First, an advance advisory for Modesto Matt: This one is only a Reader's-Digest-length "novel" ... sorry to disappoint!
Let's start with a little analysis ... comparing the characteristics of the 2013 draft class on the "supply side" and the Niners' plethora of draft choices on the "demand side."
- Unlike most recent drafts, this draft class doesn't have 10-20 really outstanding prospects and then a drop off of talent levels within the first round ... most first-round prospects this year are reasonably close in talent level. Since the Niners essentially have two late-first-round picks, they have the ammunition to move up substantially to get a top guy ... BUT none of those guys is really substantially better than a lot of prospects who will be available in the second and third rounds. The implication: Trading up within the first round is extremely expensive if you're trying to jump more than a couple of spots ... that is, it takes a huge amount of draft capital to jump up say 10-15 spots; you may get your guy, but in doing so you lose a lot of capital otherwise available to exploit the talent-rich second and third rounds. Thus, unless that first-round target prospect has significant added value above those available in rounds two and three, a big jump up just doesn't make sense. And that simply is not the case with this draft, so a big jump up is highly unlikely in my opinion.
- Since this draft class is deeper than most, we should expect that it will produce more very good NFL players, either starters or significant contributors, than other recent drafts. If a team has multiple needs (as the Niners do) this class characteristic would argue that that team should accumulate as many picks as possible in the upper middle rounds of the draft. Unfortunately for the Niners, after their two "first-round" picks they don't have another pick until the end of the second ...meaning that they will lose access to most of the strong second-round group of prospects. Since they have so many later-round picks, there is the possibility of trading up within the second round by using multiple later-round picks. This could be a good use for some of those later picks, but unfortunately it just won't get us enough round two/three picks.
- The bottom line, then, is that the Niners are going to have to "rearrange" their selection of available picks to take better advantage of the unique characteristics of this draft class. I think that most of us, and most certainly Trent Baalke, recognize these facts. Thus, it is impossible to try to project a decent and realistic mock draft for the Niners this year without also projecting a few trades. I intend to do exactly that.
With that as a preamble, let's begin a walk through this year's draft process:
1. As I've explained above, I don't believe that it makes sense to chase prospects like Richardson or Austin, because you would need to move to a spot at least in the mid-teens to do so, and that much of a jump within the first round is just too costly unless you believe that that one guy will make "all the difference." In my opinion, none of these particular guys warrants that kind of a move ... they simply are not that much better than prospects that will be available in the second round. Some aren't even the best prospect at their position.
2. Many of you may think me crazy, but there are only two prospects in this draft that I would be willing to take at Pick #31 or would be willing to trade up a few spots to get ... DE Datone Jones (UCLA) and S Jonathan Cyprien (Florida International). So, if I can get Jones or Cyprian at between Picks 26 and 31, I do it. Otherwise, anyone else that we take there IMO is a reach or diminishes the value of the pick ... that is, we can get better value by trading the pick down. Whoa! But what about Vaccaro or Hunt or whoever? I tend to value the grading opinions of all the scouts (representing all clubs) at the Combine pretty highly ... they evaluate and grade draft prospects for a living. So what do they think about the safety prospects? Cyprien = 90.6; Vaccaro = 87.7; Reid = 82.5. Thus, I select Cyprien wherever I can get him, and I do not trade up to get Vaccaro just because the talking heads like him. Hunt? OK, so you want a project defensive end ... we can get one with more potential (but less experience) who is 5 years younger in the seventh round! And, while he's developing we can get yet another DE with Aldon-like upside as a pass-rusher. So, for me, it's Jones or Cyprien or trade down.
