The 49ers have the luxury of drafting for depth. With their offseason moves and their ability to re-sign their own players, the team could afford to not only take chances, but take players they could develop. With that in mind, a perfect choice for the team would be Hill, who displayed big-play potential, but only caught 28 passes last year.
The 49ers also have some guidelines that they don't like to break. They like cornerbacks over 5-10, and they like running backs that weigh over 220 pounds, particularly if they are chosen in the middle or late rounds. They also are looking for size at guard, because they feature a downhill running attack rather than a zone blocking strategy with smaller guards that can cut block. With that being said, they will break those rules for the right player.
Nice fits: Wide receiver Stephen Hill, guard Amini Silatolu, running back Robert Turbin.
Guard: The team's only true need is at right guard. All the other positions are spoken for. Silatolu could come in and possibly start. The 49ers installed two rookies on their offensive line two years ago with right tackle Anthony Davis and left guard Mike Iupati. Silatolu will have a more difficult time because he's coming from a small school (Midwestern State in Wichita).
Wide receiver: Sure, the team signed Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and re-signed Ted Ginn Jr. - all of whom are deep-threat, outside-the-numbers wide receivers. However, they don't have a young prospect they could develop to become a future no. 1 option. The team doesn't know what it will get from Moss, Manningham is a nice piece for their offense but not a top receiver, and Ginn Jr. struggles with consistency.
Running back: The 49ers have a full stable of backs with starter Frank Gore, and backups Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs, and Anthony Dixon. What they don't have is a clear replacement for Gore in any of the aforementioned players. Turbin has all the ingredients to become a 49ers running back. He's a local kid, he's 222 pounds and he has home-run ability (three runs of over 80 yards last year). He also can catch passes. He's a little raw and needs to work on his pass protection.
Defensive line: Starters Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga and Ray McDonald logged some big-time minutes last season. Ricky Jean Francois is a versatile and able backup, but behind him the 49ers have Ian Williams and Demarcus Dobbs, both rookie free agents who made the team in training camp last year. This draft is plentiful with defensive linemen and Clemson's Brandon Thompson could be available with the 30th overall pick.
Cornerback: The team has developing players Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock backing up starters Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. A seventh-rounder from last year, Curtis Holcomb is also coming off a knee injury suffered in training camp. Nevertheless, in a pass-first league, corner could be an option in the middle to late rounds. The 49ers have chosen late-round cornerbacks from small schools in each of the last two years, and Northeastern State's Jeremy Lane could the late-round choice this year.
--The typically tight-lipped Trent Baalke dropped some news during his annual draft assessment with the media. The 49ers general manager and NFL executive of the year said the team is hoping one specific player will drop to them at the 30th slot in the upcoming NFL draft.
"You've got to be prepared to make the pick at 30, which we're prepared to do," Baalke said. "We'll see how the board falls. We certainly have more than one person, but there is (a player) in particular we feel will be there. And if he is, we'll be prepared to make the pick."
For Baalke the admission was revealing, particularly with the possible top-round prospects that have been interviewed or visited the team. Those include three possible first round receivers: LSU's Rueben Randle, Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill and Baylor's Kendall Wright. The team has also shown interest in Stanford tight end Coby Fleener, who Jim Harbaugh coached before coming to the 49ers last year.
Another possibility? Virginia Tech running back David Wilson, another player who visited the team and a prospect projected to go within the first 50 selections.
Baalke could also move up in the draft, something he has done three times in the last two drafts to nab his choice. In 2010, the 49ers moved up to draft Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis with the 11th overall pick. Last year, the team maneuvered toward the top of the second round to get Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick and they did the same thing in the fifth round to select Appalachian State guard Daniel Kilgore.
This is the first time Baalke won't have a pick in the first half of the draft, including last year when the team owned the seventh overall choice. Baalke contends that it makes it tougher to predict who will be there at 30 because there are so many unknowns.
However, the 49ers have the luxury of not having to draft a starter this year. Their roster, even at wide receiver, is stacked. The only hole is at right guard, where Kilgore will compete with in-house competition including Alex Boone and another pick from last year, Montana State's Mike Person.
There's even speculation that Davis could kick inside from right tackle to right guard, but Baalke evaded that question, which is what Baalke usually does.
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