Building the 2018 Final-53 ............................... 2018 Mock Draft (Part 5 of 6)

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Overview of the entire article ...

Step 1. Decisions on Our Free Agents

Step 2. Veteran Additions ... IR Returns and Free Agent Additions (Published 1/24/18)

Step 3. Prospective Player Trades (Published 1/26/18)

Step 4. Resulting Draft Needs and Alternative Draft Strategies (Published (1/28/18)

Step 5. 2018 Mock Draft

Step 6. Bringing It All Together ... Final Cuts / Resulting Final-53 / Proposed Practice Squad


Today's Episode: Step 5. 2018 Mock Draft

In the previous episode I developed a "net needs list" for use in the forthcoming draft after giving effect to the return of players from IR and the acquisition of free agents before the draft. That list suggested that the needs to be satisfied via the draft were:

On offense --

  • A starting OG
  • Another RB (to replace the assumed-departed Carlos Hyde)
  • A future #1 WR
  • A developmental OT (swing tackle for now, replacement for Staley later)

On defense --

  • A future Edge-Rusher (rotational player now, replacing a starting free agent later)
  • A developmental CB (backup for now, replacing a starting free agent later)
  • A backup ILB (if superior prospect to Coyle)

Opportunity picks as BPA --

  • A backup C (if a superior prospect to Magnuson)
  • A backup Sam and/or Will LB
  • A backup FS (if a superior prospect to McCoil)
  • A developmental QB (if a superior prospect to Beathard or Mullen)
Then, I tried to forecast which of the top draft prospects were likely to be available to the Niners at Pick #9/10 and opined that, in my judgment, none of those prospects were good fits ... either because they didn't fit the team's schemes very well (OG Nelson, CB Ward, OT Brown, OG Hernandez) or they played positions that weren't a primary (i.e., priority) need (RB Barkley, WR Ridley or Sutton, CB Jackson, LBs Roquan Smith, Evans, or Edmunds, S James, or obviously any of the remaining QBs) and thus didn't represent good value at the 9th/10th pick in the draft for the Niners.

I sense a riot forthcoming, so let's deal with the issue now. "Draft the best God damn prospect available, regardless of the position he plays." IF you're a team like Indianapolis, the Jets, Tampa Bay, etc., I absolutely agree with that strategy ... you can't fix them all, so just fix some, regardless of what positions they are. However, whether you choose to believe it of not, that is NOT where the Niners are NOW ... a year ago they were, but not now. The 74% turnover of the roster from one year ago, plus the acquisition of Garoppolo and the proposed free agent additions, has changed that.

My belief is that if you don't have much, then getting anything will help ... draft the BPA and move on. However, as a team improves, as the Niners have, it becomes much more about focusing upon specific weaknesses and trying to fix those specific positions for an extended period. That is where the Niners are at this point IMO. Thus, I believe that the appropriate draft strategy now is to try to fix specific positional weaknesses and, accordingly, select prospects that will address the biggest needs. You can agree or not, but that is the way that I see it in this situation.

THAT presents a problem for the Niners ... because, as I suggested above, there aren't any obvious good-fits and/or good-value projected prospects available when they are scheduled to select. How do you fix that? Improve the value proposition by trading down (or up, as appropriate) ... identify good-fit prospects and where they should be selected and try to trade down (or up) to approximately that position ... hedging toward too-early than too-late.

What I want in the first round of the upcoming draft is two things ... the best possible prospect for the last piece for our nearly-outstanding DL (a dominate Edge-Rusher) and the best zone-run-scheme OG in the draft. Is that asking too much? I hope not because that is what I want to try to do ... and, although we'd have to be lucky, I think that it's possible to get that done. My target prospects are E Marcus Davenport (Texas - San Antonio) and OG/C Billy Price (Ohio State), the best zone-scheme OG in the draft. Thus, my mock draft presented below is structured around that goal.
(Each of the proposed trades, including corresponding trade values, is included at the bottom of the mock draft table. Then, below that I've added comments about particular trades and selections.)

