The San Francisco 49ers continue to send their front office executives and scouts to college Pro Days far and wide this month. General manager Trent Baalke continued his trek around the country, visiting Florida's Pro Day on Monday. There is no word if he is at Florida State's Tuesday Pro Day
There could be a host of reasons for Baalke to hit up the Florida Pro Day. The two most likely revolve around Florida's cornerbacks and defensive lineman Dominique Easley. The cornerbacks include Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins. The 49ers will be looking for some depth options, and all three are guys they could get after Day 1. The 49ers could decide to get aggressive and go after a Justin Gilbert or a Darqueze Dennard. They could also get aggressive at wide receiver. Or, they can let things come to them in what is a deep class of cornerbacks and wide receivers.
In the past we've discussed cornerback Aaron Colvin as a potential Baalke "red-shirt special". The Oklahoma product tore his ACL during Senior Week practices, and is likely to slip because of that. Florida also has such a player in defensive tackle Dominique Easley. The defensive lineman has suffered two ACL tears, his left in 2010, and his right in 2013. Nick Chiamardas discussed him in his Pro Day preview yesterday, stating that Easley came back from the left ACL tear to have two strong seasons in 2011 and 2012.
There is some chatter from at least one team about Easley being "distracted" and "immature". It is essential to note that anonymous quotes this time of year can serve a variety of purposes. It could be true, or it could a team looking to push him down a little and make it easier for their to grab that player. It's gotten kind of ridiculous in Easley's case. He was asked who he compares himself with, and he said he doesn't really watch football. He said he watches tape, but hasn't watched an NFL game from start to finish. He said instead he was more likely to flip over to cartoons. One article brought this up, but failed to mention that he also said he was a cartoonist as a kid, so this could simply be one of his side interests. People will look for things to bring up, and you can be certain you'll hear this from a "draft expert" leading up to the draft. I bring it up now so you're at least aware of the narrative that is in play.
All that being said, it seems like Easley brings serious talent to the table. Fittingly enough, this SI article mentioned 49ers defensive tackle Tank Carradine as someone looking at a similar issue. Easley has dealt with more ACL injuries, and his were apparently non-contact in nature. It's tough to tell where that has him sliding, but if he falls far enough, maybe the 49ers take a look at him.
The 49ers have 11 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft. They are likely to package some to move up or down and potentially add picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. Adding one or two potential medical red shirts can operate in a similar fashion to dealing for future picks. There is no guarantee the 49ers are going to continue pursuing this philosophy, but it is also possible they have found a bit of an inefficiency in the marketplace.
This phrase first came into the sports lexicon with Moneyball and the Oakland A's philosophy of finding undervalued players. The 49ers bring an analytical approach to their acquisitions. Paraag Marathe has talked about the analytical value that is developing on the medical side of things. The 49ers have to actually get return on guys like Marcus Lattimore and Tank Carradine for there to be value in selecting them in the draft. If the 49ers continue to take fliers on injured stars in May, we might have a better idea of the team's drafting philosophy.