On Tuesday, we talked about some of the NFL Draft prospects that we’d stay away from. Today, let’s go through each “position of need” for the San Francisco 49ers to talk about our favorite players outside of the first round. This is a good exercise to get familiar with some names if the Niners trade back from No. 31 and gain any Day 2 picks. Let’s start with the most popular position to talk about. I’ll leave left tackle out of the picture as I haven’t done enough research on players outside of the first round.
WR Van Jefferson, Florida
Heading into the Combine, Jefferson had a chance to earn himself a lot of money if he tested well. Unfortunately, Jefferson never got the opportunity as his medicals revealed Jefferson had a fracture in his right foot that didn’t allow him to participate in Indianapolis. Jefferson was sidelined for six to eight weeks.
I’m a sucker for good route runners. After Jerry Jeudy, I can make a strong argument that Jefferson is the next best route runner in the draft. Jefferson uses tempo, head fakes, and different “route stems” to put cornerbacks out of position. LSU’s CB Derek Stingley is going to be a top-five pick in the NFL Draft two years from now, and Jefferson is one of the few receivers this season that got the best of Stingley. Jefferson is 6’1”, 200 pounds, and showed his route running prowess at the Senior Bowl.
Van Jefferson: slant gawd. He’s the second-best route runner in the draft for my money.— KP (@KP_Show) April 2, 2020
He wins with his hands, feet, tempo, head fakes; you name it. Jefferson may not be a burner, but he’s quick as hell and knows how to sell his routes. He can play. pic.twitter.com/OL1R8c3zOU
Jefferson played both in the slot and outside at Florida. He doesn’t have the gear to separate on vertical routes, but Jefferson does a nice job of using his body to shield defenders in contested situations and make plays in traffic.
My buddy Charlie McDonald, who used to write for the Falcoholic, said Jefferson reminds him of Mohamed Sanu. Jefferson’s combine numbers would have been in the same ballpark as Sanu. I think Jefferson has a bit more Juice than Sanu. Stevie Johnson, former Niner, was an unorthodox route runner that wasn’t a burner, but consistently got open and made plays. That’s who I see shades of when I watch Jefferson. He’s probably not a target for San Francisco, as Jefferson doesn’t wow after the catch like some other receivers in the draft, but Jefferson is going to outperform quite a few receivers that are drafted ahead of him. Florida did throw Jefferson plenty of screens, so it’s not as if Jefferson is a slouch after the catch.
DT Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M
I’ve seen Madubuike go anywhere from the middle of the second round to the early third in mock drafts. The 6’3”, 293-pound defensive tackle ran a 4.83 40-yard dash and had a 7.37 3-cone drill—both tests above average. Madubuike doesn’t stay blocked. He won a bunch of his 1-on-battles inn the games I watched with an arsenal of pass rush moves. Madubuike was intriguing already with his athleticism, but when a defensive lineman stays as clean as Madubuike did in college ends up productive in the NFL. These are all of the plays he made in one game:
Texas A&M DT Justin Madubuike looks like a player. His game vs. Ole Miss was a highlight type. He wins a lot, but he wins in a variety of ways. Sign me up. pic.twitter.com/LRdY8Uk3w2— KP (@KP_Show) March 30, 2020
Madubuike is far from perfect. He’s inconsistent as a run defender, and you see the former Aggie DT get knocked off balance on occasion. If he learns to maintain his gap integrity, Madubuike will be fine. You’re not drafting a defensive lineman high to stop the run. For what the 49ers need—an athletic interior disruptor that can win 1-on-1, Madubuike is a perfect fit.
CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn
Igbinoghene will likely end up as the third-best cornerback for me. I love everything about his game. His mom was an Olympic medalist, and his dad won five SEC titles in track and field. Athleticism is the least of Igbinoghene’s issues. At the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash and jumped 37” in the vertical with a 10-foot-6 inch broad jump.
Igbinoghene switched to cornerback in 2018, and you’d have no idea from watching him. I hope his height doesn’t scare teams away. At 5’10”, 198 pounds, Igbinoghene isn’t small by any means. He’s a lot stronger and physical than the majority of cornerbacks in this class. I look for cornerbacks that are fiesty and get under the opponents’ skin as the game wears on. From a pure man coverage standpoint, the former Tiger should be a first-rounder.
You’ll see some say he’s “raw” due to the position switch. There are times when Noah jams with the wrong hand, or won’t recognize a route concept. Those issues dwindled as the season went on, which is precisely what you look for in a player; growth.
Igbinohene more than held his own against Bama and LSU. Early against Alabama, he was beaten on a double move. They tried to do the same later in the game against Jerry Jeudy, and Noah ran with him. Against LSU, you saw him outmuscle future first-rounder JaMarr Chase. Noah also had a couple of big hits that game. I’m a fan. The cherry on top is that Igbinohene returned kicks for three seasons. He returned one to the house in Auburn’s bowl game. Noah averaged 35 yards per kick return as a junior.
If the 49ers end up with either of these three, I’m all smiles. Who is your favorite non-first round receiver, defensive tackle, and cornerback?