On Wednesday, ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. posted his second 2018 NFL mock draft, and of course, we’re going to take a look at it. His first mock was in mid-January, before Alex Smith was traded, before the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl, etc.
As most mocks do, Kiper has no trades permitted and he’s sticking with the San Francisco 49ers at No. 9 overall, despite it being unclear if they’ll pick ninth or 10th. I’m not sure why most mocks have defaulted to this, but hey, I’m not complaining.
In his first mock, Kiper had the 49ers drafting Denzel Ward, cornerback out of Ohio State. At that time, Minkah Fitzpatrick was going sixth overall to the New York Jets, while other names like Bradley Chubb, Saquon Barkley and Quenton Nelson were already off the board.
That is also the case in his second mock, where Barkley, Chubb and Fitzpatrick are gone on picks two through four, and Nelson goes at No. 7. Tremaine Edmunds, a player who is mocked to the 49ers quite a bit, is at No. 8. So Kiper, in his revision has given the 49ers ... Denzel Ward again.
No change for the 49ers here, as Ward would give them a true No. 1 cornerback on top of a super talented front seven. Ward is polished, though he’s not huge (5-10, 191) like 6-2 Ahkello Witherspoon, San Francisco’s third-round pick last year. Ward had two interceptions and 15 pass breakups in 2017, and he plays the ball well and has good instincts.
For what it’s worth, another popular player for the 49ers is Roquan Smith out of Georgia, and he’s mocked to the Oakland Raiders at No. 10 overall, right after the 49ers.
Either way, I like Ward, and I like that so many experts consider Ward a true No. 1 cornerback. That’s what the 49ers need — not the guy who will always be second fiddle to Fitzpatrick, but a true No. 1 corner. If Ward is that guy, I’d take him in a heartbeat.
One of my co-workers at SB Nation took a look at other aspects of Kiper’s mock, if you’re interested.