The San Francisco 49ers improved to 4-8 on the season with their Week 13 win, and they now sit somewhere in the 7-10 range due to even strength of schedule with the Rams, Cowboys, and Lions. Plenty will change over the final four weeks, as the 49ers could very well end up with six or seven wins. Their final four games include two road games against the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions, and two home games against the Cincinnati Bengals and St. Louis Rams.
I think they end up winning this weekend against the Browns, which would improve them to 5-8, and likely drop them to the end of or out of the top ten. Before that potentially happens (barring a letdown performance), I thought we could take a look at a new three-round 2016 NFL mock draft from friend of the site, Matt Miller. It's a slide show, so I'll pull out links to the 49ers specific picks.
Round 1 - QB Jared Goff, Cal
Obviously this will pique the interest of a few 49ers fans. Colin Kaepernick appears destined for a new team in 2016, and while Blaine Gabbert has looked improved on his Jacksonville days, the significance of his ceiling remains in question. Add in the fact that he is only signed through 2016, and even if he continues to improve, he could end up elsewhere on a big free agent deal (bet most of us wouldn't have seen that coming!).
Given that Gabbert is playing fairly well, it is hard to tell exactly how likely it is the 49ers might invest a high pick in a quarterback. We don't know how Goff and Paxton Lynch will shake out next April, so it is also possible one or both slips if the 49ers are further down the draft board. It is too early to tell.
Matt had this to say about Goff:
Jared Goff currently sits atop my Big Board as the best player in this class. He's accurate, poised in the pocket, a three-year starter and has the arm to execute the middle-range and downfield throws to make an offense pop. He may not be Day 1-ready as a starter, but the 49ers can afford to let him sit for the beginning of 2016 if he does indeed need time to acclimate to the NFL.
For those wondering, here's how Matt's top ten looked:
1. Browns - QB Paxton Lynch
2. Titans - OT Laremy Tunsil
3. Chargers - OT Ronnie Stanley
4. Jaguars - DT Robet Nkemdiche
5. Ravens - CB Vernon Hargreaves III
6. Saints - LB Jaylon Smith
7. 49ers - QB Jared Goff
8. Cowboys - DE Joey Bosa
9. Lions - CB Jalen Ramsey
10. Rams - WR Laquon Treadwell
Round 2 - Edge rusher Vince Biegel, Wisconsin
The 49ers have a need in the pass rush. Aaron Lynch has emerged as a serious force, and the team invested in Eli Harold this past year. However, with Ahmad Brooks a potential cap cut, and Corey Lemonier settling in as a special teams and OLB rotational guy at best, the team could use more help there. Tank Carradine is transitioning into an edge rusher role, but it is a slow process for a guy who dropped 20 pounds in a month or so.
This kind of pick is one reason mock drafts are better suited for looking at positions rather than specific players. I don't believe Biegel has declared for the draft, so it is still possible he is not even available when late April arrives. Biegel had 7.5 sacks in 2014, and had eight sacks in this year's regular season.
Round 3 - TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
The 49ers need to figure out what's next at the tight end position. The team traded away Vernon Davis, and Garrett Celek is hitting free agency this offseason. Vance McDonald has shown some signs the last couple of weeks, but a concussion will be something to track as we head into Week 14. Blake Bell is getting a lot of opportunities, and the team will have Busta Anderson available after stashing him on injured reserve this season.
Howard is a guy who seems like he could be more of a workout warrior than productive tight end. He's 6'6, but only weighs 242 pounds (I'd expect more for that kind of frame). I've seen a couple reports (Al.com, Walter Football) suggesting he is a sloppy route-runner, and needs to improve on his blocking. His numbers are limited by what reports have viewed as under-utilization (30 receptions, 335 yards this year)