Source Of Pick


(Notes at Bottom)

& Pick

S e l e c t I o n


# 1/9

Traded to Buffalo -- Trade C

Trade D -- Baltimore


E Marcus Davenport (UTSA) 6'7" / 255# / 4.75 speed / Senior

Trade C -- Buffalo


Traded to Baltimore -- Trade D

(If Davenport is not available at #16, I do not make the trade and

use Pick #21 on E Sam Hubbatd (Ohio State) 6'5" / 265# / 4.76 speed)

Trade C -- Buffalo

# 1/22

OG Billy Price (Ohio State) 6'4" / 312# / 5.34 speed / Senior

2017 New Orleans

# 2/59

CB Quenton Meeks (Stanford) 6'1" / 204# / 4.65 speed / Junior

Trade B -- Tampa Bay

# 3/69

OT Jamarco Jones (Ohio State) 6'5" / 310# / 5.27 speed / Senior

2017 Chicago

# 3/70

Traded to Baltimore -- Trade D

(See notes below for alternative use of this pick)


# 3/74

Traded to Buffalo -- Trade C

Trade E -- Atlanta

# 3/90

WR Jaleel Scott (New Mexico St) 6'6" / 215# / 4.57 speed / RS Senior

Trade A -- Washington

# 4/109

Traded to Atlanta -- Trade E

2017 Pittsburgh

# 4/124

RB Justin Jackson (Northwestern) 5'11" / 195# / 4.55 speed / Senior

2017 NYJets

# 5/134

Traded to Atlanta -- Trade E


# 6/170

Traded to Atlanta -- Trade E

Trade D -- Baltimore


ILB Nick DeLuca (No Dakota St) 6'3" / 243# / 4.82 speed / Senior


# 7/201

BPA -- possibly QB Kyle Lauletta (Richmond) 6'3" / 217# / Senior

2017 Kansas City

# 7/218


Pre-Draft Trades

A. Trade S Jimmie Ward to Washington in exchange for 2018 Pick #4/109 (76)

B. Trade DL Arik Armstead to Tampa Bay in exchange for 2018 Pick #3/69 (245)

Alternatively, If Tampa Bay isn't interested in trading for Armstead, offer Buffalo

the opportunity to acquire Armstead in Trade C below rather than Pick #3/74 (220)

During-Draft Trades

C. Trade Pick #1/9 (1350) + Pick #3/74 (220) to Buffalo in exchange for Pick #1/21 (800) + Pick #1/22 (780) ...

1,570 value to Buffalo, 1,580 value to Niners

Alternatively, give Buffalo the option to acquire DL Arik Armstead in the trade

rather than Pick #3/74 (220)

D. Conditional on E Marcus Davenport being available at Pick #16:

Trade Pick #1/21 (800) + Pick #3/70 (240) to Baltimore for Pick #1/16 (1000) + Pick #5/145 (33)

1040 value to Baltimore, 1033 value to Niners

E. Trade Pick #4/109 (76) + Pick #5/134 (39) + Pick #6/170 (23) to Atlanta in exchange for Pick #3/90 (140)

138 value to Atlanta, 140 value to Niners

A Few Comments on the Trades and My Mock Draft Selections

1. Trading Down from Pick #9/10 to Picks #21 & #22

Why might Buffalo want to make this trade? They have made it clear that QB Tyrod Taylor is not "the guy" and neither are the other two QBs on their roster. They could trade for Alex Smith or sign a free agent, but that would only be a temporary solution ... they still need a QBOTF. Will they get a better opportunity than now to do that anytime in the near future? (They have more draft capital this year than at any other recent time and likely the future.) While they have more early-round draft capital than any team other than Cleveland (TWO first-rounders AND TWO second-rounders), their earliest first-round pick isn't high enough to give them access to a remaining premier QB prospect. They could try to trade up to even earlier than Pick #9/10, but the other QB-needy teams would not likely be willing to trade their pick and trading with a higher "non-QB-team" would simply cost more draft capital to get the same likely result. Thus, the name of the game is to get to the lowest pick possible (to minimize the trade cost) after the Jets select but before the next QB might be selected ... possibly Miami (#11) or Cincinnati (#12), but definitely Washington (#13). Thus, Pick #9/10 is that sweet spot. In essence what they are doing is trading two late-first-round picks for a top-10 plus a high third-round pick ... allowing themselves to get their QB while still retaining the same number of picks in the draft.

