As Thursday’s NFL draft gets closer, the buzz is getting louder that the 49ers will make a bold move into the middle of the first round to take a player who can make an immediate impact.
One NFL general manager told Jason Cole of Yahoo sports that San Francisco – which has 13 picks in the draft – will package some of those picks, including their first-round pick at No. 31, to move up to the 13th or 14th position.
“The talk around the league is that the 49ers would like to get a defensive lineman who can eventually step in for veteran Justin Smith,” wrote Cole. He noted, however, that the 49ers also need a safety, tight end and cornerback.
If the Niners want an impact defensive lineman, Chris Wessling of NFL.com suggests they may be targeting Utah’s Star Lotulelei, who has been projected to be a top-10 pick, but may be sliding lower.
The Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows, however, has suggested Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, a 6-foot-3, 294-pounder who’s projected to be a mid-first round selection.
“What do Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Sheldon Richardson all have in common? Their names end in ‘n,’ ” wrote Barrows. “Oh, and they all played at the University of Missouri. The 49ers trade a pick in the first, second and third rounds (three picks total) to nab Richardson, who becomes the Tiger heir to Justin Smith’s right defensive end spot.”
At Missouri, Richardson played defensive tackle, but could slide over to the outside spot in the 49ers’ 3-4 alignment.
In describing Richardson’s game, Yahoo Sports’ Doug Farrar says he is incredibly “disruptive,” and cites a nine-tackle, one-sack game against Alabama as proof of his talent. In two seasons at Missouri after transferring from junior college, Richardson had 54 solo tackles, 112 total stops, 18½ tackles for loss, six sacks and four forced fumbles.
“As a pure gap disruptor, Richardson may have no equal in this class,” wrote Farrar.
Not everyone believes the 49ers will take a defensive linemen if they move up in the first round. Marc Sessler of NFL.com believes San Francisco would target West Virginia wide receiver and kick returner Tavon Austin, who could be electric when added to the receiving mix of Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis.
If the Niners’ desire is indeed to add a playmaking wide receiver to the mix by moving up, another candidate could be Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson.
Bay Area Newsgroup columnist Tim Kawakami buys into the thinking that the 49ers will move up, but suggests another alternative selection with such a move: Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Though the Niners have four terrific linebackers and don’t appear to have a need for Jones, Kawakami describes him as a “constant, violent play-maker, often behind the line of scrimmage,” who could be a high-impact, situational player.
“(GM Trent) Baalke points out that you don’t draft for current need, you draft for future need, and I’d have to believe that (defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio could figure out how to use somebody like Jones,” he wrote.
The one constant this week is the notion by numerous analysts that the 49ers will be bold in this draft, given their abundance of picks, already talented roster and eye toward stockpiling future selections.