San Francisco 49ers: Mike Evans

Here are some highlights from our San Francisco 49ers chat, which was held earlier Thursday:
Patrick: Do you think the offense will be a bit more pass happy this year? I think having Lattimore, James and Hunter in the back field will be pretty scary for defenses.

Bill Williamson: That's always the goal. Have to take advantage more of screens.

Lloyd Nelson from New Jersey: Do you think the Niners pick up Aldon Smith's option?

BW: Too tight to call but this is what I know -- I would do it. It's the smart football decision. The 49ers can make it very clear to Smith that it can be pulled and they fully expect him to get his stuff together. Not exercising the option may send the right message, but if it comes back to bite the team, what good is it?

Ruben Bustoz from Pacific Beach, Calif.: I don't think a cornerback will get us to the Super Bowl with our first pick, we have to beat that Seahawks secondary. Would you rather trade up for Mike Evans or let Kelvin Benjamin fall to us? Both 6'5" and are red zone targets!

BW: But they need a corner. So they have to get one.
Earlier Tuesday, we looked at why a trade with Baltimore to move up to No. 17 in the first round of next week’s draft would make sense to the San Francisco 49ers.

Truly, any team is a potential trade partner when the clock starts and the board starts to fall, but here are some teams that could stick out as other potential trade partners for the 49ers:

Oakland Raiders

Where they pick: No. 5

Cost range: It would probably cost the 49ers No. 30, No. 56, No. 61, No 77 and perhaps even No. 94.

Possible targets: Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans.

How it could happen: Only if the 49ers felt Watkins or Evans was the missing link to a Super Bowl win. I’m sure the Raiders, who need all the help they can get, would jump at this. I’d say it’s a longshot.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Where they pick: No. 15

Cost range: No. 30, No. 56, and No. 94 or No. 56 and No. 61. and No. 77

Possible targets: Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

How it could happen: I’m not sure the 49ers would give up their first three picks for any of these prospects, but if they are desperate for a particular player it could happen.

Kansas City Chiefs

Where they pick: No. 23

Cost range: Perhaps No. 56 and No. 61.

Possible targets: Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks.

How it could happen: I’m sure the Chiefs would like to get back No. 56, which was part of the Alex Smith trade last year.

Cleveland Browns

Where they pick: No. 26

Cost range: No. 56 and No. 61

Possible targets: Cooks, Indiana receiver Cody Latimer, TCU cornerback Jason Verrett

How it could happen: The Browns are reloading. They could be interested, especially if they get their quarterback at No. 4.
Todd McShay has been studying the San Francisco 49ers spot at No. 30 in the first round of the May 8-10 draft.

McShay thinks they may be in a rough spot.

While their top needs, receiver and cornerback, are the two deepest positions in this draft, McShay thinks seven receivers and five cornerbacks could go in the first round.

Here are the receivers he thinks can go in the first 32 picks: Clemson's Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M's Mike Evans, LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, USC's Marqise Lee, Indiana's Cody Latimer and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin. Here are the cornerbacks McShay thinks will go in the first round: Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller, Ohio State's Bradley Roby and TCU's Jason Verrett. Roby, however, is coming off an OVI incident in Ohio, which he disputes. That could take him off team's boards and lessen the first-round market. UPDATE: Roby pled guilty to a lesser charge Tuesday.

McShay says that several teams that pick right in front of the 49ers need a receiver or a cornerback. He thinks the teams drafting from No. 22-28 could easily take a player at one of those two spots.

That would create two problems for the 49ers.

All the players in this group could be off the board when the 49ers pick at No. 30. Plus, because so many teams are in the market for cornerbacks and receivers, the 49ers may have a difficult time trading up in the 22-28 range because few teams want to avoid the dilemma that may be facing San Francisco.

The 49ers may have to trade in the 15-20 range to get a player they covet. They have six picks in the first 100 picks, so they do have picks to trade. Plus, they have shown they aren't afraid to move up. The 49ers traded up from No. 31 to No. 18 to grab safety Eric Reid last year.

