Yesterday, NFL Network's Mike Mayock released his top 5 position rankings post-Combine. There weren't a lot of major changes of note other than at cornerback. Let's take a look at each of the position rankings as it pertains to the 49ers.
You can see Mayock's pre-Combine rankings here.
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia
2. Matt Barkley, USC
3. Mike Glennon, NC State
4. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
5. Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Thoughts: I'm not surprised at this list other than Mayock keeping Jones in the top five despite the rising stock of Florida State's E.J. Manuel. It's unlikely any of these will end up on the 49ers roster in 2013.
1. Eddie Lacy, Alabama
2. Montee Ball, Wisconsin
3. Andre Ellington, Clemson
4. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
5. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Thoughts: Mayock is really relying on Montee Ball's performance at Wisconsin in keeping him at #2. Ball was slow at the Combine posting a 4.66 forty. I'm surprised that he has Bernard ranked 4th. I my eyes, Bernard is the second best back in the draft class. Lattimore continues to draw the eye of many 49er fans despite coming off a serious knee injury. ESPN's Chris Mortensen recently suggested Lattimore would not be ready to contribute in 2013. This could make him a prime candidate for the 49ers who have shown a willingness to "redshirt" draft picks.
1. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
2. Keenan Allen, Cal
3. Tavon Austin, West Virginia
4. Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
5. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Thoughts: Despite Austin's impressive performance and Allen's absence from the Combine, Mayock keeps Allen at #2. Both are legitimate options for the 49ers in the mid to late first round depending on the willingness to trade up. Austin could fit the ‘Swiss-army knife' type player the Niners may lose in Delanie Walker. Austin can line up in the slot, the backfield, and add several new wrinkles to the zone read.
1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
2. Zach Ertz, Stanford
3. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
4. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
5. Vance McDonald, Rice
Thoughts: The aforementioned Delanie Walker's uncertain status with the team in 2013 have most thinking tight end will be a position the 49ers look to fill in the draft. Eifert is widely considered the top tight end in the draft and he solidified that thought with a solid Combine. Ertz on the other hand seemed slow and lacking in explosiveness. The sleeper here, and one of my favorite prospects, is Rice's Vance McDonald. He has the hands and athleticism of a wide receiver in the body of tight end. He presents great value should he still be available in the third or fourth round.
1. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
2. Brian Schwenke, Cal
3. Barrett Jones, Alabama
4. Khaled Holmes, USC
5. Braxston Cave, Notre Dame
Thoughts: It's debatable whether or not the Niners think they have starting center Jonathan Goodwin's successor on the roster. 2012 rookies Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney can both play center although both are untested and rarely saw the field in 2013. Barrett Jones' stock has fallen over the course of the last few months but there's no doubting his experience and versatility. Would be great value in third and beyond. Holmes is an intriguing prospect. He missed the Combine and will perform for scouts at the USC pro day later this month.
I'm skipping the guard and tackle rankings as it's not a position of need and should any be drafted it'd likely be in the later rounds.
3-4 Defensive End
1. Star Lotulelei, Utah
2. Margus Hunt, SMU
3. Datone Jones, UCLA
4. Jesse Williams, Alabama
5. William Gholston, Michigan State
Thoughts: As a major position of need, there is certainly no short of talent in this draft class. Lotulelei has seen a recent fall in his stock due to a newly discovered heart issue. The nature of the issue is unknown but Lotulelei's camp is down playing its severity. Still, if teams shy away and he begins to fall, the risk may be worth the reward for the team that takes a chance on the former consensus top-5 pick.
Hunt is listed #2 and demonstrates Mayock's rankings are based on everyone's favorite "P" word this time of year...potential. Hunt has all the measurables and athleticism to spare. He's quickly become the draft darling of many 49ers fans. He's older than most prospects (he'll be a 25 year old rookie) and doesn't have nearly as much football experience as his peers. Still, he progressed significantly each year he's played.
I'd have to think that Niners fans would be happy to have either Datone Jones or Jesse Williams. Jones' stock is on the rise and it's widely thought he's become the apple of Seattle's eye. Williams is another fan favorite with tons of versatility as he can play anywhere along the defensive line AND has experience lining up in the offensive backfield in short yard situations.
