Mel Kiper Jr. is back with his third 2013 NFL mock draft for the first round.
We'll run through the projected picks for NFC West teams, beginning in reverse order and working our way forward. As usual, I'll sample from Kiper's analysis before thoughts.
31. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Kiper's give: Justin Smith will be 34 in September, and the 49ers need to think about who could take over for him long term, and spell him in the interim. Jones can provide an interior pass-rushing presence.
Sando's take: Kiper's previous mocks also had the 49ers taking defensive linemen. Sharrif Floyd of Florida was the projection in the first mock. Kiper has Floyd going third overall in this latest mock. Kiper had the 49ers taking John Jenkins of Georgia in his second mock. Jenkins wasn't a first-round selection this time. The need for defensive linemen appears heightened by the 49ers' decision to let Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois hit the market in free agency. Sopoaga reached agreement with Philadelphia already. The 49ers did extend Ian Williams' contract, an indication Williams' playing time should rise. One key question is whether the 49ers plan to expand their rotation along the line. Smith and Ray McDonald could be at risk for wearing down after playing so many snaps recently. McDonald has held up so far despite a history of chronic knee trouble. Smith, one of the NFL's iron men over the past decade, underwent arm surgery recently.