San Francisco 49ers: Sammy Watkins

During the draft, the San Francisco 49ers acquired receiver Stevie Johnson from the Buffalo Bills for a conditional fourth-round pick. NFL Nation 49ers reporter Bill Williamson and Buffalo Bills reporter Mike Rodak discuss what the trade means for both teams.

Williamson: Mike, it appeared Johnson's days with the Bills were over when they moved up to take Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 overall pick. Johnson was gone less than 24 hours later. Was it as simple as that?

[+] EnlargeStevie Johnson
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesThere was no room for Stevie Johnson in Buffalo, but he gives San Francisco much-needed options with three-receiver sets.
Rodak: Bill, I think the Bills had a good idea for a while that they wanted to move on from Johnson if they were able to replace him in the draft. Once they selected Watkins, it put those plans in motion, which is why Johnson was gone less than 24 hours after Watkins arrived. There were questions about Johnson's future in Buffalo dating to late last season. The problem was if the Bills were (a) able to replace his production in the offense, and (b) find the right compensation on the trade market. I think the Bills did well by receiving a conditional fourth-round pick -- it could become a third-round pick -- in return for Johnson, while Watkins should slide into Johnson's old role as the No. 1 receiver.

Many Bills fans are hoping that Johnson puts up good numbers in San Francisco, as that could trigger the Bills receiving the third-round pick instead of the fourth-round selection. What are the chances of Johnson contributing right away with the 49ers? Where does he fit on the depth chart?

Williamson: Johnson is going to play extensively. He will be the third receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. But this isn't about him being behind anyone. This is about the 49ers adding another key piece. The 49ers feel their best way of toppling Seattle is with more receiving weapons, so Johnson will get a chance to contribute a lot. The 49ers ran the fewest three-receiver sets in the NFL last year. That was mostly because of their options. They clearly will feel more comfortable with Johnson in their three-receiver sets. Still, it will be somewhat of an adjustment for the offense. Thus, it is a bit difficult to predict just how many catches Johnson will get. But it is safe to say the 49ers didn't bring him on board to put him on the bench.

Mike, do you think Johnson can thrive in San Francisco or do you think he is on the downslide?

Rodak: I think Johnson has plenty left in the tank. Last season's performance was a combination of two factors: (a) playing with a carousel of inexperienced quarterbacks -- EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel -- who weren't able to consistently get him the ball, and (b) a string of injuries that kept him out of four games. Johnson drew criticism last offseason for a perception that he didn't work out and train as extensively as he needed to. Whether that led to his injuries last season is debatable, but Johnson was at the Bills' facility for the start of their workout program this offseason and seemed ready to go at full speed. If he keeps that mentality in San Francisco, the 49ers shouldn't have any issues with Johnson. If he stays healthy, he can still be an effective receiver.

Bill, what does this trade mean for some of the other receivers on the depth chart? Jonathan Baldwin and Brandon Lloyd have tried to re-start their careers in San Francisco, while Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington are younger players in the mix. How will that all shake out?

Williamson: Baldwin is all but gone. He needed to do well last year and he couldn't produce. Lloyd was an interesting, cheap add last month. But the trade of Johnson and the drafting of the speedy Ellington changed that. Last season, when Michael Crabtree was out for the first 11 games, the 49ers got virtually nothing from their receivers other than Boldin. Now, the group of Boldin, Crabtree, Johnson, Patton (who played well down the stretch after coming back from a broken foot) and Ellington gives the 49ers one of the deepest receiving groups in the NFL. It's a stunning transformation and it will all benefit quarterback Colin Kaepernick greatly. He was terrific once Crabtree returned. With a better receiving group this year, I expect the electric Kaepernick to be stellar all season.

Mike, in closing, do you think the Bills will miss Johnson or is this trade the best for everyone?

Rodak: I think both sides will benefit. The Bills didn't have room for Johnson and it didn't make sense for him to stick around. In trading Johnson now, they clear cap space -- he was set to make about $9 million each of the next two seasons -- and also pick up a draft pick next year. Since they traded their 2015 first- and fourth-round selections to move up for Watkins, having that extra pick will help. With Watkins, Woods, and Mike Williams in the mix, I don't think the Bills will miss Johnson too much.
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.
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.

