The 49ers Shadow Draft series started in 2013 out of frustration with hindsight scouts (“I would have taken this guy” … “Should have drafted so-and-so who went the very next pick”) and, as an amateur scout, a need to document the players I liked coming out of college for the sake of posterity. I wanted to stamp the one player I would have actually taken when the 49ers were on the clock, then track those results. At the time I didn’t expect people would be following along or that my drafts would turn out better than Trent Baalke’s, who was then known as “Draft Ninja”. Welcome to year six of the Shadow 49ers.
Results from the past five Shadow Drafts speak for themselves, but judging by year one of the Lynch-Shanahan regime, I now have stiffer competition, and that is a very good thing for 49ers fans.
Another wrinkle that I will be incorporating going forward is an alternate pick for certain selections, especially early in drafts. Now that I have a fictional roster developing, the alternate picks will be what I would do if drafting for needs of the Shadow roster. Positions like cornerback, wide receiver and edge rusher, that may be pressing needs for the current 49ers, have long been addressed in past Shadow Drafts. The idea is that the Shadow 49ers would take on a team identity of it’s own.
Shadow pick: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
Landry is a somewhat one-dimensional pass rusher and would be a better value later in the first round. That one dimension, though, is so valuable that he’s the selection here. Some teams may not view him as an every down player at 6-2, 252. His bend around the edge is special and something you can’t teach. If he develops more varied moves, counters and starts converting speed to power off the edge — look out. A down, injury-filled 2017 hurts Landry’s stock even though he was one of the most productive pass rushers in 2016.
Alt pick: Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS, Alabama
Minkah is the top player available on my draft board and would be a slam dunk selection based on the Shadow 49ers depth chart. Imagine a defensive backfield with Fitzpatrick, Jamal Adams and Xavier Rhodes.
49ers pick: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The 49ers obviously see McGlinchey as the heir apparent to Joe Staley at left tackle. A long prototype tackle at 6-8, 308. After trading Trent Brown to the Patriots before Day 2, he now has a clear path to starting in 2018 on the right side. The question for me is, not if he is a first round talent (had him ranked in the 20’s) or a solid long term starter at right tackle, but if he can develop into an elite pass blocking left tackle. John Lynch looking ahead with his first selection in Year 2 and dials up a high character player in McGlinchey, who was the consensus top tackle in this class.
Shadow pick: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Harold Landry went off the board, shockingly, at No. 41 after the Tennessee Titans traded up to get him. A move I hoped San Francisco could have pulled off. Instead, the 49ers move up to 44, also getting a fifth rounder, in exchange for 59 and 74. My selection here is another player with first round value in Oliver. He is a perfect scheme fit for Robert Saleh’s defense at 6-1, 200 pounds with long arms and good ball skills. Oliver would eventually go later in the second round to Atlanta, who runs the same scheme on defense.
Alt pick: Connor Williams, T/G, Texas
Another easy selection here with a huge need for offensive linemen on the Shadow 49ers roster. Williams could plug in at guard or tackle and is rated just ahead of Oliver for me. Williams looked like a sure-fire first rounder in 2016 when he allowed only four quarterback pressures all season, before dealing with injuries in 2017. Need meets value here.
49ers pick: Dante Pettis, WR, Washington
Some people were surprised by McGlinchey in Round 1, but I think this selection is more shocking. Not that Pettis isn’t a very good prospect, but with all the wide receivers still on the board, trading up for one seems unnecessary. In Pettis, the 49ers are getting the nation’s best return man (took 9 kicks to the house) and a super quick receiver who fits the Kyle Shanahan mold of players who can separate. He has good long speed as well, running a 4.48 at his pro day at a slim 6-1, 190. It will be interesting to see where the 49ers use Pettis on offense. He could fit outside or in the slot. I do love that Kyle Shanahan has a plan for his receivers and John Lynch is willing to go get Shanny’s guys.
Shadow pick: Fred Warner, LB, BYU
Roquan Smith would have been a no-brainer selection for me at No. 9, but after he went to Chicago one pick before, Fred Warner became my focus in the third round range. As I discussed in a pre-draft podcast with Jon Ledyard, Warner is a fantastic fit at WILL and is a modern day NFL linebacker with range as a run defender and in coverage. Warner could potentially add weight to his 6-3, 236-pound frame and play some MIKE.
Alt pick: Alex Cappa, OL, Humboldt State
Offensive linemen have been flying off the board. After chasing linebackers, receivers, corners and defensive linemen for years, the Shadow 49ers depth chart has been lacking an influx of offensive linemen. I love the small school guy from Northern California. Cappa could play some tackle, as he did in dominating fashion for Humboldt State, but he’ll probably move to left guard at the next level and should have success versus better competition based on his showing at the Senior Bowl.
49ers pick: Fred Warner, LB, BYU
This is the first time I’ve nailed a John Lynch selection, although that’s not what I’m trying to do in this exercise. We did both select George Kittle in 2017, but not in the same round. After being wildly off with the Landry selection, it is good to know we’re in the the ballpark identifying needs and fit here.
Shadow pick: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
EQ is a boom or bust prospect that I would be surprised to see in scarlet and gold due to Kyle Shanahan’s preferences at receiver. Length (6-5, 214) and smooth speed (4.48) are Brown’s biggest assets. His production took a huge hit in Notre Dame’s offense from 2016 to 2017 after Deshone Kizer left for the NFL. Development is needed for Brown to reach his considerable upside, particularly with quick-breaking routes and using his size better at the catch point. Some physical similarities to Martavis Bryant coming out of college.