Originally, my target first-round draft prospects were E Clelin Ferrell (Clemson) and OG Billy Price (Ohio State). Alas, as an underclassman, Ferrell decided to return to school for another year and is thus not in this draft class. My replacement target is E Marcus Davenport (Texas - San Antonio). Davenport hasn't played against the same level of competition as Ferrell but may have even greater upside potential ... he's big, fast, loves football, and is a high-character guy ... right down Lynch's alley.

2. Trading Up from #21 to #16

Why make this trade? Davenport's first opportunity to show his wares nationally will be in the Senior Bowl. I expect him to play well and for his placement in the draft rankings to increase substantially ... possibly into the top-15 in the entire draft if he excels at the Combine next month. Davenport could even go to Green Bay at #14 if they don't select Arden Key or Harold Landry. Both Seattle (#18) and Detroit (#20) will be seeking an edge-rusher. Hence, trading up to #16, if Baltimore agreed to drop five spots, is the prudent move to get Davenport. (Washington, Green Bay and Arizona would not make that trade and it would be more costly for us if they did.)

3. Edge Marcus Davenport

"Marcus Davenport has a combination of tools and an athletic background that screams elite upside. While the risk may be huge, Davenport offers a level of potential that very few in the entire class present. Right now Davenport is projected as a late-first or early-second round pick. After the Senior Bowl and Combine he will move well up the board" ... but hopefully not higher than where I project selecting him, although that could happen.

"But if we signed Ziggy Ansah as a free agent, why use our first pick on an edge-rusher?" This draft class is very deep with Edge prospects ... but the talent level drops off quickly. This pick is NOT about NOW ... it's about the future. Ansah would be an answer for two years at the most, and Dumervil probably less than that. Those two would be great mentors for Davenport ... but if you don't get him very early, you don't get him at all. Having a "complete" young front four would be a HUGE asset for an extended period ... we must take the chance IMO.

4. OG Billy Price Versus OG Quenton Nelson

There's no question, Nelson is an outstanding football player ... he is a huge mauler ... great in a power-run scheme like Notre Dame ran and like many NFL teams run; but, he "isn't a great athlete in space" and "whiffs badly sometimes when pulling on the edge." Garnett, another huge mauler who was inherited by Lynch/Shanahan, has had to rebuild his body to try to fit into Kyle's zone-run scheme ... we'll see how his body makeover works out. Why would we opt to do that again, and perhaps lose a year as with Garnett, if we don't have to?

Conversely, Price is lighter and more athletic, an outstanding zone blocker from either the OG or C position and is simply the best zone-run OG prospect in this entire draft. He's simply a better fit in Shanahan's scheme and being able to get him after a trade-down enables us to also select an outstanding prospect at our biggest defensive position of need (since CB was presumed resolved via free agency).

A final thought on Price: he is also an outstanding zone-scheme center. Shanahan places high value on the center position in his offensive scheme. An added benefit of selecting Price is that he could eventually be moved to the center position (if they chose not to extend Richburg or other free agent later on), allowing the drafting of another outstanding zone-scheme OG in a future draft.

5. Pick #2/59 (from New Orleans)

If this pick had been higher in the round I probably would have opted for an offensive tackle here ... Chukwuma Okorofor (Western Michigan), Martinas Rankin (Mississippi State), or Brian O'Neill (Pittsburgh). But they will likely be gone by this pick. Thus, I opted for the highest-ranked, good-fit at a need position ... CB Quenton Meeks (Stanford). My four highest-ranked choices for a good-fit developmental CB not a first-rounder in this draft were Isaiah Oliver (Colorado), Quenton Meeks (Stanford), Kameron Kelly (San Diego State) and Holton Hill (Texas). I think that Oliver will probably be gone by this pick and I like Meeks' pedigree and upside potential best of the remaining three ... so Meeks it is.

