I did this mock draft for what the 49ers should do on draft day. Before I jump into it, I should say that not every player will be available at where I pick, in fact, some may even fall past where I pick. I am not a fortune teller. I used first-pick.com and fanspeak's "On The Clock" draft simulator to help build this. Feel free to critique and tell me how terrible I am.
So here we go;
1. Malik Hooker, FS Ohio State
With the second overall pick, the 49ers cannot afford to pass up very good talent. Some may argue taking a QB, others may say we need to take a WR. While a player like Myles Garrett will almost undoubtably go to the Cleveland Browns, the 49ers need to take someone who will upgrade their team immediately, that player is Malik Hooker.
Malik Hooker made a name for himself at Ohio State this past season, racking up 7 interceptions and returning 3 for TDs. Some may argue that picking Hooker would be a "waste" seeing as the 49ers already have Tartt, Reid and Ward, however, this may be the best choice for the 49ers going forward.
The NFL is a copy-cat league, and if we want to look for examples to take from, look no further than two of our division rivals, the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks.
With the hiring of Robert Saleh, we are transitioning to the 4-3 defense, which means we will be running the same cover-3 defense that Seattle runs, as well as Jacksonville and Atlanta. A cover three defense is essentially 3 DBs deep. This is the two CBs and one safety playing the middle of the field. If you are going to run this defense, one of the most important players on the field is the safety. The safety plays all over the field, covers the boundary, the middle, and is the last line of the defense in case a running back breaks off a long run. Two examples of these players are Earl Thomas and Ricardo Allen. Both Thomas and Allen have played extremely important roles for their defense, and when they aren't playing well or aren't on the field, it shows up on tape. In fact, when you watch how Seattle preformed after Earl Thomas got injured, you really see how important he is to that defense.
"Why do we need another safety? We already have Reid, Ward and Tartt!?"
To answer this, we need to take a look at Arizona. In 2014, the Cardinals were facing a crisis at linebacker, however they had a surplus of safeties; Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson, Rashad Johnson, and newly acquired rookie Deone Bucannon. Todd Bowles, Arizona's defensive coordinator (now New York Jets head coach) scrambled and put all of his best players on the field. They moved players around, put Tyrann in the slot, Johnson and Jefferson as their high safeties, and Bucannon as their "WILL" LB, or newly coined term "Moneybacker" (a mix of safety and linebacker).
"So, how does drafting Hooker help the 49ers?"
If we take the success of Seattle and Arizona and try to recreate it, we would be killing three birds with one stone. Jimmie Ward falls into the "Tyrann Mathieu" category, plays slot and possibly safety/outside corner on base downs and/or a blitzing corner. Hooker follows the Earl Thomas mold and plays centerfield. Reid plays inside the box much like Kam Chancellor in Seattle, and Tartt plays at WLB much like Deone Bucannon.
Malik Hooker is coming off a great year at Ohio St, however, he's still a work in progress. Hooker is only 21 years old and only started playing football his junior year. There are concerns with his tackling, and I understand that, it shows up on film. He doesn't take good angles on the ball and it seems like he doesn't wrap up well. Here's the thing, if you stare at any draft prospect too long, you will see the imperfections, the only time you won't, is if you are watching highlight tapes. Correcting these imperfections are the coaches job. That's why you have to take the good with the bad. Do you want a player with incredibly instincts and the ability to track down the ball and make a play? Or do you want to pass on him because he has a hard time tackling? This is why I want to make Hooker the highest drafted safety since Eric Turner in 1991.
2. DeShone Kizer, QB Notre Dame
I'm not one to buy into pre-draft workouts, however DeShone Kizer is different. For the 49ers, Kizer is the ideal QB to start the John Lynch/Kyle Shanahan era. Instead of putting a lot of draft capital in taking a QB in the top 10, getting Kizer here would make perfect sense, and would, honestly, be a steal for them.
DeShone Kizer is by far, not a perfect QB. There are some flaws in his footwork. He also seemed to have some issues with his decision making, however I feel like that was a result of walking on egg shells under his head coach, Brian Kelly. As stated before, he is not a perfect QB, and in this class, no one is. However, what makes Kizer unique and stand apart from the crowd is his arm and his accuracy. He makes powerful throws and can fit the ball in tight windows.
