Perhaps the lone benefit of selecting outside of the top two and a half rounds is the nonsense you get to avoid. Mock drafts and big boards operate with roughly 20 percent of the knowledge needed to properly assess players. That’s why they’re continuously wrong on an annual basis.
One aspect that is at the top of the nonsense meter during the pre-draft process are the anonymous scouts. They can’t wait to talk down on a prospect or say something about a player to alter their public perception. It’s easy to do when you know your name won’t be attached to it.
Bob McGinn, who used to be a beat writer for the Packers, has done the same article for 39 years where he reaches out to scouts to gather their thoughts on the upcoming draft class. His content is behind a paywall, but here’s what the anonymous scouts had to say about the 49ers draft class.
Cameron Latu was outside of the top 10 tight ends. There were only opinions on three of the 49ers draft picks. Here they are.
S Ji’Ayir Brown
Link to McGinn’s article on DBs
The scouts weren’t high on the safety class: “This is unbelievable how bad this is,” one scout said. “(Brian) Branch, (Antonio) Johnson and then it’s kind of a free-for-all. It falls quick.”
McGinn conducted a 16-scout poll where each player tallied a specific number of points based on how many votes they received. Ji’Ayir Brown received 12 votes among the safety class, which placed him sixth among all safeties.
“No one in our room has any conviction on any of these guys,” one personnel man said. “I think the highest grade we have is a late second or third of that group. It was sort of an uninspiring group.”
Here’s the full report from various anonymous scouts:
6. JI’AYIR BROWN, Penn State (5-11 ½, 203, 4.60, 3-4): In academic jeopardy, he played two seasons at a junior college before starting all 26 games for the Nittany Lions in 2021-’22. “Not the biggest guy in the world but big enough,” one scout said. “He plays faster than that (4.60). If he gets pushed in the middle rounds, that’s fine because he is a good football player. He’ll start.” In 2021, he played alongside Jaquan Brisker, the Bears’ second-round draft choice. “He played consistently better than what Brisker played,” a second scout said. “Brisker was bigger and more talented than this kid, but this kid’s a better football player. He’s definitely smarter. He’s not a burner. Little bit stiff. Has juice with his teammates. Real positive energy guy. I think he can be a great third safety.” Finished with 153 tackles (nine for loss), 10 picks and 19 PBUs. Wonderlic of 10. “Tough guy, plays hard,” a third scout said. “You love the energy and how he flies around. If you want to play with him and make him a sort of nickel backer do that, but he cannot play in space. He showed all of that at the combine. You can’t play with box safeties anymore.” From Trenton, N.J.
“You can’t play with box safeties anymore,” he says, after Talanoa Hufanga just earned an All-Pro nod.
By the sounds of it, energy was the theme for Brown. He’s an elite trash-talker and loves to celebrate. That type of attitude is infectious on a defense and resonates with the players on the field.
I was a big fan of Brisker coming out of college. So to hear that Brown was a better, smarter player is encouraging.
As far as the “stiff” and “cannot play in space comments,” there’s some merit there. Brown needs to become more efficient with his footwork as far as getting out of his breaks in a timely fashion. But, again, if he understands what the offense is doing, that’ll allow Brown to get there sooner.
K Jake Moody
Link to McGinn’s article on specialists
According to McGinn, Jake Moody was the unanimous choice as the top kicker when he polled seven NFL personnel men and special teams coordinators.
1. JAKE MOODY, Michigan (6-0 ½, 210, no 40, Rounds 4-5): Kicked six field goals in his first game (November 2018) before closing with a 59-yard make against Texas Christian in the CFP semifinals. “He’s been very solid throughout his career,” an NFL special-teams coach said. “I don’t think he did as good of a job at the combine as he wished he had but I still think he’s the best guy. He does have power. Been really good on longer field goals. Very good in clutch situations. One of the better kickoffs guys also.” Finished with 82.1% on field goals (69 of 84), including 4-10 from 50-plus. His 35-yard FG with 9 seconds left in windy, 25-degree weather enabled the Wolverines to beat Illinois, 19-17, in mid-November. “I know the best kicker by far was the Michigan kicker,” one scout said. “I like the weather part of that. He’s used to that.” In 2019, he connected from 43 to beat Army in double overtime. “Shows leg strength on field goals and kickoffs,” another scout said. “He can come in and compete for a starting job. Would like to have cleaner makes but a make is a make. Mid-Day 3.” Hit 222 of his 393 kickoffs for touchbacks (56.5%). Averaged 60.3. From Northville, Mich.
The weather aspect makes plenty of sense when you consider the 49ers are trying to win playoff games. You can’t assume every game will be played at Levi’s Stadium, making it important for your kicker to have succeeded in inclement weather.
General manager John Lynch was on KNBR Thursday morning saying that other kicker-needy teams were trying to trade up in front of the Niners to select a kicker, which explains why the 49ers pulled the trigger on Moody in the third round.
LB Dee Winters
Link to McGinn’s linebacker article
Winters just missed the cut of the top 15 off ball linebackers, but did make it as the “unsung hero” in the article:
Dee Winters, Texas Christian: Against Michigan in the national semifinals, Winters (5-11, 230, 4.53) had a first half to remember, making tackle after tackle by lancing into the backfield. He started 36 games from 2020-’22 on the strong side, producing 246 tackles and 12 ½ sacks. “He can shoot a gap and trigger really fast and make plays in space,” one scout said. “If you keep him clean, he’s going to get to the football.”
It’s impossible to ignore Winters’ production in college. As his defensive coordinator told us, he’s still learning. Winters may be a year away from becoming a starter, but his upside is promising.