The case for the 49ers drafting Dustin Hopkins (or another kicker) early

Streeter Lecka

I make the case for spending as high as a third-round pick on Dustin Hopkins, to immediately fix the San Francisco 49ers' woes at the kicker position.

The San Francisco are so well-equipped for this draft that I'm pretty much hoping they find a way to creatively trade away some of those picks. This is a team that fell just short of winning the Super Bowl in 2012-13 ... they're not going to be able to find a spot on the roster for every player they draft this season.

I doubt there's a spot on the roster for half of them, even. The team does have more needs than many thinkl, with depth needed at several key spots, but smart money is on the 49ers effectively filling these needs prior to next season. Trent Baalke has never delivered anything less.

One thing I'm hoping the 49ers do is draft Dustin Hopkins, the top kicker in this draft. As 49ers fans, we've been pretty well-off in regards to kickers over the years, and going from Joe Nedney to David Akers was nice. Akers had possibly the best season of his career in 2011, but had a terrible 2012.

And I do mean terrible. He was just ... horrible this past season. We had zero confidence in his ability from 30 yards out, let alone 50. Most importantly: he cost the 49ers games. They lost football games because of Akers.

So the 49ers are probably going to release him, but that leaves a big hole at the kicker position. I was wondering what you all think would be the earliest round you'd be willing to draft someone like Hopkins. Obviously we're not looking at the first round here, but I really feel like it should be pretty darn early.

Like the third round. I'd be totally OK with that. Here's some reasons why.

It Fills a Need

Obviously, taking a kicker fills a big need. The top kicker last year, Blair Walsh, made 35 field goals in the regular season. That comes out to 105 points. When people doubt the value of the kicker, I think all they need to do is look at that stat. The fact that a kicker can account for 105 points or more over the course of a season means that yes, this is a big need for the 49ers because they don't have anyone at the position.

49ers Have Two Third-Round Picks Plus Like a Thousand More

Due to a trade with the Carolina Panthers, the 49ers have two third-round picks this year. On top of that, they have their first-round pick, their second-round pick, and the second pick in the second round, from the Kansas City Chiefs. San Francisco will have three opportunities to draft based on BPA or need prior to their second pick in the third round.

Guaranteed Starter on a Crowded Roster

The 49ers don't have all these random spots open on the roster. They will not add 15 rookies this year despite their draft picks. The best thing you can hope for in any round of the draft is hope you get a player who can contribute, even in the first round of the draft. Counting special teams and nickel corners on that, there's what, 27 or so starting spots? Is a third-round pick honestly NOT worth guaranteeing one of 27 starters, and one who has the potential to earn more than 100 points for the 49ers next year?

Akers Was Really, Really Awful

Did you guys know that David Akers was tied for No. 8 among kickers in regards to points scored this season? That's super neat, but entirely not representative of just how bad he was last season. The three kickers he was tied with in points made 93.5 percent (Phil Dawson), 82.9 percent (Stephen Gostkowski) and 93.5 percent (Dan Bailey) of their field goal attempts. Akers made 69.0 percent of his.

Arbitrary "Too Early" Statements are Idiotic Anyway

Ya'll know the 49ers don't draft like that, don't you? The 49ers know when they have a guy they want to go after, and since we all know the Seattle Seahawks love to copy them, you need only to look at their recent drafts to know that they're jumping on the same bandwagon. There's some strong arguments for the "best player available" line of drafting, but I firmly believe that's only the case for the top half of the first round, unless someone really, really good falls. Aldon Smith was taken "too early," and so was injury-prone Frank Gore.

Move on from the silly stigma that says a kicker should only be drafted in rounds six and seven and embrace the fact that the 49ers desperately need a new kicker and it sure would be nice to grab one of the top college guys.

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