49ers Mock Draft 1: Smoke Routes

The 49ers draft plan is coming into focus, speed in the trenches early.
Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Washington Huskies offensive lineman Roger Rosengarten (73) against
Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Washington Huskies offensive lineman Roger Rosengarten (73) against / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The latest rumors have the Niners taking a wide receiver at 31. The timing this close to the draft indicates it’s a smokescreen, and a leverage play in contract talks with Brandon Aiyuk.

Is it that strong a card to play though? ESPN’s Adam Schefter said this week he’s heard Texas receiver A.D. Mitchell goes earlier than the projected 25 to 32. So now the Niners use 31 on light receivers Xavier Worthy or Ladd McConkey, non-separator Keon Coleman? Hard to see that. Xavier Legette is projected for the 40s.

Some say draft a center at 31, but Shanahan’s history is to go with vets, and this rare center class is ten deep.

At defensive line, Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline says the Niners were hot on Western Michigan’s Marshawn Kneeland, but no longer since they added two edges in free agency. I think they need Kneeland’s skillset as the draft’s best edge setter against the run, but Pauline is reliable and the latest Niners actions back him up.

The recent visit to Seattle by John Lynch and offensive line coach Chris Foerster foreshadows drafting Washington tackle Roger Rosengarten. The Niners have brought in BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia for a 30 visit, he has speed, power and upside but needs technique work. I think that’s due diligence, a make sure check against Rosengarten.

OT at 31 seems likely now when combined with a new 30 visit for Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr., and a visit by Oregon’s Brandon Dorlus. That points to the Niners targeting DT in the second.

Defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton of Illinois may drop to 31 but surprisingly the Niners have not met with him formally yet. The 49ers were at his pro day yesterday. If they invite him for a visit, he’ll be in the mix at 31, if he drops. The Athletic's Dane Brugler just mocked Newton to the Niners.

Players with a 30 visit are marked with an *.

31. Roger Rosengarten (Washington) OT 6-5/308, 21
A reach at 31 but the Niners may value getting the 5th-year option for a first-round pick. Rosengarten is ascending, some have him going in the 30s to mid-40s. Lynch and Foerster’s visit, and a recommendation from Joe Staley after working with Rosengarten, may close the deal.

The Niners value linemen with speed and Rosengarten excelled at the combine with a 1.73 10 and an OT best 4.92 40. He gave up 16 pressures and no sacks this year. He has quick feet and functional strength with smart hands and technique. The issue with Rosengarten is core strength, he only had 20 bench reps at the Combine, and lost to the superior strength of the Michigan defensive line in the national championship.

63. Michael Hall Jr. (Ohio State)* DT 6-3/299, 21
First-step explosion, leverage, power, and moves. Hall checks all the boxes for defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Dorlus is more versatile and brings more pressure, but Hall has the desired skill profile and is two years younger. Age is a factor in this draft with several older players due to the Covid year.

Hall had 29 pressures and two sacks this season. He’s 2nd in the class in win rates, 17.6% pass and 26.9% one-on-one.  Hall ran the 2nd fastest IDL 10 and fastest 40 at the Combine and did well in the explosive drills, he also proved his power with 25 reps on the bench.

In the third round, while there are key needs at linebacker and in the secondary, this is where Kyle Shanahan makes his offensive weapon pick.

Some would argue running back in the 3rd, but if the 49ers plan to extend Christian McCaffrey a back wouldn’t play much for at least two years. Remove the backs who are 23 and older and that points to RB on Day 3 or an undrafted free agent. It’s worth noting that the Niners have talked with three running backs who are 21 and younger.

Since the 30 visits initially had three receivers projected for the late 3rd (Malachi Corley has since moved up), that would indicate the draft plan is to go receiver here. The receiver class drops off after the late 3rd-early 4th so using one of the three 4th rounders to move up for their target is warranted.

The 49ers trade 94 and 132 to Cleveland for 85.

85. Javon Baker (Central Florida)* WR 6-1/202, 22
Baker fills a key need with a contested catch rate of 56.3%, top five in the draft class. He competes for the ball, shows good strength at the catch point, and is effective in the red zone. His hands are iffy though, with a 10% drop rate. Solid productivity with 1,139 yards and 7 TDs. Baker only has 4.54 speed, but he has a quick first step and is a crafty separator.

Day 3 picks.

124. Dadrion Taylor-Demerson (Texas Tech) FS 5-10/197, 22
If DTD or Kentucky LB Trevin Wallace fall they make sense here. DTD drops due to size but has 4.41 speed to play center field. He’s a solid tackler, can blitz, and had four PBUs and four picks.

135. Beaux Limmer (Arkansas) C 6-5/302, 23
A smart violent finisher with the feet to get to the 2nd level. He may not last, the next best centers are Pitt’s versatile Hunter Nourzad or Wisconsin’s Tanor Bortolini, who ran a 4.94 40 at Indy.

Another trade up for a target, the 49ers deal 176 and 211 to Miami for 158.

158. Decamerion Richardson (Mississippi State)* DB 6-2/188, 23
Fast. 1.48 10 and 4.34 40. 32+ arms. Tackles well, solid run D. Tools without technique.

215. Erick All (Iowa)* TE 6-4/252, 23
Solid blocker with the potential to be a 2-way player, held back by injuries.

251. Ainias Smith (Texas A&M) Slot WR/KR 5-9/190, 23
76-yard punt return TD. Stop-start accelerator with great hands, YAC ability, and 21 bench reps.

UDFA Targets: Jamal Hill (Oregon)* LB, Tatum Bethune (Fla St)* LB, Devron Harper (Mercer) WR/KR, Keilan Robinson (Texas) RB/KR, Devin Leary (Kentucky) QB, Austin Reed (W Ky) QB, Jack Westover (UW) TE, Sam Pinckney (Coastal Car) WR, Myles Sims (GA Tech) DB.

Tom Jensen