Mailbag: Draft trade chatter

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
8:00
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Weekend mail call:

Cap from Fort Collins, Colo., wants to know if I think the 49ers could possibly add a second first-round pick in a trade with Cleveland, which has the No. 26 pick in the first round.

Bill Williamson: I’d say, yes. The Browns could be a potential trade partner, especially if some quarterbacks fall. I can see the 49ers trying to get another pick in the first round to go with their pick, which is No. 30. The 49ers might be able to package No. 56 and No. 61 or maybe even No. 56 and No. 77 to move up a few spots. That way they can grab a cornerback and a receiver in the first round.

Sam from Colorado Springs wants to know if the 49ers could trade up as high as No. 3 with Jacksonville in the first round.

BW: The highest the 49ers could probably go is No. 5 to Oakland. But it’s doubtful they would go that high because it would likely cost about five picks. But if the 49ers want to move up to take someone such as Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins perhaps they could land the pick. Again, it’s a long shot.

Dave from La Crosse, Wis., wants to know if the 49ers could consider trading Aldon Smith to move up in the first round.

BW: Smith is a great player and he has value. But I don’t see many teams giving up a premium pick for someone who is dealing with so many off-field problems right now.
Weekend mail call:

Jay from Meridian, Idaho, wants to know why I think TCU cornerback Jason Verrett is a good fit for the San Francisco 49ers.

Bill Williamson: He is a fantastic player. Let's start there. Verrett is smallish and he is more of a nickel cornerback than an outside cornerback, but he has a chance to be a star from that position. Defenses are playing from the nickel often, so if you are going to have a nickel on the field, you might as well have a great one and Verrett can become that.

Joseph from San Jose wants to know if I think the 49ers could trade their entire draft class to get Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

BW: I don't think it would cost all 11 of their picks, but it would probably cost No. 30, No. 56, No. 61, No. 77 and No. 94 to get in the range to take Watkins. The 49ers need to at least take a cornerback early, so I'm not sure they would be willing to give up so many picks. Drafting Watkins is tempting, but in the end, it would be a lot to swallow.

Mark from San Francisco wants to know if I think the 49ers could trade for Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne.

BW: I really don't think it would take much to get Claiborne. He would reunite with LSU teammate Eric Reid and he could benefit from being in this strong system. But I'm sure the 49ers are likely more interested in players from this draft first before making a flier on a player who been a disappointment so far. But, the idea is not unthinkable.
Weekend mail call:

Benny from San Mateo, Calif., wants to know how important was it for the 49ers to get a third-round compensatory pick.

Bill Williamson: The 49ers received the final of the third-round comp picks. It is the 100th overall pick and the last pick of the second day of the draft. The expectation was the 49ers would get a third or a fourth-round pick, so getting the third rounder is important. The comp pick can’t be traded, but it does allow the 49ers to be more flexible in dealing one or both of their two third-round picks, which are No. 77 and No. 94 overall. So, getting the extra pick was pretty big.

Michael from San Diego wants to know if the 49ers can acquire the No. 5 overall pick from the Raiders in order to snag Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

BW: It would take a big leap. Going form No. 30 to No. 5 would take a load. In 2011, it cost Atlanta a first, second and fourth-round picks in that draft and a first- and fourth-round picks in 2012 to go from No. 27 to No. 6 to take receiver Julio Jones in a deal with Cleveland. It may cost the 49ers the No. 30, No. 56, No. 61, No. 77 and No. 94 picks -- their first five picks. That is a major, major investment. But Watkins would be a beautiful fit for the 49ers, who don’t have a lot of other needs. Plus, the Raiders have a ton of needs and would likely be intrigued by getting a big cache of picks back. In the end, the 49ers would likely think the price is too steep, but if they fall in love with Watkins, you just never know.

George from San Jose wants to know how many of the 49ers’ 11 draft picks do I see making the 53-man roster.

BW: That’s another reason why the 49ers will likely consider bundling some picks. This is a loaded roster. I really don’t see more than five or six draft picks making the final roster, especially considering the 49ers are adding running back Marcus Lattimore and defensive lineman Tank Carradine. They were both injured during their rookie season.
Continuing their draft scouting process, the 49ers had representatives at Clemson's and TCU's pro days Thursday. The best player at Clemson is receiver Sammy Watkins, who would greatly fit the 49ers. But he might be a top-five pick, so it would require a major trade up from No. 30 to grab Watkins.