3. In order to do a mock draft we obviously need a prospect ranking board. I want to be a good guy here and support Poldarn's great work in putting together the Consensus Top-300 Big Board for our group; so, I'm going to use his "average ranking" number for each prospect to do my mock. I'd be remiss here if I didn't say that this decision gives me some heartburn because some of the six sites that Poldarn draws from have some really screwy rankings (e.g., National Football Post has QB Ryan Nassib as the #1 prospect in the entire draft, Mocking The Draft has S J.D. Swearinger ranked #26 and Marcus Lattimore at #58, and Draft Insider has S Cyprien ranked #72); nonetheless, I will use Poldarn's average rankings. As it turns out, except for the top 40 prospects the averaging effect buffers out most of the screwy rankings ... for example, the "average" puts DL Jesse Williams at #31 when in fact I don't think that he'll go until the mid- to late-thirties; this will cause me to trade Pick #34 rather than #31 which isn't a big deal but it causes me to lose a 2014 Buffalo draft pick in the trade. Enough! Let's get on with it!
4. DE Datone Jones will not fall to #31 (or close to it) and we can get S Jon Cyprien later ... so I'm trading Pick #34 down. Who is a logical trade partner? The Buffalo Bills. Why? For several reasons: They only have six picks in this draft, one already used at #8. Although they have just signed Kevin Kolb to a two-year deal, he is clearly just a transitional guy, not a franchise QB. They would love to get their QBOTF in this draft. If Gino Smith fell to Pick #8, the Bills jump on him. Unfortunately for the Bills, Gino won't drop out of the top five. Thus, they will be faced with trying to get their QBOTF in the second round; but, then, so will several other teams and the Bills don't have another pick until #41 ... the best remaining QB prospects will be gone by then. Thus, the Bills will be motivated to move up from #41 to #34. Accordingly, we make the following trade:
San Francisco trades Pick #34 (560) to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for (a) Pick #41 (490) plus (b) Pick #105 (84).
Note: The numbers in parentheses are the trade values for a particular pick, taken from the traditional trade value chart ... few teams have yet adopted the use of Kevin Meers' (Harvard) modified trade value table, so I'm sticking with the traditional for now.
5. Next, to get another targeted prospect in the second round we will need to move up from Pick #61. Who is a logical trade partner? The Chicago Bears. Why? While the Bears have a number of needs, they only have five picks in the entire draft, one already used at #20. To get what we want and provide Chicago with more picks, we make the following trade:
San Francisco trades Pick #61 (292) plus Pick #128 (44) plus Pick #175 (21) plus Pick #180 (19) to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Pick #50 (400).
With those two trades accomplished, here is my revised mock draft, projections of the Final-53 and Developmental Squad rosters, PUP list, and identification of expected cuts at the end of Training Camp:
REVISED MOCK DRAFT
"Grade" = scout's consensus grade for the prospect at the 2013 NFL Combine.
"Grade" Scale: 96-100 = Future Hall-of-Famer (Top Pick); 85-95 = Immediate Starter (Round 1); 70-84 = Eventual Starter (Rounds 2-3); 50-69 = Draftable Prospect (Rounds 4-7); 20-49 = Free Agent.
"Rank" = "Average Rank" ... computed from a prospect's ranking by 6 separate sites ... from Poldarn's Consensus Top-300 Big Board v. 2.0.
