With the NFL Draft just weeks away, it remains unclear which direction the San Francisco 49ers are leaning towards in the draft. Most likely, it will be on the defensive side of the ball. However do they go big, and add a defensive lineman, or do they draft for speed, and select a ballhawk defensive back? Those are some serious questions that need to be answered, inside the 49ers war room. So with an abundance of prospects to choose from, which direction will they go in? After evaluating the prospects, and supply and demand, I believe they will shore up the secondary first.
The 49ers hold the 31st pick in the first-round, and many NFL Draft pundits including Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have the 49ers drafting a defensive end, with DE Datone Jones (UCLA) and DE Margus Hunt (SMU) respectively. In addition, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has the 49ers picking DT Jesse Williams (Alabama). However, I would be first to argue that none of those players hold value to warrant the 31st pick. GM Trent Baalke, loves to pick players based on value, and besides Jones, none of those players resemble anything close to a first-round grade. Sure they were workout warriors during the NFL combine (Hunt) and Pro Day (Williams), but none of them looked like a first-round grade on film. Welcome Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks, Washington CB Desmond Trufant, and Florida International University FS Jonathan Cyprien.
All three of those players have been shooting up draft boards early, and then cooled off as of late. Banks in particular would provide great value with the 31st pick. He was the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the Nation’s best defensive back, while consistently suffocating wide receivers in the SEC. He is the ideal cornerback in terms of size, standing 6-2 and 185 pounds. Although not a true shut-down corner, Banks is good enough to compete with CB Tarrell Brown and CB Chris Culliver for playing time, which would be a huge lift in Vic Fangio’s sub-packages.
Trufant on the other hand is the perfect H-W-S (Height-Weight-Speed) specimen. At 6-0, 190 pounds, and running a blazing 4.38 40-yard dash, Trufant is eye-candy for most defensive coordinators. He played well at the Senior Bowl and continued that momentum at the NFL combine. Trufant does not have the potential to be great, but he does have the skill-set to succeed in nickel and dime packages for years to come. He also would provide versatility as a gunner in the return game.
Cyprien, is the dark horse of the three. He has the skill-set to play in the box, while possessing enough speed to play zone coverage. He does not have elite speed which can be a problem against the Green Bay Packers or Atlanta Falcons, but Cyprien more than makes up for his coverage skills with vicious hits. A similar player to the departed FS Dashon Goldson, Cyprien is not afraid to mix it up with ball-carriers, especially between the tackles.
With the 49ers holding the 31st, 34th, and 61st picks in the first two-rounds you can bet your money they will go defense with at least two of those picks. And if these players are still on the board, I predict the 49ers will target at least one of them, by either trading up or trading down.
As the draft nears, look for the 49ers to be actively pursuing trades, in order to better the team.