Landing one of these prospects would make sense, however, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the Niners keep picks 31 and 34 and draft two. Oh imagine the elation.
1. Sharrif Floyd, Florida
2. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
3. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
4. Kawann Short, Purdue
5. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Thoughts: The 49ers phased out the nose tackle in 2013. It remains to be seen if that was the plan based on scheme or if they felt free agent Isaac Sopoaga was less effective. It's hard to get a read on the future plans at NT for the Niners.
I have Floyd as my #1 overall prospect in the draft. He's best suited for a 3-technique DT in a 4-3 where he can use his pass rusher skills to pressure the QB. I don't think he's in play for the 49ers even if they trade up. Richardson is one the Niners could have their eye on should he start to fall past pick ten. I'm not a huge fan of Williams. I question his desire but the talent is certainly there. Most 49er fans are hesitant to draft any defensive lineman from UNC after the Kentwan Balmer experiment failed miserably. Short is a high motor guy with a quickstep and ability to create havoc in the backfield. He's another 3-tech in my opinion. Hankins is a true nose tackle at 6-3 320lbs. He's a great run stuffer and likely to be within reach at the end of the first round.
3-4 Outside Linebacker
1. Dion Jordan, Oregon
2. Jamie Collins, Southern Miss
3. Barkevious Mingo, LSU
4. Michael Buchanan, Illinois
5. Corey Lemonier, Auburn
Thoughts: Mayock vaulted Collins up the list after an impressive Combine. A bump in rankings is justified, however, I think this is too much. Collins is no better than a 3 round pick on tape. Mingo is a conundrum. It's been reported scouts have grades on him ranging from top ten to second round. There's even more debate on what type of scheme he fits. Is he a 3-4 or 4-3 OLB? Is he a ‘contain' defensive end in a 4-3? There's no doubting the talent, it's finding the right spot, for Mingo that will dictate his success. Lemonier is an interesting prospect. He'd likely be a top 15 pick next year had he returned to Auburn for his senior season. He's a quick pass rusher that needs to improve technique. Presents great value in round two or three.
1. Dee Milliner, Alabama
2. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
3. Desmond Trufant, Washington
4. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut
5. B.W. Webb, William & Mary
Thoughts: I'm fairly certain Mayock fell hard for Wreh-Wilson and Webb at the Combine. Its understandable there would be a lot of movement at corner with an underwhelming Combine performance from Jordan Poyer and Johnathan Banks but I have a hard time justifying Wreh-Wilson and Webb rankings. What's even more puzzling is Mayock exclusion of Jamar Taylor who probably boosted his stock higher than anyone at the Combine.
Milliner, Rhodes, and Trufant are all likely to be gone by the time the 49ers are scheduled to pick. If there's thought of trading up and a team in the top five is willing to accept 31 and 34 as compensation, I would love to see a move made to grab Milliner.
Wreh-Wilson didn't really stand out in anyway at the Combine, posting just average numbers. I'm not sure what exactly Mayock saw in Wreh-Wilson to justify his ranking. Particularly over guys like Taylor and David Amerson. The same can be said for Webb. Although he did have a better Combine than Wreh-Wilson, it was hardly enough to warrant this ranking over the guys I've mentioned above.
1. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
2. Matt Elam, Florida
3. Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
4. Eric Reid, LSU
5. Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse
Thoughts: Finally, some sanity in the defensive backfield. While I don't agree with the order of these five, I do think they're probably the best five safeties in the draft. If the Niners stand pat at 31 I think there's a strong chance their first round selection is listed here.
Vaccaro is still the top prospect but the gap closed after both Elam and Reid had impressive Combines. If the goal is to replace Dashon Goldson, I think Elam is removed. He's more of a strong safety whereas guys like Vaccaro, Reid, and Cyprien are better in coverage. Cyprien was my selection in the latest Niners Nation mock draft despite missing the Combine with a hamstring strain. It'll be interesting to see if the opinion on Cyprien changes after his pro day later this month.
Final thoughts: Mayock has always thought outside of the box in his rankings. He understands that potential has to be taken into account even if it will draw criticism. Not every pick will be a safe pick and it's a team's ability to find pros between rounds three and six that can lead to a successful core group of players. The Niners have done well in exactly that the last few years, there's no reason to think this year will be any different.