WHY THE 49ERS SHOULD TRADE UP IN 2013 NFL DRAFT
By Seamus Smith
April 19th, 2013
With the start of the NFL draft just six days away, talks of potential trades are all abuzz. The San Francisco 49ers are in an enviable position of holding thirteen selections in this year’s annual party. Although, their roster is so stacked in talent there is not room enough to add all thirteen rookies.
Originally holding fifteen after compensatory picks were awarded, the Niners used one of their sixth-rounders to acquire WR Anquin Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens and basically one of their seventh-rounders to trade with Cleveland and land QB Colt McCoy.
So what do they do with the remaining draft choices? If history under GM Trent Baalke holds true, a few will be traded for higher-round selections in 2014. Around three or four of them I would wager. With the remaining ten picks the options are various.
After losing the Super Bowl, the Niners then lost some key components in free agency: FS Dashon Goldson (Buccaneers), TE Delanie Walker (Colts), and DTs Isaac Sopoaga (Eagles) and Ricky Jean Francois (Colts). With five selections in the first 93, San Francisco’s most obvious positional needs to upgrade are their secondary and their defensive front three.
It would be very tempting to package up some of those opening round selections to immediately address those needs. Such defenders as DT Star Loutelei (Utah), DT Sheldon Richardson (Missouri), and S Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) could all be penciled in as starters from day one.
But, there is a good reason the Niners should not move up for any of them. The strength of this draft is on the lines and in the secondary. If they can hold onto their 34th selection they can still land players like DE Margus Hunt (SMU) or FS Eric Reid (Florida) to fill the void. Additionally, SF didn’t spend wildly but picked up some key free agents who add flexibility. With some extra pounds, the former top ten pick of the Chiefs, DT Glenn Dorsey, could take over the nose tackle position. Former All-Pro CB Nnamdi Asomugha will likely play the slot, allowing corner Chris Culliver to move into Goldson’s vacated safety spot. Those moves would allow the Niners to add depth in the third round and after.
So if Baalke wants to use his firepower to make a splash, but not to trade up based on immediate needs, who is worth grabbing?
Wide receiver Tavon Austin out of West Virginia. That’s who.
With the rise of Colin Kaepernick behind center, Mark Roman’s offense can finally be opened up with the deep ball because of Kap’s canon arm and defenses need to play close to the line to stop any of his breakaway runs.
The problem is the 49ers don’t have a speedster who can burn the top off of a secondary. Starting receivers Michael Crabtree and Anquin Boldin both have great hands, fight for yards after the catch, and aren’t afraid to throw down blocks. But neither can post the blazing 4.34 second 40-yard dash that Austin did at the combine.
Besides the lack of speed among the current one and two, Randy Moss was let go, and both Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams were lost to knee injuries last season. Manningham is unlikely to be ready before this season, taking a pay cut to remain in SF. In addition, last year’s first round selection, A.J. Jenkins, hasn’t produced and can’t yet be counted on as the future of the receiving core.
Although only 5’8, Austin is tough and not afraid to play over the middle. He would be an immediate upgrade in the slot, allowing the two veterans much more single coverage to rack up first downs. Giving Kap his own potential Wes Welker in year two at the helm could make the 49ers offense as dominant as their defense is.
With elite athleticism, the WVU star is a match up nightmare and can score from anywhere on the field. His field vision and ability to play in space make him a threat as a receiver, halfback, and on special teams as kick/punt returner. Ted Ginn Jr. is gone and the other return specialists from last season (Williams & RB LaMichael James) haven’t proved to be elite at the task. Coach Harbaugh’s regime loves multi-positional players, and there is none more dangerous this year than Austin.
And finally, by shipping away a bundle of their draft picks to select Tavon Austin (at 11th overall in my projected California trade with the Chargers), they stick it to their division rivals. The NFC West arms race between San Francisco and Seattle continues, and Austin becomes the swiss-army knife counterbalance to new Seahawks acquisition, Percy Harvin. In addition, it is widely known the interest the Rams have in taking the former Mountaineer in the 16th slot. Jeff Fisher holds two first-rounders, and it’s very possible he too will try trading up to get this explosive playmaker.
So in other words, the NFC champions would kills many birds with one twenty slot shotgun blast up the draft board.
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