The San Francisco 49ers head into free agency with the potential of losing their starting strong safety and one of their starting cornerbacks. Donte Whitner and Tarell Brown are both free agents, and with the expanded salary cap, there could be some big bucks to be had on the open market.
If Whitner departs, the 49ers will most likely have to find their starting strong safety in the 2014 NFL Draft. There are some safety options in free agency, and Craig Dahl and C.J. Spillman would also compete for the role, but the long-term option is likely to be found in the NFL Draft. And thankfully, Mocking the Draft seems to recognize that in their latest 2014 NFL mock draft.
Dan Kadar and Matthew Fairburn split up the picks, with Matthew covering the odd picks, and Dan covering the even picks. Their first three rounds project the 49ers to grab safety Jimmie Ward, cornerback Marcus Roberson, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, cornerback Aaron Colvin and center Marcus Martin. While I am not entirely sold on Colvin with such a high pick, I think with the way this mock plays out, I could live with it.
Here is the way it breaks down, along with Dan and Matt's commentary:
30. San Francisco 49ers - Jimmie Ward, Safety, Northern Illinois
The 49ers didn't use the franchise tag on Donte Whitner, and if he's not brought back safety is a big need. While Ward isn't a big hitter, he's arguably the draft's best coverage safety and is able to play receivers in man situations. His versatility will be a big asset in the NFL.
56. San Francisco 49ers - Marcus Roberson, Cornerback, Florida
Whether it's simply depth or to start, the 49ers should look to add at least one cornerback in the draft this year. Roberson has the type of skill set that would allow him to step into the starting lineup straight away.
61. San Francisco 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo, Quarterback, Eastern Illinois
Jim Harbaugh was recently spotted working closely with Jimmy Garoppolo at the quarterback's pro day. The 49ers have begun contract negotiations with Colin Kaepernick, but it wouldn't hurt to add some insurance to the roster, especially with so many picks in this draft.
77. San Francisco 49ers - Aaron Colvin, Cornerback, Oklahoma
With more draft picks than available roster spots, the 49ers could be a team that takes a shot on Aaron Colvin, despite his torn ACL. He could be placed on the injured reserve and not take up a roster spot and would also address a need once he's healthy.
94. San Francisco 49ers - Marcus Martin, Center, Southern California
Martin is capable of playing either center or guard, making him at the worst a nice depth piece. Many consider him the top center prospect in the draft.
How do you view this run of picks? If the 49ers really like Colvin's upside coming off the ACL tear, I could see them using a third round pick on him. Of course, depending on who they like in the first round, I could very well see the 49ers using one of the thirds to move up in the first. Trades are always the hardest thing to consider with mocks because they can be so unpredictable. When you don't know how the specific team's draft board looks, you're left to a certain measure of guessing. But it creates for good discussion.