The 2023 NFL Draft is less than 48 hours away! Well, I guess a little more than 48 for those invested in the 49ers picks, which won’t be made until sometime Friday evening. Either way, we are on the home stretch, which means the hourglass is running out on mock drafts. Devastating, I know, perhaps when the time comes we can set up a support group for everyone having mock draft withdrawals.
In this mock draft, I focused on the three picks the 49ers are currently scheduled to make in the third round. For the sake of not being too repetitive, I did not use any selections from any of the previous mock drafts I have done.
I also did not select a tight end or safety with any of the three picks, which I am letting you know about now to preemptively quell any rage that might stem from that revelation. Hopefully getting that out of the way now will help take some of the sting off when reading my reasoning as to why I chose to do so.
Without further ado...
Round 3, pick 99 - TRADE!!!
49ers send picks 99 & 173 to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for pick 93
Round 3, pick 93: Blake Freeland, OT - BYU
The 49ers use their stockpile of picks to move up the board and jump the Philadelphia Eagles for the right to select one of the most athletically gifted offensive linemen in this draft class.
Ironically enough, this was originally the 49ers own pick, which they had sent to Carolina in the Christian McCaffrey trade last fall. This transaction checks out on the traditional trade value chart, with the 49ers sending 127 points worth of capital in exchange for 128 from the Panthers.
Freeland moves extremely well for his size, and had a fantastic scouting combine that puts him in elite company at his position. Take a look at where some of his testing numbers rank among offensive tackles:
10 yard split - 1.68 seconds (92nd percentile)
40-yard dash - 4.98 seconds (93rd percentile)
Vertical jump - 37 inches (99th percentile)
Broad jump - 120 inches (98th percentile)
When asked about drafting guys with development in mind, John Lynch was recently quoted as saying, “sometimes it is, yeah, we could see this guy being a starter in year two, but we like drafting players we believe can go play right now.”
Freeland is one of those guys who can go play right now and could make an immediate impact at a position of need.
Round 3, pick 101: Yaya Diaby - EDGE, Louisville
The 49ers continue to bolster their defensive line by taking a player who has the potential to contribute on any down in their defensive front. Diaby is powerful and explosive, posting an impressive 4.51 40-yard dash that ranked in the 96th percentile among edge rushers.
His burst and initial get off are elite as well, as evidenced by his 1.56 second 10-yard split, which falls in the 93rd percentile at his position. At 6’3, 263 pounds, Diaby has the size to make an impact against the run, which could prove extremely valuable in any potential time-share at the edge spot opposite of, or in place of Nick Bosa.
Also of note, the 49ers hosted Diaby on an official top-30 pre draft visit.
Round 3, pick 102: Jayden Reed - WR, Michigan State
I can hear the objections already. No tight end? No safety? Allow me to explain why. I think the class is deep enough, that you can still get a viable player at either of those positions later in the draft.
What I am less confident in, however, is the ability to snag a wide receiver like Reed with one of those day three picks. While no one athletic trait jumps out, Reed is a player who does so many of the little things right that the total picture equates to a guy who can be a long-term player in the league.
That’s the most important thing when selecting in this range, in my opinion. The success rate is already so low when you are 100 selections or so into the draft, which makes identifying guys who will stick in the NFL more valuable than blindly pursuing need or positional value elsewhere. Simply put, Reed is a baller and this guy has the chops to make any offense he is a part of better for the foreseeable future.
Led by an incredible amount of instinct regarding ball skills, Reed also has good speed, as evidenced by his 4.45 40-yard dash time. He is also extremely shifty with the ball in his hands, and would provide a reliable safety blanket for years to come for whichever quarterback ends up being the long-term solution for the 49ers.
With a lot of uncertainty on the horizon at the position for the 49ers, they get ahead of any potential problems by adding a very talented rookie who could become an important fixture of the offense sooner rather than later. He also is a plus special teams player, recording three punt return touchdowns during his time at Michigan State.
The 49ers hosted Reed on a top-30 visit, a positive sign that they also see the upside that comes with a player who could be a key member of their passing attack for years to come.