McShay said the receiver class is much deeper, so it may behoove the 49ers to try to take a cornerback in the first round and then grab a receiver later. McShay believes there are 21 receivers who could be taken in the first four rounds.
Last week, ESPN's Chris Mortensen mentioned there has been talk around the league circles that the San Francisco 49ers could be planning a big move up in the first round of the May draft.

Mortensen suggested a target could be Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans. He could be a top 10 pick. A move up from No. 30 would require the 49ers -- who have six picks in the first 100 -- to surrender a lot. In addition to receiver the 49ers also have a big need at cornerback. A trade for a player like Evans would likely eat up most of the team's premium picks and hurt their chances of landing a quality cornerback barring another trade up.

At his pre-draft news conference on Friday, 49ers' general manager Trent Baalke -- the man in charge of making those decisions -- was predictability evasive. Basically, Baalke said the 49ers can do anything come May 8.

"The answer is the same every year: Do we have the ammunition to make a jump to go get somebody? Yes. Are we motivated to do that? Depends," Baalke said. "There's so many factors that go into it when you're sitting at 30. Where do you need to go when you're targeting somebody? You saw us last year make a move to go get somebody. Will we do that this year? I don't know. I may know but I'm not going to tell you.

"It's something we're still working on. We're not there yet. There are players we certainly like. We're trying to determine where they may go, how high we may need to go if we so choose. If we stay, are we prepared to make a pick? If we stay, are we prepared to make the pick? Could we move back? That's always a possibility when you're sitting at 30. There's a lot of different ways we could go."

Baalke isn't afraid of a big move up. Last year, the 49ers went from No. 31 to No. 18 to draft LSU safety Eric Reid. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

Former Tampa Bay general Mark Dominik laid out this trade scenario, Insider in which the 49ers move up in the first round.
Gilbert/DennardGetty ImagesOklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, left, and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard are two players who could upgrade San Francisco's defense.
When the May 8-10 NFL draft is complete, the San Francisco 49ers will likely have new players at cornerback and wide receiver who will be expected to contribute as rookies.

Those two positions are the 49ers' biggest need areas. They don’t have a ton of immediate needs, so filling holes at those two spots is expected. To go along with the fact that they don’t have a lot of needs is the 49ers, whose first pick is No. 30, have six picks in the first three rounds, which is the most in the NFL.

So San Francisco is flexible. It can trade up to get a player -- more likely a cornerback than a receiver because receiver is deeper in top-end talent and cornerback is a more pressing need. It can also find a way to trade up and select twice in the first round. Or it can keep its two second-round picks (No. 56 and No. 61).

Let’s take a look at some of the players the 49ers could take at each spot. Since the 49ers are more likely to take a cornerback first, we will look at some of the second-tier receivers instead of top options such as Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans because both players would likely require big trade-ups.

Cornerbacks

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He’s widely considered the most complete cornerback in the draft by many scouts. He is also a dangerous return man. Of all the players in this draft, he could be worth the 49ers moving up.
  • What are the risks? There is no sure thing he will be an elite shutdown cornerback. He may just be very good and not worth a high pick.
  • How could he be the choice? If the 49ers think he is the missing link on their defense and he is worth a trade up of 15 to 18 spots, I could see this happen.
  • Quotable: “I think I'm a dangerous return man with the ball in my hands, and on an interception there is always a possibility for me to take it back to house,” said Gilbert on his playmaking ability.
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He looks the part and has shown flashes of being a star.
  • What are the risks? Some teams don’t think he is a true No. 1 cornerback. He may not be a perfect fit for every defense, and there are speed questions.
  • How could he be the choice? If he fell a little bit and if the 49ers have him high on their board, I could see a possible trade up to get him.
  • Quotable: “I know in the NFL it's a 5-yard radius. I can run with receivers, and I can go get the ball. I don't need to be that aggressive and still play good ball," Dennard said in this interview.
Jason Verrett, TCU

