Searching for Gold: Finding Steals in the 7th Round
Image Credit: Jamie Rhodes
With the 230th pick in the seventh round of the NFL draft, the 49ers select:____________ (insert player's name here).
Finding talent in the later rounds of the draft is one of the more difficult tasks that general managers face. They have to dig deep into their draft boards as talent starts to dwindle. As the seventh round approaches teams will search for small-school talent, look for players with high SPARQ scores (speed, power, agility, reaction, and quickness), or take risks on some players who have talent, but some past history of off the field issues, etc. Hitting on these picks can essentially save a draft class.
Looking back on the 49ers' 2017 class, we can see that Lynch and Shanahan had a very bad first draft with the 49ers:
If it was not for the late-round picks of George Kittle and D.J. Jones, this class would have turned out to be a complete bust. To get the best tight end in the league in the fifth-round was a pick that essentially saved this draft. Some of the NFL's greatest players have been found in the later rounds. Here is an article from Bleacher Report highlighting some late-round steals in the past.
After running a few mock drafts, here are a few players I drafted that could be steals in the 2021 draft:
Simi Fehoko Jr., WR, Stanford
A 6'4", 227-pound receiver out of John Lynch's favorite college, Stanford? Might as well pencil him in on the draft card to the 49ers now! Sounds like a player they could end up targeting late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent. Fehoko ran an unofficial 4.37 40-yard dash, which is very fast for a big wide receiver.
Fehoko's size and weight are very similar to Jalen Hurd's (6'4", 226 lbs) and he could be an ideal pick for the big slot position that Shannahan had planned to deploy Hurd in prior to his injury setbacks the last few years. In 2019, Fehoko produced 24 catches for 556 yards. In 2020 he produced 37 receptions for 574 yards in the five games that Stanford played in their shortened season. Some consider him to be a late bloomer which is a reason that he could still be available in the seventh round. At the very least, Fehoko could be an insurance pick for Hurd with a high upside. Some of Fehoko's highlights from 2020 can be viewed here.
Javian Hawkins, RB, Louisvllle
A productive running back in 2019 who logged 264 carries for 1525 yards and 133 carries for 822 yards in 5 games played in 2020. Pro day measurements: 5'8", 193 pounds, and a 4.4 40-yard dash. Hawkins is a bit undersized compared to the average NFL RB weight is 215-225 pounds and height of around 5'10" to 6'1". Additionally, some teams could decide to lower Hawkins on their draft board in 2020 due to opting out for the final three games of the season to prepare for the NFL combine. You can view Hawkins' highlights here:
Hawkins displays excellent speed, vision, change of direction in these clips. Shanahan has been able to consistently maximize his running backs who are often drafted late or brought in as undrafted free agents. I could easily see Hawkins being a new weapon for this team.
Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas
The 5'9", 170-pound wide receiver Jaelon Darden is expected to be available in the later rounds of the draft. A four-year starter, his stats consistently improved each year in college.
As you will see in his highlights below, he is a quick and elusive receiver who has good yards-after-catch ability. His YAC ability is not that of Deebo's or Kittle's in the sense that he can just run you over, but he uses his elusiveness to consistently make defenders miss.
He also adds some additional appeal as a kick returner, which I believe is an area the 49ers need to improve.
The 49ers team was named to honor the people who came to California for the Gold Rush. Their mascot is a gold miner, Sourdough Sam. In just a few short weeks, Lynch and Shanahan will attempt to dig up their own gold in the 2021 draft.
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