2017 NFL Draft

How the Niners can spend 15 draft picks

How the Niners can spend 15 draft picks

By Jeff Reynolds | NFLDraftScout.com

For the love of drama, we can only hope the San Francisco 49ers are plotting a play for a major draft-day trade or piling up some of those 15 selections to add a marquee veteran.

Three picks for Darrelle Revis? Doesn't sound ridiculous, especially not when you frame it with the reality that the 49ers would still have 12 selections to spend in a draft praised for depth and picked apart for lacking star power at the top.

To be sure, there aren't 15 roster spots available on the 49ers' 53-man roster. But with roster decisions looming that will weigh down a suspect salary cap situation -- to be fair, it improves when QB Alex Smith's contract comes off the books March 13 -- the 49ers would be wise to spin their spare picks in 2013 into 2014 selections.

Safety Dashon Goldson and nose guard Isaac Sopoaga are the 49ers' top free agents entering March. Next year, the deals of defensive end Justin Smith, safety Donte Whitner, wide receiver Mario Manningham and center Jonathan Goodwin expire. Whitner, Goodwin and David Akers are under-contract veterans who could restructure or receive walking papers to soften the Niners' rigid cap situation.

The secondary -- based on suspect play from Chris Culliver in the Super Bowl and Carlos Rogers' escalating deal that makes him almost sure to be cut or restructured when his salary isn't guaranteed in 2014 -- must be addressed, but that doesn't make a run at Revis a certainty and we have no intel indicating they want Percy Harvin, either.

Cap space should be more plentiful on March 13. Alex Smith's deal counts against the cap for one day, but the $1 million roster bonus he's due and the $8.75 million salary are passed on to the Chiefs.

Coach Jim Harbaugh might be viewed as a progressive throwback, given the autonomy coordinator Greg Roman had in molding the Colin Kaepernick version of Harbaugh's pro-style offense, but he relentlessly believes the game is won in "grind the meat, rattle the molars" mode. That means he'll look to bolster depth in the trenches.

While we aren't in position to speculate on the trade options for the 49ers' likely 15 draft picks and a suggestion for investing them:

Round 1/Pick 31: Trading up is the obvious with targets ranging from S Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) to WR Tavon Austin (West Virginia) and Alabama NT Jesse Williams.

If they hold to the best-available approach, Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks gets the call. He's a solid cover cornerback who can overcome a 4.61 40 time with a better showing at his pro day much the same way Browns CB Joe Haden did, going from 4.57 in Indy to 4.48 in Gainesville.

And we'll brace for the unexpected.

At No. 30 last year, the 49ers reached for WR A.J. Jenkins (Illinois), a player we projected to be a late second-round pick -- and then Jenkins played like he didn't belong, struggling to get on the field. He also dropped the only pass thrown his direction in 2012.

2/34 (from KC) Take a peek at Alabama's Eddie Lacy? The plowhorse running back can play immediately behind soon-to-be 30-year-old Frank Gore. Depth at the position isn't what it seems -- Kendall Hunter tore his Achilles in November and could be limited into the regular season.

2/61 Wisconsin C Travis Frederick. The junior started 31 games for the Badgers and can play center or guard. He carries his weight well as seen in his 4.76-second short shuttle.

3/74 (from CAR) Georgia FS Bacarri Rambo. A hammer-time tackler with a frame from Central Casting. Still needs to live up to expectations after not working out at the combine. Georgia's Pro Day is March 21. Harbaugh will likely apply the Judge Judy test of morality to all draft picks, but especially one that has a suspension to explain.

3/94 San Diego State TE Gavin Escobar. The junior is 6-foot-6, 250 pounds with good short-area movement skills and the hands to be a threat downfield. In an offense that predicates much of its week-to-week gameplan on varied personnel groups, deploying Escobar and TE Vernon Davis -- who was block-first, sprint-second too often last season -- compensates for the potential loss of Delanie Walker.

4/TBD (likely compensatory selection for Joshua Morgan). Texas WR-RS Marquise Goodwin. For obvious reasons, the 49ers don't need a reminder about special teams and a few of their picks will be spent to address returns and the kicking game. Goodwin is a dart who can take over for Ted Ginn and dabble as a fourth or fifth receiver and be deployed as a gimmick-play weapon. WR-RS Kyle Williams has another year before his contract must be addressed.

4/31st in round (pick number changes when comp. picks are announced). Arizona QB Matt Scott. The upside isn't there with backup Scott Tolzien and trading a pick or two for another developmental type might be the preferred route. Scott is versed in the read-option but it was his throwing session in Indianapolis that opened eyes.

5/24th in round (from IND) LSU CB Tharold Simon. At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds with 32 3/4-inch arms, Simon ran in the 4.48-4.52 range at the combine. Some question why he left after his junior season with a starting spot available -- he's the father of a toddler who was raised by his single mother. Simon would hit San Francisco as a project, but he does have solid upside based on his natural tools.

5/31st in round TCU WR Josh Boyce. He caught everything in sight for the Horned Frogs and with a 4.38 time in the 40, answered doubts that he wasn't more than a slot receiver. Because of his toughness and puddle-hopping quickness, he still might be best as a third receiver on the inside.

6/12th in round (from MIA) Florida State K Dustin Hopkins. David Akers' days are numbered. The numbers that count for Hopkins are 25 of 30 -- his field-goal accuracy in 2012. He had a long of 56 and the strength to consistently sail touchbacks out of the end zone.

6/31st in round OT Manase Foketi, West Texas A&M. The Kansas State transfer has some solid tape against Big 12 competition. He dominated the lower level but wasn't part of combine workouts because he's recovering from an injury. Not likely a long-term left tackle, but versatile enough to be a guard or line up on the right side at 6-foot-5, 318.

7/21st in round (from CIN) Hawaii CB Mike Edwards. He's a natural fit as a nickel cornerback, but also returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in 2012.

7/31st in round Penn State ILB Michael Mauti. His 4.83 speed won't be as evident as a backup inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Mauti is a try-hard type and would take special teams seriously in the mold of former 49ers' coverage ace Blake Costanzo.

7/TBD (compensatory) SMU FB Zach Line. A camp body who could catch on if he shows he could block inline.

7/TBD (compensatory) Glenville State OL Mark Jackson. Probably an NFL guard. At 6-foot-5, 328 with 34 1/4-inch arms, he's worth a flier.

For more NFL draft news and analysis, follow Jeff Reynolds on Twitter at @ReynoldsJD.

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