NFL mock drafts are slowly updating today, with SB Nation's latest mock draft leading the way. Matthew Fairburn put together this mock and has the 49ers selecting Southern Methodist defensive end Margus Hunt. Fairburn had previously been projecting Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien to the 49ers.
In describing the pick, Matt looked at the developmental nature of drafting Hunt:
Coming off a Super Bowl appearance and loaded with more than a dozen draft picks, the 49ers have a chance to masterfully work the draft and set their franchise up for years. They can do that by taking a high-upside player like Hunt and hope he pays off. If he does, they could have a very good end for years to come.
If you're wondering just how raw Hunt is, we can look back to his media session at the NFL Combine. Hunt told the media he actually learned the game of football from Madden. Hunt came from Estonia to run track at SMU, but the sport was dropped shortly after his arrival. He turned to football in 2009 and slowly learned the game. When he first tried out for the team, he apparently went home over Christmas and bought Madden to learn the ins and outs of football.
With an expected 15 picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, the 49ers are in a position to consider a variety of strategies. Given some of the potential free agency implications and additional long-term concerns, there are a wide variety of player "types" they could consider. If Dashon Goldson walks, odds are high they look for a safety fairly early. If Delanie Walker walks, tight end becomes a significant need, pending other options in free agency. If Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois both walk, nose tackle becomes a sizable need.
After that, the team is looking at positional depth and long-term options. I don't think drafting Hunt would be quite like the A.J. Jenkins pick in terms of usage, but it would still be a likely "project" pick that could take some time to fully realize the returns. He's working with a great group including defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, and all-world defensive end Justin Smith. However, even as a backup rotational guy with Demarcus Dobbs, Hunt would likely spend a lot of his first year learning.
It's something to keep in mind as the 49ers fill out their 2013 NFL Draft class. Patience will likely need to be a virtue for a lot of these picks. The 49ers might be looking at another draft that is hard to assess after only one year.