TCU boasts cornerbacks Jason Verrett, who could be a target of the 49ers at the end of the first round. He is undergoing surgery for a torn labrum, but he is expected to be ready for training camp.

In other 49ers notes:
  • The 49ers' website offered a great quote from coach Jim Harbaugh about his half-court swish while he was visiting Kansas' basketball practice Wednesday. Harbaugh told this site this: "I'm glad you heard about it." It was hard not to notice, Coach. It's been all over "SportsCenter."
  • A Twitter study conducted by Emory University showed the 49ers' fan base would be among the most receptive if the team drafted Missouri pass rusher Michael Sam. He is the poised to be the first openly gay NFL player.
Weekend mail call:

Mark from Fruita, Colo., wants to know if I think the San Francisco 49ers could move up in the first round of the draft to take Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

Bill Williamson: It would take a lot to get up to Watkins, the best receiver on the board. He could go as high as No. 5 and he will certainly go in the top 10. I’m not sure if the 49ers will be able to get all the way up from No. 30 to get a chance to take Watkins. However, if he falls to the No. 10 range, the 49ers may be tempted to put a big package together. He’d be a perfect fit.

Gary Flint from Los Gatos, Calif., wants to know what I expect from running back Marcus Lattimore in 2014.

BW: I expect him to be a contributor and to finish second in carries next to Frank Gore. The 49ers feel like Lattimore is healthy after a major 2012 knee injury.

Jazzy from Parsippany, N.J., wants to know what I think the odds are of the 49ers signing quarterback Colin Kaepernick to a long-term deal.

BW: There’s no doubt the 49ers will sign Kaepernick to a long-term contract. He is the long-term answer at the most important position on the field. The only question is when it will happen. He is an unrestricted free agent next year, but he can always be franchised if an agreement isn’t made this offseason.
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.
Both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay offered mock drafts for the first round of the May draft. Let’s review what they both mocked for the San Francisco 49ers at No. 30

Kiper: LSU receiver Jarvis Landry

Some of Kiper’s thoughts: Landry is a really strong hands-catcher who is fluid in and out of his breaks and doesn't care about making catches in traffic. Landry is a competitor and isn't afraid to throw a block.

My take: Landry may be a fine fit for the 49ers and receiver is their top need. I would also consider Penn State receiver Allen Robinson, who Kiper has tabbed to go to San Francisco rival Seattle at No. 32.

McShay: Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman

Some of McShay’s thoughts: Hageman has some boom-or-bust qualities, but he showed improvement last season. He is tall, well-proportioned and naturally strong, and not many guys his size move like he does.

My take: I’ve seen Hageman connected to the 49ers before. But if this is the way the board falls, taking Hageman at No. 30 wouldn’t be my top choice. The 49ers are deep at defensive tackle and unless they truly think they are getting a steal, I’d look at other positions first. Robinson and Landry would be available on McShay’s board and I’d take either one of them. Another thing that stands out on McShay’s board is Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins falling to No. 9. The 49ers have a surplus of picks and a lack of needs. They have the means to move up, so I’d consider that, too, if Watkins, who many think will be a top-five pick, starts to tumble.
In the first of what promises to be many, many of these things, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay offers his first mock draft for the first round Insider of the 2014 draft.

This mock is based on projected finishes for each team. While it is very early in the draft process, I think this is a worthwhile exercise to keep a tab on team needs.

McShay projects the 49ers to have the 28th pick in the first round. And his first choice for the 49ers is Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman.

My take: I can see the pick. The 49ers could use a dominant force in the middle of their line. So, this isn’t a bad first choice. But the team is deep on the line with plenty of alignment options. Their biggest need, as of right now is receiver. Cornerback could also become a need depending on what happens in free agency. I’ve long maintained the 49ers (who are set to have at least 13 picks) should move up in the draft as they did last year when they went from No. 31 to No. 18 to take LSU safety Eric Reid. That pick has worked out beautifully. The 49ers are deep and they can’t find room for all of their healthy players now on the 46-man game-day roster. I think they should pool picks and go get a star. My target would be Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins at this point.

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