"Kizer trash fam"
Possibly, however lets look at somethings he does well. Kizer is not afraid to make plays with his feet. He can role out, stay patient and find his target on the move. He isn't set on looking to run, he keeps his eyes down field and makes his throw.
Kizer also has the ability to outrun defensive backs...
When it comes to feeling pressure, Kizer also displays a good ability to stand tall in the pocket, feel pressure, step up and throw and/or take a hit.
DeShone has certain traits that pair well with Kyle Shanahan's offense. That is why I feel he's the most ideal QB for the 49ers to take this year to have him sit behind Hoyer and develop.
3. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR USC
Before USC fans furiously type on their key board, "HE'S GOING TO GO IN THE SECOND ROUND!!", just know that there is always someone that falls, you can't take 60 players in the 1st round. JuJu was one of the players I thought would be a guaranteed 2nd round pick. However, with the emergence of Cooper Kupp and Zay Jones, it seems like JuJu is falling down draft boards.
JuJu would be a great pairing for the new 49ers QB, DeShone Kizer. He has great body control, strong hands and doesn't shy a way from contact. JuJu understands to use his body to separate the defender from the ball. He may not be a fast player, but he tracks down balls well.
As Matt's work indicates, he excels in the short/intermediate game. While he won't add much speed to the offense, he gets a great mentor to sit behind in Pierre Garçon.
4. Ahkello Witherspoon, CB Colorado
Ahkello Witherspoon is a name that has been gaining a lot of traction as of late. Big bodied corner who is faster than his measurables would indicate. He plays the ball through the WRs hands, and is feisty.
If you turn on his tape against Washington WR, John Ross, you will understand the hype surrounding Ahkello. He frustrated Ross often.
Ahkello is far from a finished product. He shies away from contact in run support and isn't a good tackler. Interestingly enough, this is the same issue we faced from my 2016 draft crush, Rashard Robinson, however much like Robinson and Hooker, that can be taught. Ahkello has smooth hips and can mirror WRs well, putting him on the opposite side of Robinson would make this defense very fun to watch.
4. Julie'n Davenport, T Bucknell
Davenport is a name that gained traction during senior bowl week, he is a developmental tackle with great length.
With Joe Staley nearing the end of his career, bringing in a prospect like Julie'n and developing him would be very wise decision. His athleticism fits perfectly in the outside zone.
5. DeAngelo Brown, DT Louisville
Another name that picked up during senior bowl week, DeAngelo Brown is a good anchor on the interior of the DL.
He may be undersized, but he sheds blockers well and anchors well for his size.
5. Josh Carraway, DE TCU
Josh Carraway is a violent edge rusher who specializes in the speed rush. At times he can be a little frustrating because you want to see him come off the line with more aggression, however with the team looking for a "LEO", Carraway fits that mold well.
6. Channing Stribling, CB Michigan
Channing Stribling is one of the biggest sleepers in this draft class. He has extremely smooth hips and breaks on the ball fast. He plays the ball through the WRs hands, much like Akhello, and has that swagger you look for in CBs.
He racked up 6 INTs the past two seasons at Michigan. In my opinion, Stribling is a player you do not want to miss out on.
Yes, I do have us drafting Ahkello as well, however, this is a very good depth pick with the chance to battle it out with Ahkello in preseason.
6. DeVonte Fields, OLB Louisville
DeVonte Fields is a player I am very curious about, I see him as a good depth player or a special teams player. At Louisville, Fields was used a lot as a stand up edge rusher, however, due to his size he tends to get thrown around a lot. However, his athleticism is very interesting. He can fly around, he's a quick twitched, loose hip player, he changes direction well however can be very inconsistent.
With proper coaching, Fields could be a very good backup as a "SAM" linebacker.
7. Elijah McGuire, RB UL Lafayette
Another name that I fell in love with before Senior Bowl week. Elijah has battled an injury, however he has displayed good vision with great patience..
He's another one of my "diamonds in the rough"...
He has that second gear you look for in running backs, he's one of the backs you just need to give a chance.
He offers a lot out of the backfield as a pass catcher and should make any offensive coordinator happy. He would immediately be a great tool for Kyle Shanahan and Bobby Turner to play with behind Carlos Hyde.