  • Why is he a top prospect? He is versatile, strong, smart and fundamentally sound. A terrific tackler.
  • What are the risks? He’s small. Many teams want their cornerbacks to be taller.
  • How could he be the choice? If he is there when the 49ers pick at No. 30, he would be difficult for them to pass up. He’d be a perfect fit in the slot, and the 49ers could go get taller cornerbacks in the second or third round.
  • Quotable: “If I’m 5-9, I’m 5-9. But I can compete with anybody,” said Verrett on his confidence despite his lack of ideal size.
[+] EnlargeBradley Roby
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesBradley Roby says he learned a lot in his final season at Ohio State.
Bradley Roby, Ohio State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He’s very athletic, and he looks the part.
  • What are the risks? He doesn’t have the greatest ball skills, and he wasn’t consistent last season. He was arrested on OVI charges in Ohio last weekend.
  • How could he be the choice? He fits on the field, but I just can't see the 49ers taking a player in the early rounds who is fresh off an arrest because of their rash of off-field issues this offseason.
  • Quotable: “I think I had a decent season. It wasn’t what I expected. The first half of the season didn’t go as I expected. Those things happen. I learned a lot from it, and I got better,” Roby said of criticisms of his 2013 performance.
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

  • Why is he a top prospect? He’s super fast, and the game doesn’t seem too big for him.
  • What are the risks? There is concern that he might be just a good college player.
  • How could he be the choice? If he is on the board at No. 30 (no sure thing), I could easily see the 49ers jumping on him. They’ve scouted him hard.
  • Quotable: “I moved around in our defensive backfield. I played field, I played boundary. That just shows how versatile I am. I enjoyed playing at Virginia Tech. I definitely consider myself a physical player,” Fuller said about the style of play he concentrated on in college.
Receivers

Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He is highly productive and polished, complete with top-shelf speed. That’s rare.
  • What are the risks? He is not big and perhaps the NFL game could be too much for him.
  • How could he be the choice? If he is there at No. 30, the 49ers would have a hard time saying no to him. He could be part of a trade up. I could see the 49ers maybe giving up their two second-round picks to take Cooks at No. 25 and then take a cornerback at No. 30. The Northern California native would look great in a 49ers uniform.
  • Talking numbers: Cooks led the Football Bowl Subdivision with 32 receptions of 20 yards or longer.
Odell Beckham, LSU

  • Why is he a top prospect? He is highly athletic, fast and productive.
  • What are the risks? LSU receivers haven’t always had the greatest NFL success.
  • How could he be the choice? There’s a lot to like about Beckham. If the timing is right, I could see the 49ers getting aggressive in their pursuit of him.
  • Talking numbers: He had an AQ-high 26 receptions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer downfield last season. He had multiple receptions on passes of this distance in seven of 13 games.
[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonMarqise Lee caught 57 passes for 791 yards and four touchdowns in 2013.
Marqise Lee, USC

  • Why is he a top prospect? He has had success, and he looks the part of a stud No. 1 receiver.
  • What are the risks? He is not overly fast. He is a bit on the slight side, and he wasn’t great in 2013.
  • How could he be the choice? There has been talk that Lee could fall. If he’s there at No. 30, the 49ers may be tempted. Perhaps they could see how far he would drop in the second round and then make a move for him.
  • Talking numbers: USC quarterbacks completed 69.7 percent of their pass attempts, with 29 touchdowns and just one interception, when targeting Lee in his career.
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He’s a big, strong, impact player.
  • What are the risks? Some scouts think that he is a bit raw and should have stayed in school for another season.
  • How could he be the choice? I’m not sure the 49ers would take Benjamin at No. 30 if one of the top cornerbacks is on the board.
  • Talking numbers: Benjamin gained a first down or touchdown on 83.3 percent of his receptions last season, tied for the third-highest percentage among FBS wide receivers.
Davante Adams, Fresno State

