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Three players the 49ers should avoid in the first round

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Two cornerbacks, and a wide receiver

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

We keep talking about who we want the San Francisco 49ers to take in the first round. It’s time to flip the script. For every draft crush like Baylor’s wide receiver Denzel Mims, there are five players that I want the Niners to steer clear of. Rankings are fun. Seeing the different opinions from analysts makes this process interesting every year. We’re all right some of the time, but wrong most of the time. Let’s talk about the wrong because that’s how you learn. I’ve been putting together rankings and personal “big boards” dating back to 2014—where I ranked Bruce Ellington over Davante Adams and Allen Robinson. In 2015, I struggled to project Arik Armstead. I had him as the eighth-best defensive lineman in the draft. 2016, ‘17, and ‘18 if you want to see the others.

Now that we have that out of the way let’s talk about the players the 49ers should avoid Looking back at my rankings; I tend to overrate good football players who aren’t great athletes. On the flip side, I’ve been out in front of the players the media tends to overrate. Here are my names for this year.

WR Laviska Shenault

There is a limited route tree; then, there is Shenault. Colorado didn’t ask Shenault to do much of anything as a receiver. When they did, it wasn’t pretty. I saw a player that stood straight up when he was going to break out of his routes. Sometimes, Shenault would come to a complete stop to cut. When he did cut, there were too many extra steps out of his break. Without coming off too harsh, there isn’t any pace to get open underneath or burst to get open deep. When the ball is in his hands is when you see Shenault’s value. His suddenness shows up, and Shenault is one of the better players in the draft when the ball is in his hands. Everything up until then needs quite a bit of improvement. Add in a lengthy injury history, and Laviska is an easy pass for me.

CB Kristian Fulton

LSU is known as “DBU,” and after Fulton’s performance in Indianapolis, that saying isn’t going anywhere. Fulton was among the top performers in the 40-yard dash and the 3-cone at the NFL Combine. His performance likely locked him into the first round. The games I watched of Fulton, he was very good at the line of scrimmage and would undercut routes if he was in phase. The problem was being in phase. Fulton ran a 4.36 short shuttle, which shows up on tape. His transitions aren’t very good when the receiver goes to change directions. I saw a lot of Fulton losing ground. I also wish he had a better feel for the sticks and didn’t play as high. The biggest issue I had was him playing small. That’s a no-no at cornerback. Add in his inconsistencies at finding/playing the ball in the air, and the end of Round 1 is a round too high for my liking. Good, not a great player.

CB Trevon Diggs

If Fulton were available in a trade back scenario, I’d be all over it. If there is one player I could put a red star on to tell John Lynch not to draft, it’s Stefon Diggs brother Trevon. The former wide receiver from Alabama has great ball skills as you’d expect from a former wideout, but he is the cornerback version of Shenault. There are a lot of technical issues in his game. I cringe when I see the majority of the draft community have Diggs in their top-five cornerback rankings.

Diggs didn’t run at the NFL Combine. When you watch him, you can see the lack of burst out of his breaks. I don’t know if he will run a slow 40 time, but the recovery speed isn’t there. If you can’t recover, because you are going to get beat as a cornerback, you can’t play. You can tell Diggs is new to the position, and it’s going to take some time for him to develop his game. Time isn’t something on the 49ers’ side. Diggs is a project that you take late on Day 2 at the very best.

There are a few more

When you look at the 49ers’ needs and look where players are projected to go, trading back makes the most sense. The draft is full of quality starters. The players that most of us want at No. 31 will likely be gone. The 49ers met with LSU’s Justin Jefferson, who feels more like a mid-second round player. That’s not a knock on Jefferson. When you take a player early in the draft, you want to make sure he’s an impact player. He should be “scheme proof,” much like Deebo Samuel proved to be. Here are a handful of other players projected to go around where the 49ers are picking that I think are being overvalued in:

TCU WR Jalen Reagor

Utah CB Jalen Johnson

Clemson CB A.J. Terrell

Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk

TCU CB Jeff Gladney

Far from bad players, but I wouldn’t want to rely on either receiver in a situation where I needed to get a first down, nor would I count on either cornerback stopping a “top” receiver.