6. Pick #3/69 (presumed acquired from Tampa Bay in exchange for Arik Armstead)

Having gotten the developmental CB in the late second round, I opt for the developmental OT Jamarco Jones (Ohio State). Jones is the exact same size as Joe Staley, is athletic, and a good fit for a zone-run scheme. If he develops appropriately I would see him inheriting Joe's job when he retires; meanwhile, Jones would be the swing tackle.

7. Pick #3/70 (acquired from Chicago during the 2017 draft)

IF E Marcus Davenport is still available at Pick #1/16, I propose using this pick to move up from Pick #1/21 to Pick #1/16 to acquire him. IF Davenport is already gone at Pick #1/16, then I do NOT make that trade, use Pick #1/21 to select E Sam Hubbard (Ohio State), and still have this selection available. In that case, I would use this pick to select RB Rashaad Penny (San Diego State), RB Sony Michel (Georgia) or FS Quin Blanding (Virginia), whoever is still available. For now, I'm assuming that the trade-up is made and that Davenport is selected.

8. Pick #3/90 (presumed acquired as a trade-up by using Picks #4/109, #5/134 and #6/170

First question ... why the trade-up? Given the IR returns and free agency acquisitions, there will not be room for more than 6-7 draftees to make the Final-53 this year. Rather than use picks on prospects who will likely be waived (in an attempt to get them to the Practice Squad), then possibly poached by other teams, why not trade several picks to trade up to get the best possible prospect? That's the strategy here. Lynch will no doubt add a number of undrafted free agents to the 90-man roster for OTAs and Training Camp.

As I've pointed out several times before, there are at least 10 big developmental WRs in this draft class ... the one type of WR that we don't now have on the roster ... and haven't had for quite some time. The prospect in that group that I like best is also the one least developed but perhaps having the most potential ... 6'6" WR Jaleel Scott (New Mexico State), who has 4.57 speed and who runs pretty decent patterns for a raw talent; for his size he is incredibly athletic and makes some high-point catches with just one of his huge hands. It's fun to watch this guy play and we'll get an opportunity to see how Scott performs against higher-level competition during the upcoming Senior Bowl. I would love to see what WR Coach Mike LaFleur could do with Scott. And, with the addition of free agent Sammy Watkins (or other free agent WR) there would be no need to rush the development of Scott. (All that said, it is obviously Shanahan and LaFleur who will decide which of the remaining big WR prospects that they like best and want to develop.)

9. Pick #4/124 (acquired from Pittsburgh in exchange for TE Vance McDonald)

My selection here is RB Justin Jackson (Northwestern). He was a 4-year starter at tailback in Northwestern's zone running scheme. Here are his results:

2014: 1,187 yds rushing -- 4.8 yds / carry; 22 pass receptions -- 9.1 yds / reception
2015: 1,418 yds rushing -- 4.5 yds / carry; 21 pass receptions -- 7.7 yds / reception
2016: 1,524 yds rushing -- 5.1 yds / carry; 35 pass receptions -- 6.3 yds / reception
2017: 1,311 yds rushing -- 4.6 yds / carry; 44 pass receptions -- 6.3 yds / reception

Career: 5,440 yds rushing -- 4.8 yds / carry; 122 pass receptions -- 7.0 yds / reception
2017 Music City Bowl: 32 carries for 157 yards rushing ... 5.0 yds / carry
2018 East/West Game: 7 carries for 39 yards rushing ... 5.6 yds / carry

This guy is always available and Mr. Consistency in performance! A great fit for Shanahan's offense and a great value for this pick.

10. Pick #5/176 (assumed to be acquired from Baltimore in the trade-up to Pick #1/16)

My selection here is ILB Nick DeLuca (North Dakota State). A 4-year starter at MLB, he was a team captain and the heart and soul of the Bisons' defense. Played in 16 NCAA national playoff games, including 4 consecutive FCS National Championship Games, winning 3 (2 with Carson Wentz at QB). Leading tackler on special teams. 2-time Butkus Award nominee. AP FCS All-American 1st Team. Honor Roll student ... received his BA degree in December 2017. With Davenport and Scott, appearing in the 2018 Senior Bowl.

So there you have it ... fire away with your critique.

Next and Final Episode: Step 6. Pulling It All Together ... Projected Final Cuts / Projected 2018 Final-53 / Projected Practice Squad

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.