  • Why is he a top prospect? He is big and strong and was ultraproductive.
  • What are the risks? Some scouts worry that he hasn’t faced great competition and there could be a learning curve in the NFL.
  • How could he be the choice? If Adams is on the board in the second round, the 49ers could easily take this Bay Area native. Like 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Adams played for Earl Hansen at Palo Alto High School. Harbaugh is still close to Hansen, so he has some inside information. Adams was at the 49ers' pro day for local prospects Friday.
  • Talking numbers: Adams led the FBS in receptions (131) and receiving touchdowns (24) and ranked second with 888 yards after the catch.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

  • Why is he a top prospect? Polished, hard worker who has big upside.
  • What are the risks? Doesn’t have great speed, and some scouts wonder if he will make a big impact in the NFL.
  • How could he be the choice? He could be a possibility in the second round, although the 49ers might be looking for a receiver with more speed.
  • Talking numbers: Matthews led all AQ receivers with 44 receptions and 421 yards on screen passes last season. He averaged 9.6 yards per reception on screens, which was 2.5 yards more than the AQ average.
Cody Latimer, Indiana

  • Why is he a top prospect? Teams are focusing on Latimer. He has top-end length and speed.
  • What are the risks? Receiver is a high-bust position. There have been good college players like Latimer who have failed before.
  • How could he be the choice? The 49ers could fall in love with Latimer’s speed and try to take him if he is available near the end of the first round.
  • Talking numbers: In 2013, Latimer caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns.
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina

  • Why is he a top prospect? Small, but strong player who is excellent after the catch.
  • What are the risks? Not overly polished and doesn’t possess great speed.
  • How could he be the choice? He could be a good value in the second round.
  • Talking numbers: Ellington had a combed 15 touchdown catches in the past two seasons.
Mel Kiper Jr. isn't as sold on this NFL draft class as a whole as some others around the league are. Kiper, who has been evaluating draft prospects for 35 years, thinks there are some holes.

However, some good news for the San Francisco 49ers, Kiper does believe with the masses in this regard -- he thinks the receiver and cornerback positions are stacked and those positions just happen to be the two biggest need areas for the 49ers.

In a near-hour conference call with NFL Nation reporters, Kiper repeatedly talked about the virtues of the two positions. I asked him if he thought the 49ers, who have a surplus of picks and few needs, should trade way up in the first round to get a receiver, such as Texas A&M's Mike Evans or a cornerback such as Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert.

Kiper said he thinks the 49ers, who have the No. 30th pick in the first round, can play the draft any way they feel comfortable. "They can go either way depending on their board," Kiper said, "or they can stay put and get both."

Kiper says some options for the 49ers at No. 30 include receivers Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU, Brandin Cooks of Oregon State and Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State.

Also, Kiper is a believer in TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, who is recovering from a torn labrum. Verrett is small, but a supreme slot cornerback, Kiper said. Other cornerbacks, who the 49ers may be able to get in a trade early in the second round, include Nebraska’s Stan Jean-Baptiste and Utah's Keith McGill. Both are bigger cornerbacks, which the 49ers covet.
Last month, we looked at the looming decision the San Francisco 49ers face regarding their draft approach.

The 49ers, who have 11 picks and a stacked roster, have the No. 30 pick in the first round.

The options laid out for the 49ers: A) package several picks to move up to the Nos. 10-12 range to get a top receiver such as Texas A&M's Mike Evans, or B) stay where they are in the first round and package their two second-round picks, Nos. 56 and 61, to get back into the end of the first round so they can take a receiver and a cornerback.

Those are the team's top two needs and, fortunately for the 49ers, both areas are deep in this draft. Now that the impact portion of free agency is over, I think the 49ers should make this decision regarding their draft approach: go with option B and get the two first-round picks.

