With less than two weeks to go before the first round of the NFL Draft on April 25, Niners CEO Jed York took to Twitter to give San Francisco fans a hint about the direction the team will take:
“BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!,” he wrote. “@49ers have narrowed our first pick in the draft to either an offensive or defensive player #draft2013”
The truth is, that may be about as much as the Niners – and every team in the NFL – knows right about now. As much as NFL draft analysts create mock drafts and opine on team needs, this 2013 draft remains one of the most difficult to project because of a number of reasons.
The 49ers certainly have players they covet, but the draft order, trades and willing (or unwilling partners) for their own deals – and the fact San Francisco doesn’t pick until the 31st slot in Round 1 – mean the Niners will have to be both proactive and flexible.
Peter King, Sports Illustrated’s longtime NFL writer, wrote in his “Monday Morning QB” column that he’s convinced his mock draft that will run in the magazine “could be a stink bomb” because of all the variables that could turn it on its head even before the Chiefs make the No. 1 overall pick.
King wrote there are three reasons “draft-placement intelligence is going to be hard to come by this year.”
The three factors, according to King, are: 1. The absence of “no-doubt” franchise quarterbacks that can be written in at the top of the draft, giving it some stability; 2. A big “middle class” of prospects that mean a player could go in the top 10 or bottom 10 of the first round, depending on team needs and evaluations; and 3. A number of new GMs and head coaches that add a dash of unpredictability.
As the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock told King: “I feel very good about my player analysis as we sit here right now. I don’t feel good at all about where those players are going.”
The common assumptions for the 49ers are that the team has a priority need on the defensive line, at safety, tight end and wide receiver.
Safety might be the most immediate need, with the departure of Dashon Goldson, and depth behind defensive ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald is thin and Delanie Walker’s departure behind starting tight end Vernon Davis leaves a void.
Still, King believes that even with all the uncertainty going into the draft that the 49ers are eager to get a wide receiver.
Writes King: “Jim Harbaugh has been at a high number of receiver workouts, I’m told. ‘This isn’t about 2013 for the Niners,’ one GM told me. ‘Harbaugh knows he’ll be there for a while. They just lost Randy Moss, and Anquan Boldin is there for a year and they don’t know about (2012 first-round pick) A.J. Jenkins. Receiver’s very logical for them there (at No. 31).’ ”
The receiver King believes the 49ers may have their eyes on is Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson, a 6-foot-2, 216-pound target who has been considered a hugely talented player but a high-risk, high-reward player who’s been falling on draft boards lately. Because he played just one season of major college football – he was a two-time junior college All-American before transferring to Tennessee – and struggled against some of the Volunteers’ most talented opponents, some are down on his abilities.
King, however, believes the Niners aren’t in that group of naysayers.
“I like that match,” he writes.
Patterson in 2012 had 46 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns.
Then again, the Niners’ best-laid plans could be at the mercy of a chaotic draft day with trades and unexpected selections impacting their decisions.
So far, the only sure-fire scenario is York’s: The 49ers will take an offensive player … or a defensive player.