Zach's Draft Corner: Draft Crushes
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Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
We’ve heard a lot about quarterbacks. A lot. My personal favorite part of draft season is finding those guys a little bit further down the board who become “your guys.” The ones who you have ranked a bit higher than everyone else. The ones that make you watch the second and third days of the draft with the hope that your team will see these guys the same way that you do. Some of them will hit, and many won’t, but they are all “your guys.” These are “my guys.”
Chuba Hubbard, Running Back, Oklahoma State University
Hubbard is going on year two of being my running back crush due to his return to school after the 2019 season. Regardless, Hubbard would be a perfect fit in the Shanahan offense. Hubbard is fast, has vision, and experience in a zone running scheme. He wasn’t used often in the passing game, but he excelled when given the opportunity. An ankle injury hindered his 2020 season, causing an unfortunate drop in his draft stock. However, he has had no serious injuries, and was one of college football’s most productive backs in 2019. I think that Hubbard would excel as RB1 in the 49ers’ offense.
Tylan Wallace, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State University
I promise I have no affiliation with Oklahoma State and that this will be the last Cowboy I have to talk about. However, I can’t go elsewhere with my wide receiver crush. While you typically think of Oklahoma State as having a wide open vertical offense (where Wallace did succeed), Wallace’s best and most promising work came in the shorter areas of the field where the Cowboys needed to move the chains or push the ball into the end zone. Wallace’s versatility as a weapon is reminiscent of Emmanuel Sanders, who added a new dimension to the 49ers’ offense in his short stint with the team. Wallace would be the perfect replacement for Kendrick Bourne in the short term, with the potential of providing even more as he develops.
Walker Little, Offensive Tackle, Stanford University
Little was heralded as a first round talent in 2019 before a knee injury ended his season early. He vowed to come back in 2020 to rebuild his draft stock, but he ended up sitting out the season due to COVID. Scouts are worried because they have not seen him play a snap since early in the 2019 season, so he is now available in the middle of day three. The 49ers can capitalize on this, drafting a potential replacement for Mike McGlinchey in the fifth round, and avoiding a hefty fifth-year option on a player yet to prove he deserves it. The only obvious hole, outside of his absence from football, is that he can overextend when blocking downfield. However, if my right tackle’s biggest hole is that he has trouble blocking 20 yards downfield, I will survive.
Jaylen Twyman, Defensive Tackle, University of Pittsburgh
Twyman has run into the same issue that many undersized defensive tackles face: he excels in games when rushing the passer, and commentators make the obvious comparison to Aaron Donald, since Donald was also undersized and good at rushing the passer in college. Putting Twyman in a Pitt uniform only makes those comparisons louder. Then you dig into the tape and see that Twyman is absolutely not Aaron Donald, so you push him way down your draft board. If you can look past the obvious comparison, though, you still see a player who can come in on second and third downs to rush the passer from the interior and a player who can succeed in that role.
Chris Rumph, Defensive End, Duke University
The key to finding draft crushes who will succeed is to find players who are elite at something. They either need to have elite athleticism and improvable traits, or they need something on the field they do at an elite level. Rumph led the nation in pass rush win percentage and hurry percentage in 2019 (and finished top ten in that category in 2020), showing that he is elite at rushing the passer. While he is a bit lean, Rumph has the speed and technique to generate pressure on the outside. He falls in the draft because he does not have the strength to really be strong in the run game, but that’s okay. He would be a situational pass rusher only, and the presence of Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead negate the need for an edge defender who excels in run defense. Draft Rumph, put him on the edge, and enjoy third-down success.
Tony Fields, Linebacker, West Virginia University
There are two “Fields” in this draft class, and I have a crush on both of them. The Tony version is a heat-seeking missile who flew around the field making plays. He has range, flashes skills in coverage, and reliably tackles the ball carrier once he gets there. The issue that’s bringing him down? He doesn’t have the length or the strength to really work through traffic, and he will get taken out of the play by even average tight ends. Fields needs to be on the weak-side, but he could easily fill the hole left by Kwon Alexander. If he is kept clean, he will be a beast.
Tre Norwood, Cornerback, University of Oklahoma
Again, we need to find players with an elite skill. For Norwood, who gets dinged for being slightly undersized, that elite trait is being a slot defender. The 49ers already have a great slot corner, but one who is aging and has struggled with injuries. He could learn from K’Waun Williams for a season and step in seamlessly in 2022, so long as he isn’t expected to be a shutdown cornerback on the outside.
Hamsah Nasirildeen, Safety, Florida State University
We say it often, but Nasirildeen might finally be the closest thing to Kam Chancellor since he retired. A 6’3”, 213-pound safety with a heavy hit stick, Nasirildeen is an elite playmaker at the strong safety position. He can get in trouble when his back is to the quarterback, but he excels when making plays in front of him working back towards the line of scrimmage. He can blitz, tackle, and cover in zone, creating turnovers in each of those situations. At Florida State, he was expected to be an all-around playmaker, and he was burned on a few reps when trying to play a single-high role. If you keep him in the box and working back towards the ball, Nasirildeen will be the replacement for Jaquiski Tartt in 2022.
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