Why? The 49ers didn’t improve at cornerback in free agency. They need to get a player who can help right away in the first round. But they also need to get a speedy receiver and will do it in the draft unless trade talks for DeSean Jackson develop.

Because both areas are deep, this approach is the best way for the 49ers to improve in the immediate and long-term future. If the 49ers can grab a receiver such as Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks and a cornerback such as TCU’s Jason Verrett, that would be a huge score.
Weekend mail call:

Jackie from Euclid, Ohio, wants to know: Who is the best receiver the San Francisco 49ers could get in the draft?

Bill Williamson: I think they can get up to the Nos. 10-12 range in the first round. That could put them in position to draft Mike Evans from Texas A&M. However, this is a deep class and the 49ers, who have the 30th pick in the first round, may find it best to stay in the back end of the round and see who falls to them. The top possibilities there include LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., Oregon State's Brandin Cooks and Fresno State's Davante Adams.

Walter from LA wants to know: If I think Bay Area native Jared Allen could join the 49ers in free agency.

BW: I think it'd make sense if the 49ers had a big need there. He'd fit in with the 49ers and I'm sure he'd like to come home. But the 49ers just don't have a big need for a pass-rusher. The only way I could see this union happening is if Allen came very cheaply. I don't expect to happen.

Charlie W. from Visalia, Ca. wants to know: If I think the 49ers' reported turmoil affects quarterback Colin Kaepernick's desire to sign a long-term contract.

BW: Good question. The answer is, ultimately, no. Players want to be paid fair market value. Other distractions usually don't play a big role. With that said, I'm sure Kaepernick would like there to be harmony among the men who are in charge of coaching him and building the team around him. But I don't expect it to be a big issue.
Evening notes after another day at ESPN headquarters:

If the San Francisco 49ers want to move up for a receiver in the first round of the May draft, one target could be Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. He is considered one of the best receivers available. But he would require a big trade up, perhaps into the 10-15 range. The 49ers have the means with an expected 13 draft picks. They own the No. 30 pick in the first round.

The 49ers are clearly interested in getting to know Evans. They met with him at his pro day Wednesday. Now, let’s make this clear: Every team meets with a lot of players. Teams aren’t doing their job if they don’t do their due diligence.

We won’t know if the 49ers truly covet Evans until May 8, but it’s noteworthy he is part of pre-draft inquiry.
  • CBS Sports thinks quarterback Colin Kaepernick will average $20 million-plus in his new contract, which is being negotiated and which could be struck this offseason. I believe it. The man is going to get paid.
  • Yahoo Sports reported 49ers’ general manager Trent Baalke was at Wisconsin’s Pro Day Wednesday. Receiver Jared Abbrederis is among the Badgers’ top prospects. The 49ers need a receiver.
  • 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the Kansas basketball team on campus Wednesday. He may have some explaining to do at the next family get together. Harbaugh’s brother in-law is Indiana coach Tom Crean.
  • CBS Sports thinks Baltimore defensive end Art Jones could be a fit for the 49ers in free agency. My take? Yes, he could help, but the 49ers want to keep their own free agents first before going outside for help.
The San Francisco 49ers will have options in the draft.

They are expected to have 12 draft picks and they have few needs. The team has a choice to make when it comes to how to handle the top of the draft. The 49ers own the No. 30 pick in the first round and the No. 56 (from the Alex Smith trade with the Chiefs) and the No. 61 picks in the second round.

The 49ers could take a few routes. They can keep all of their first three picks. But I don’t that will be their top choice. They have buying power and will likely want to see what it can get them.

They could try to package all three of their top picks and try to get in the No. 10-12 range with hopes of scoring a top receiver.

They could decide to take advantage of the deep draft and perhaps package No. 56 and No. 61 and try to get another late first-round pick. The two choices could possibly get them in the 29, 31, 32 range.

