There are some terrific wide receivers available to the 49ers in the draft.
Brandin Cooks of Oregon State, Marqise Lee of USC, Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State, Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU and Allen Robinson of Penn State are among the wideouts mentioned as possibly being available to the 49ers at the tail end of the first round on May 8.
It’s believed that the 49ers might also be able to move up to the middle of the first round to take Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans. But the No. 1 wide receiver, Sammy Watkins of Clemson, has been perceived as out of bounds for San Francisco. Watkins – perhaps the best offensive playmaker in the draft – has been projected to be among the top five picks.
Watkins, who is 6-foot-1 and runs a 4.43 40-yard dash, is thought to be a can’t-miss prospect and the class of what is considered an excellent draft for pass catchers.
But strange things happen on draft day. Players rise to the top or slide down the draft board depending on trades, needs and the latest private workouts.
Because of that, NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah says it’s not that far-fetched that the 49ers could have a chance to land Watkins.
“If they have a player they want to target, they could go up and get a real difference maker,” Jeremiah said. “Maybe a player like Sammy Watkins starts to slide closer to the 10th overall pick. If you’re (49ers GM) Trent Baalke, maybe you say, ‘Let’s go all in and grab a difference maker.’ ”
Added NFL.com analyst Brian Baldinger: “If there is a once-every-five-years type of player, like Sammy Watkins, you’d be crazy not to do it.”
The 49ers, after all, have six of the first 100 picks in the draft, a first-rounder, two seconds and three thirds. That gives Baalke plenty of chips to trade.
One wild card, however, is the arrest of cornerback Chris Culliver last week. Already with a hole at cornerback because of the departure of Tarell Brown to Oakland, the Niners have been counting on Culliver to play a big role in 2014. But if off-the-field issues cause the 49ers to reconsider, perhaps San Francisco decides to stay put at No. 30 in the first round and use its top three selections on some combination of wide receivers and cornerbacks.
Moving into the top 10 to go after Watkins would cost the 49ers several picks. And, too, they may like a player such as Evans, Cooks or Lee almost as much, meaning they could upgrade at wideout without the enormously steep price.
While Watkins-to-the-49ers is intriguing, it doesn’t appear to be the most likely draft-day scenario.