Draft day is finally here, but the 49ers will be waiting well into Friday before finally making a selection.
While that will make Thursday pretty uneventful for the 49er front office and may be somewhat frustrating for fans, it does offer an extra day to do some predicting with a final mock draft for San Francisco.
I’ve done just that, putting one together using the Pro Football Network simulation and big board. I accepted two trades the simulator threw up, enabling the Niners to move back into the fourth round and get an extra pick in the fifth round, which has long since been the money round for San Francisco.
Defense is the focus of the draft, in which I’ve loaded up on selections that fill out the front and the secondary.
I can foresee and understand the criticism at there being no selection of an offensive tackle, but there wasn’t one I was really high on available with the 49ers’ top selection. I also passed up on a below-par linebacker class and, perhaps controversially, did not select a running back. Whether it’s with a draft pick or an undrafted free agent signing, you can expect the 49ers to add a rookie to their backfield this week.
Yes, some of the players selected may go much earlier than I have them going here, but remember it’s just a simulation. Don’t take it too seriously.
Round 3, Pick 99 - Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State
It isn’t the strongest safety draft, but Brown is unquestionably one of the better ones and can slowly be brought along as the successor to Tashaun Gipson at free safety.
He isn’t the best athlete but mitigates his shortcomings in that regard with how he reads the game, relying on his eyes to consistently make plays on the ball from all over the field.
Brown has experience playing the deep middle from single-high and two-high alignments, as well as in the slot and in the box. Instinctive and versatile, Brown has all the tools to blossom into an integral cog in the secondary for San Francisco.
San Francisco trades pick 101 in the third round and pick 255 in the seventh to the Panthers in exchange for pick 114 in the fourth and 145 in the fifth.
San Francisco trades pick 102 in the third round and pick 222 in the seventh to the Chiefs in exchange for pick 122 and pick 134 in the fourth.
Round 4, Pick 114 - Byron Young, EDGE, Tennessee
The 49ers have yet to really replace Dee Ford, the speed rusher who could have a devastating impact when healthy, but was too often on the sideline.
Young can fill the that void. He can’t create bend with the same kind of consistency as Ford, but he possesses a remarkable get-off, can convert speed to power, has a rip move and a spin move and is a constant threat to win to the inside when his speed forces tackles to open to the outside.
He’s far from the finished article, but Young can immediately be a game-changer as a rotational pass rusher.
Round 4, Pick 122 - Isaiah McGuire, EDGE, Missouri
The 49ers arguably have the best starting defensive line in the NFL, but they’ve won in previous years through having waves of defensive linemen to throw at opponents.
McGuire has gone underrated throughout the process. He brings inside-out versatility and can win with his bull rush, the ability to bend around the edge and quickness to the inside, his success aided by a well-rounded repertoire of pass-rush moves. He’s an outstanding value in round four.
Round 4, Pick 134 - Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan
The 49ers need a number two tight end, and Schoonmaker undoubtedly fits the bill. He’s played in-line, as an F tight end, at fullback and H-back and brings upside as both a blocker and a route-runner, demonstrating impressive change of direction quickness and an understanding of where to settle against zone.
George Kittle, take some of that burden off your shoulders.
Round 5, Pick 145 - Cory Trice, CB, Purdue
The 49ers won’t need Trice to play right away, but he has an excellent skill set for them to develop.
Trice is an ultra-aggressive press-man corner who can get inside the frame of receivers and has an eye for the ball regardless of the coverage he is playing. Arguably, the trait that will most stand out to the 49ers is his outstanding run defense. Trice hits and he hits hard. The Niners will love that.
Round 5, Pick 155 - Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford
Injuries are a concern with Wilson, but at his best he’s an explosive receiver who brings variety as a route-runner and can beat press-man. Wilson makes tough catches over the middle, plays inside and out, and has yards after the catch upside. Sounds like a 49er receiver to me.
Round 5, Pick 164 - Riley Moss, CB Iowa
Is he a corner? Or is he a safety? It doesn’t matter. Moss’ tape shows a player who is an excellent fit for what the 49ers do in the secondary.
He’s tremendous in zone coverage, can turn and run with receivers downfield in man, and has superb on-ball production. Moss is a steal at this point in the draft.
Round 5, Pick 173 - Jay Ward, DB, LSU
You know how they say you can never have enough pass rushers? Well, the same can be said in the modern NFL for defensive backs, particularly when they’re as versatile as Ward.
Ward was used all over the field by LSU, playing in the box, in the slot and as a deep safety. He’s aggressive against the run, provides upside as a blitzer, and uses his physicality to win matchups in the slot.
On top of that, Ward plays with extremely impressive eyes and awareness in zone coverage. He’s a malleable defender who can provide immediate insurance at several spots.
Round 6, Pick 216 - Elijah Higgins. WR/TE, Stanford
The Niners are fortunate to get Higgins at this point in the draft. At 6’3”, and 235 pounds, he moves extremely well and excels at creating separation with his size and maintaining it.
Though not used in-line by Stanford, Higgins brings determination to his blocking that suggests he could successfully pivot from wideout at the next level. For a team already stacked with offensive weapons, Higgins would offer the Niners something different as a power slot-move tight end hybrid.
Round 7, Pick 243 - Nesta Jade Silvera, DT, Arizona State
The production isn’t there and the measurables aren’t either, but turn on the tape from the Stanford game, and you’ll see a player brimming with interior pass-rush potential.
Silvera comes off the ball quickly and plays low, allowing him to consistently push the pocket. He has active hands and a high motor, the perfect kind of dart throw up front for the Niners at this stage.
Round 7, Pick 253 - Jake Moody, K, Michigan
Maybe in reality Moody will come off the board much earlier, but I refuse to spend anything higher than a seventh on a kicker, even in a mock.
Moody missed only one kick under 30 yards in his college career, and went 13 of 17 on kicks between 40 and 49 yards. He did not miss an extra point. Let the kicker battle commence!