The 49ers’ top needs are receiver and cornerback. Both positions are deep. So, the team could potentially get two solid, impact players with choices at the end of the first round. The 49ers may have to decide whether take want to go get a receiver like Mike Evans or try to get a receiver like Brandin Cooks and a cornerback such as Jason Verrett at the end of the first round.

So, the 49ers definitely have some choices to make over the next couple of months. Whatever choices the team makes, they are in position to improve at the top of the draft.

49ers combine primer

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
8:00
AM ET
The NFL scouing combine is underway and lasts until early next week in Indianapolis. Let's take a look at what the San Francisco 49ers' front office staff, coaches and scouts will be doing as they watch drills and interview prospects in preparation for the May 8-10 draft.

First-round pick: No. 30.

Total picks: The 49ers have 11 picks, but are expected to get either a third or fourth-round compensatory pick. They are usually allotted in Mach.

Top needs: The 49ers want to add a play-making receiver to deepen the team's aerial weaponry. Developing a young cornerback is also key for this deep roster. 49ers have ammo to move up in draft as they did last year.

Players they could scout in first-round: Receivers Mike Evans (Texas A&M), Marqise Lee (USC), Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State), Allen Robinson (Penn State), Brandin Cooks (Oregon State); cornerbacks: Jason Verrett (TCU), Bradley Roby (Ohio State).

Other business: Teams often talk to their own free agents at the combine to get a feel for the market and try to finalize deals before free agency. It begins March 11.The 49ers priority free agents include receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Donte Whitner, kick Phil Dawson and cornerback Tarell Brown.

Media time: Coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke are expected to meet with the media in the next couple of days.
Whether the San Francisco 49ers trade up in the draft to take a receiver will be a topic leading up to the May 8-10 draft.

The 49ers are expected to have 12 draft picks and may have six in the first three rounds depending on their compensatory pick, which is expected to be dispersed in March. Receiver is the 49ers' top need. Considering the 49ers moved up from No. 31 to No. 18 to take safety Eric Reid last year and the fact that Reid made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, the 49ers may be more than willing to make a big trade up. The 49ers gave Dallas the No. 31 and No. 74 pick (third round) to take Reid at No. 18.

The question is, how high will San Francisco have to move up from No. 30 to grab a receiver?

The top three receivers are considered to be Clemson's' Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M's Mike Evans and USC's Marqise Lee. In Mel Kiper's latest mock draft, he has Watkins going fifth, Evans going 13th and Lee going 18th. In Todd McShay's latest mock draft, the top receivers are more clustered. McShay has Watkins ninth, Evans 10th and Lee 13th

Let's say the 49ers target Evans, who would be a great fit for them. They will likely get up to 10-12 range to get a chance for him. If he is available at 12 and the New York Giants are willing to trade down, the 49ers could potentially be interested.

What would it cost to go from No. 30 to No. 12? It would be less than what it cost Atlanta to go from No. 27 to No. 6 to take receiver Julio Jones in a deal with Cleveland. This is what the Falcons sent the Browns' first, second and fourth-round picks in 2011 and their first- and fourth-round picks in 2012.

The 49ers could potentially offer No. 30, No. 56 (second-round pick acquired in Alex Smith trade with Kansas City) and No. 77 (a third-round pick acquired from Tennessee in a 2013 draft-day trade) to the Giants to take Evans at No. 12. It is a good fit according to the NFL draft value chart used as a guideline by most NFL teams. The chart values the No. 12 pick at 1,200 points. The No. 30, No. 56 and No. 77 picks' combined value is at 1,165.

If the 49ers made that trade, they'd have the No. 12, No. 61 and No. 94 picks in the third rounds with the potential of the extra comp pick.

Getting an impact player like Evans and still having premium picks would be a pretty nice situation for the 49ers. Again, the trade process is just starting, but it is not impossible to think the 49ers can use their pick surplus and address their top need for the second draft in a row.

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