2022 draft: 5 sleepers 49ers must watch closely at NFL Combine

Isaiah Likely #4 of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Isaiah Likely #4 of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /
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The 49ers have a bevy of picks late in the 2022 draft, meaning they should pay close attention to these five sleeper picks at the NFL Scouting Combine.

It’s that time of year again when the talk of the NFL offseason will center largely on free agency and then, ultimately, the annual NFL Draft. And, of course, the bulk of attention on the draft will focus on all those high-profile players poised to be drafted in Round 1.

For the San Francisco 49ers, of course, they’re expected to be completely idle on the opening night of the draft this April, not picking until the tail end of Round 2 at No. 61 overall, but general manager John Lynch does have a projected six picks on day three of the draft.

That means more sleepers potentially at the Niners’ disposal.

In 2017, tight end George Kittle was the find in Round 5. Last year, running back Elijah Mitchell was a flash for a sixth-round selection. Who’ll be next?

To help determine that, Lynch and Co. will be closely monitoring the action during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, which kicks off this week.

Particularly with these five sleeper picks on the radar.

49ers draft sleeper No. 5: TE Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina

San Francisco has long been searching for a quality No. 2 tight end to pair with Kittle, and last year suggested the team is willing to move away from Kittle’s former primary backup, Ross Dwelley, who’ll be a free agent this offseason.

With third-year pro Charlie Woerner little more than just a blocking option, the 49ers may turn to a small-school prospect in Coastal Carolina tight end Isaiah Likely, likely a fifth- or sixth-round selection on draft day and someone who could boost his draft stock a bit with an impressive combine workout.

Isaiah Likely Receiving & Rushing Table
Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
2018 Coastal Carolina Sun Belt FR TE 7 12 106 8.8 5 0 0 0 12 106 8.8 5
2019 Coastal Carolina Sun Belt SO TE 12 32 431 13.5 5 0 0 0 32 431 13.5 5
*2020 Coastal Carolina Sun Belt JR TE 10 30 601 20.0 5 0 0 0 30 601 20.0 5
*2021 Coastal Carolina Sun Belt SR TE 13 59 912 15.5 12 3 10 3.3 0 62 922 14.9 12
Career Coastal Carolina 133 2050 15.4 27 3 10 3.3 0 136 2060 15.1 27

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
Generated 2/28/2022.

Likely isn’t poised to be a great blocker at the NFL level, at least not initially. But it’s hard to overlook his production even if it’s not within college football’s toughest conference, and the Niners already have good blocking tight ends in Kittle and Woerner anyway.

At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Likely will want to showcase what strength he has but also some of that agility and speed that could make him a dark-horse candidate to become San Francisco’s next hidden-gem find at the position.