Alt pick: Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
Lauletta has been compared to Jimmy Garoppolo during the draft process due to his small college production and showing up big on the all-star circuit. I won’t be surprised if Lauletta has a better career than CJ Beathard, who was drafted near this spot a year earlier, but I’m not going full Garoppolo with my comparison. Team leader with an average arm, but above average accuracy, touch and pocket mobility.
49ers pick: Tarvarius Moore, DB, Southern Miss
Pure projection pick. Moore went the community college route before earning a starting safety job at Southern Miss. It looks like the 49ers will try him at cornerback, though, due to his measurables with a spindly 6-1, 199-pound frame, 33″ arms and 4.32 speed. It’s hard to evaluate his man-to-man cover skills watching 2017 tape, but it’s clear he is a top level athlete.
Shadow pick: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
This is a risky selection and also one that could pay massive dividends. Hurst is a first round talent that is falling due to a heart issue that kept him out of the combine. He has since been cleared, but teams are obviously scared and there are rumors he could go completely undrafted. If those fears are unfounded, Hurst is a steal here and well worth the pick even though the need isn’t huge for San Francisco.
49ers pick: Kentavius Street, DE, NC State
49ers fans were very happy to leave #TeamACL behind. Yet here we are. Street tore his ACL during spring workouts and will be a stash player for the 2018 season. I don’t think Street was a big enough value to take this high coming off a major injury. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have taken Street here without the injury. I view Street as a big end rather than the pure edge rusher I feel the 49ers need to elevate their defense to the next level. John Lynch praised Cassius Marsh and it sure seems they are content at the LEO weakside defensive end spot with he and newly signed Jeremiah Attouchu. When healthy, Street is a power end at 6-2, 280 (sound familiar), a weight room hero and a better run defender than pass rusher.
Shadow pick: Ogbonnia Okonrokwo, SLB, Oklahoma
“Obo” seems like the prototype SAM linebacker for Robert Saleh’s scheme. For that reason, I almost chose him a round earlier. A player with his versatility and production at Oklahoma has no business falling this far. He’s a hybrid edge player who can play off-ball, set the edge vs the run and rush the passer. He is slightly stiff at 6-2, 253 and didn’t wow in workouts with a 4.77 40, which is my guess as to why he fell to this point. Displayed his explosiveness with a 38″ vertical at the combine. Can be slippery and hard to block. Plays with an element of instinct, toughness, determination and was a standout during Senior Bowl week. Bummer he went to the Rams later in the fifth round. Obo could haunt the 49ers if he turns out to be a stud for LA in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense.
49ers pick: DJ Reed, CB, Kansas State
Quick shoutout to Shaquem Griffin, who went the pick before to Seattle and is easily the best story of the 2018 draft. And Griffin’s story isn’t done, because he can play. On to Reed, who is an undersized slot corner that wasn’t really on my radar as I searched for the lengthy outside types throughout the draft process. A California kid from Bakersfield, he doesn’t wow you with size (5-9, 188) or speed (4.51), but he has quicks, plays hard, gets high marks for character and work ethic. Graded out very well for Pro Football Focus and didn’t allow a reception over 30 yards in 2017. Adds value as a return man.
Shadow pick: Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
During our live draft broadcast, Eric Crocker explained why he wasn’t as high as some people on Quenton Meeks. Teams may have been similarly worried his sluggish feet in coverage could lead to a move to safety at the next level. Still, this seems a little ridiculous and I’ve got to snatch up Meeks here. I thought Meeks answered some of those questions with very good workout numbers for his size (6-1, 209, 4.49 40-yd dash, 39″ vertical, 6.72 3-cone). Even Richard Sherman compared Meeks to himself as a prospect coming out of Stanford.
49ers pick: Marcell Harris, S, Florida
Harris missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Before that he was a thumper of a safety at 6-1, 216. Gets high marks for character and physicality, but it’s hard to know what kind of player he will be after such an injury. Visions of a Trent Baalke-esque Day 3 have 49ers fans getting a little squirmy on social media.
Shadow pick: Hercules Mata’afa, DL, Washington State
Whatever. I’m picking another defensive lineman. I get that Mata’afa doesn’t have a true position as a college DT that weighs 250 and didn’t test well for an edge player at the combine, but I love his non-stop motor and first step quickness. One of the most productive defensive linemen in college football. Mata’afa should get a shot in the league and might make some teams regret overlooking him.
49ers pick: Jullian Taylor, DT, Temple
More L’s in his first name than the 49ers will have in 2018, am I right? A sleeper that I didn’t study much before the draft, but after putting on the tape, he has some obvious traits to like. Really athletic and active for a 6-5, 280-pound defensive lineman. Another player that graded out well at PFF. It’s looking like all big ends all the time for Robert Saleh’s defense. The lack of speedy, flexible edge rushers to fit at SAM or LEO for a team near the bottom of the league in sacks in 2017 really surprises me. I do like the Taylor pick, even though he’s buried on the depth chart in 2018.
Shadow pick: Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee
Thinking about Skai Moore here, but already dipped into the linebacker pool twice and, despite his instincts in coverage, I have a feeling there are some bad character reports on Moore to go with below average workout numbers and an undersized frame. Speaking of undersized, Richie James is small (5-10, 183) but plays big and extremely fast. A playmaker that lined up everywhere, including wildcat QB.
49ers pick: Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee
Direct hit! I find it odd that it’s easier for me to identify a seventh round prospect for the 49ers than one in the top-10. James is super productive, with the quicks and explosive ability that Kyle Shanahan covets. I mentioned on twitter before Day 3 that he is definitely Shanahan’s type. This might be my favorite John Lynch selection to date. James has been a late round target for me since January. (Taking submissions for a Rick James inspired nickname for Richie — hit me up on twitter.)
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