walker in San Francisco. The potential combination of Coby Fleener and Vernon Davis is legendary. Davis is already a team leader and top-3 tight end in the NFL. Fleener could learn from Davis, and become another viable receiving option.
We've all seen how well the Patriots fared in 2011 with no wide receivers, a lousy defense but two reliable pass-catching tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The 49ers have the No. 1 defense, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn Jr., which is a much better overall situation than New England. Add the combination of Fleener and Davis, and you're looking at a real nightmare of a team.
6. Red Zone
The 49ers need to get better in the red zone and thus far, they've only addressed it with the short-term deals with Brandon Jacobs and Randy Moss. Fleener could become one of the more dangerous red zone targets in the league with his size and leaping ability. Of his 34 catches in his senior year, 10 went for touchdowns -- that's almost a third of his receptions.
So, in college, one could almost surmise that every third catch Fleener made would be for a touchdown. That sounds like the kind of player the 49ers need to add to their roster.
7. In Closing
This is a great pick for the 49ers at No. 30 because of all these reasons and more. Fleener has great upside, he's a humble, hard worker and I'd bet he's a 'gold star guy' on the 49ers' big board. When they're in the war room, I can't see San Francisco passing on Fleener with everything he brings to the team. Harbaugh has had hands on experience with Fleener, so there's a comfort level there when spending your first rounder on him.
With his undeniable talent and league-wide known upside, I think the 49ers get a great long-term contributor at a pass-catching position with this selection.
Sport Science - Coby Fleener (via ESPN)
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