Original Pick ......................................... Pick 31 ....... Based upon availability:
...............................................................Alternative #1: OLB TANK CARRADINE
Florida State 6'4" 276 4.75 est. speed Rank #30 (Risk 4) Grade 85.4
.............................................................. Alternative #2: DL JESSE WILLIAMS
Alabama 6'4" 323 4.94 speed Rank #31 (Risk 1) Grade 85.5
From Kansas City (Alex Smith) / Traded to Buffalo (Trade #1) ..... Pick 34
From Buffalo (Trade #1) ...................... Pick 41 ....... FS JONATHAN CYPRIEN
Florida International 6'0" 217 4.64 speed Rank #43 (Risk 5) Grade 90.6
From Chicago (Trade #2) .................... Pick 50 ....... Based upon availability:
...............................................................Alternative #1: CB JONATHAN BANKS
Mississippi State 6'2" 185 4.58 speed Rank #46 (Risk 0) Grade 84.4
.............................................................. Alternative #2: CB DAVID AMERSON
North Carolina State 6'1" 205 4.44 speed Rank #67 (Risk 8) Grade 74.4
Traded to Chicago (Trade #2) ............ Pick 61
From Carolina (2012) ....................... Pick 74 ........ TE TRAVIS KELCE
Cincinnati 6'5" 255 4.64 speed Rank #105 (Risk 7) Grade 80.0 (Note: Original Rank #82)
Original Pick ..................................... Pick 93 ........ NCB/PR TYRANN MATHIEU
Louisiana State 5'9" 186 4.46 speed Rank #121 (Risk 14) Grade 73.0
From Buffalo (Trade #1) ................... Pick 105 ...... RB MARCUS LATTIMORE
South Carolina 5'11" 221 4.62 speed Rank #106 (Risk 23) Grade 74.9
Traded to Chicago (Trade #2) ............ Pick 128
Compensation Pick .......................... Pick 131 ....... DE JOE KRUGER
Utah 6'6" 269 4.83 speed Rank #119 (Risk 0) Grade 73.0
From Indianapolis (2012) ................. Pick 157 ....... SS J. J. WILCOX
Georgia Southern 6'0" 213 4.51 speed Rank #164 (Risk 0) Grade 77.0
Traded to Cleveland (McCoy) ............. Pick 164
From Cleveland (McCoy) / Traded to Chicago (Trade #2) ..... Pick 173
Traded to Chicago (Trade #2) ............. Pick 180
Traded to Baltimore (Boldin) ............... Pick 199
From Cincinnati (Taylor Mays) ........ Pick 227 ....... OT LUKE MARQUARDT
Azusa Pacific 6'9" 315 5.34 speed Rank #230 (Risk 1) Grade 68.1
Compensation Pick .......................... Pick 246 ....... DE LAWRENCE OKOYE
Great Britian Olympic Team 6'6" 304 4.78 speed --- Tomsula's #1 project!! Lesson #1: "This is a football ........"
Compensation Pick .......................... Pick 252 ....... WR BRANDON KAUFMAN
Eastern Washington 6'5" 216 4.55 speed Rank #265 (Risk 0) Grade 68.0
So, given those projected draft additions, the trades, free agent additions and deletions, and so forth, what might my projected Final-53 Roster, PUP List, and Developmental Squad look like? Try these:
PROJECTED FINAL-53 ROSTER (Projected Starters in Bold and Draftees in italics)
OFFENSE (24) --
Quarterbacks (3): Kaepernick, Tolzien, McCoy
Running Backs (4): Gore, Hunter, James, Dixon (excludes Lattimore on PUP List)
Fullback (1): Miller
Wide Receivers (6): Crabtree, Bolden, K. Williams, Jenkins, Lockette, Kaufman (excludes Manningham on PUP List)
Tight Ends (3): V. Davis, Kelce, Celek
Offensive Line (7): Staley, Iupati, Goodwin, Boone, A. Davis, Looney, Kilgore
DEFENSE (26) --
Defensive Tackles (2-3): Dorsey, I. Williams (J. Williams)
Defense Ends (4): J. Smith, McDonald, Dobbs, Kruger
Inside Linebackers (4): Willis, Bowman, Wilhoite, Skuta
Outside Linebackers (4-5): A. Smith, Brooks, Haralson, C. Johnson OR Fleming, (T. Carradine)
Safeties (5): Whitner, Cyprien, Dahl, Stillman, Wilcox
Cornerbacks (6): Culliver, 2 of Asomugha / Brown / Rogers , Cox, Mathieu, Banks OR Amerson
SPECIAL TEAMS (3) --
Kicker (1): Dawson
Punter / Holder (1): Lee
Long Snapper (1): Jennings
COMPOSITION OF PROJECTED FINAL-53
Returning from 2012 .......... 37 .......... 70%
DS Promotion ..................... 1 ............. 2% ...... Lockette
Trades / Free Agents .......... 7 ...... ..... 13% ..... McCoy, Bolden, Dorsey, Skuta, Dahl, Asomugha, Dawson
Draftees .............................. 8 ....... .... 15% ..... T. Carradine OR J. Williiams, Cyprien, Banks OR Amerson, Kelce, Mathieu, Kruger, Wilcox, Kaufman
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PARTICIPATE LIST (2): Lattimore, Manningham
DEVELOPMENTAL SQUAD (8): RB Hampton, OT Wiggins, OT Marquardt, OG Netter, DE Okoye, OLB Fleming OR C. Johnson, S Robinson, S Thomas
GONE FROM THE SUPER BOWL ROSTER --
Traded: QB Smith
Signed Elsewhere: FS Goldson, DT Jean-Francois, NT Sopoaga, TE Walker
Not Re-Signed: K Akers, OG L. Davis, WR/R Ginn, ILB Gooden, ILB Grant, OLB Haggans, WR Moss
Projected Cuts: CB Brock, DT Divens, WR Hall, WR Hastings, LB Hoffman-Ellis, DT Jerod-Eddy, S McBath, WR Moore, OG Tribue, DE Tukuafu
Projected Possible Trade: CB Brown
Projected Possible Cut: CB Rogers OR CB Asomugha
WHAT? Trade Brown or cut Rogers? Are you crazy? WTF? Let me explain:
The world of professional football is all about transitions. Those teams that manage transitions well seem to thrive on change and experience continuing success. Those teams that don't effectively manage transitions seem to be struggling constantly. As for the Forty Niners, 2011 was the year of an entirely new coaching regime and the transition to a real system of offense from whatever it was that we called Jimmy Raye's approach. Then, 2012 was the year of transitioning from Rachal/Snyder to Alex Boone, starting Aldon full time to replace the injured Haralson, and replacing Alex Smith with Colin Kapernick. The focus of 2013 will be the replacement of starters who left the team in free agency or otherwise ... Goldson, Sopoaga, Jean-Francois, Walker, Moss and Ginn.
Looking ahead, 2014 will be a year of substantial turnover of the starters in the defensive backfield ... Whitner and Rogers will most probably be gone, and Nnamdi may not be far behind them, depending upon how well he plays this year. They will be replaced by Culliver and the 2013 or 2014 DB draftees. The point here is that it could be disastrous to try to make that transition from veterans to three rookie DB starters all at once ... that transition needs to be phased and managed well. And, we need to draft these DBs this year so that they get some experience before becoming starters. Thus, in 2013, I see Culliver starting at LCB, Asomugha or Brown starting at RCB, Rogers or Mathieu at nickelback, and Whitner and Cyprien as starting safeties ... unless the Niners sign Charles Woodson (and I still think that there's a good possibility that they will) to start at free safety and mentor Cyprien through the transition. The obvious unknowns here are (a) how fast will Mathieu develop and be able to replace Rogers at nickelback, and (b) who will win the battle to start at RCB ... Brown or Asomugha. Answers to those two questions will come at the end of Training Camp.
If Mathieu were to develop quickly during Training Camp, maybe we start him at nickelback and release Rogers this year, rather than next year. Or, if Asomugha beats out Brown for the starting RCB job, it would come down to keeping Brown or Cox. Obviously Brown would not be happy about being demoted to a backup role and Cox is still on the rise in terms of improving his play. Further, of the two, Brown has trade value whereas Cox does not. Therefore, at the end of Training Camp, I think that one of two things happens: (a) release Rogers or Asomugha, or (b) trade Brown ... for that treasured commodity, an infamous 2014 draft pick.
Ultimately, Wilcox replaces Whitner in 2014, Banks/Amerson replaces Asomugha (or Brown) when he's ready, and Lattimore replaces Gore when Frank is ready to hang them up.
Well, now that I have demonstrated my insanity, why don't you guys start firing your guns at this diatribe?