Welcome to year seven (!) of the Shadow 49ers Draft. If you haven’t been following along — and I’m still surprised by how many people actually do — here’s a link to past drafts dating back to the Trent Baalke era in 2013. In fact, if Baalke would have listened to my advice, he might even still be the GM in San Francisco.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have proven to be stiffer competition as talent evaluators after gutting the roster in 2017. The 49ers still have work to do as witnessed by their 4-12 record in 2018, earning them the second overall pick.
Some intrigue at the top of the draft this year. Will Arizona do the unthinkable and take a quarterback again after trading up to draft Josh Rosen top-10 a year ago? As always, there is only one rule in the Shadow Draft — when the 49ers are on the clock, I’m on the clock. Here we go!
Shadow pick: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The only other consideration here would be Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who was the only other player in the top tier of my big board. Positional value and need solidify Bosa as the selection here. With his instincts, bloodlines, work ethic and burst to get after the quarterback, I’m betting on Bosa to join his brother Joey as a Pro Bowl NFL edge defender.
49ers pick: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Not much drama here after Kyler Murray was drafted first by the Arizona Cardinals. The best prospect in the draft is on his way to San Francisco. The only way this turns out poorly is if Murray becomes the next great quarterback for a division rival, Quinnen Williams plays at an All-Pro Aaron Donald-like level while Bosa becomes a good-not-great player in the mold of former No. 2 overall defensive end Chris Long.
Shadow pick: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Metcalf has the rarest of rare height/weight/speed that shows up on the field as well as his 4.33 40-yd dash at the combine at 6-3, 228. Still, there are numerous pitfalls for the redshirt sophomore as he transitions to the NFL. He has some stiffness laterally and the neck injury that ended his 2018 season could be concerning for teams.
I understand teams passing on him early in Round 1, but at this point his ridiculous ability as a downfield threat is well worth the selection, even if his game doesn’t develop a ton more at the next level. He could be a thorn in the side of the 49ers for years after getting drafted by Seattle in Round 2. Dalton Risner, Greedy Williams, Hakeem Butler, Deebo Samuel and AJ Brown were other names I considered here.
49ers pick: Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Love this pick for the 49ers. Deebo was my No. 3 WR and he fits Kyle Shanahan’s offense like a glove. He plays bigger and faster than his 4.48 40 time at 5-11, 214. I called him “slant god” on twitter because he runs that route and after the catch better than just about anyone I’ve seen coming into the league. While he’s not extremely tall, Samuel is really good in the redzone. He should step in right away as the starter at the Z receiver spot.
Shadow pick: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, Florida
CGJ (5-11, 210, 4.48) has experience and the skills to play corner at the next level, but I like him as a free safety in San Francisco’s scheme. He is an easy pick here with a fantastic combination of speed, zone or man coverage ability, range to play single-high and ball skills.
About half way through Round 2 it was becoming clear a trade up from this slot could be a valuable move as Nasir Adderley, Juan Thornhill and DK Metcalf were among the final five selections in Round 2. It will hurt if Jachai Polite, who went to the Jets with the next pick, turns out to be great. I loved his tape as a pass rushing outside linebacker, but he had the worst pre-draft process I can remember with bad interviews and awful workouts.
49ers pick: Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor
This seems like a reach based on where I thought Hurd should get drafted and his current skills as a wideout. A former running back at Tennessee, he sat out 2017 transferring to Baylor to play wide receiver in 2018.
Hurd has a unique skillset after transitioning relatively smoothly to his new position as a big slot receiver, though he doesn’t play to his height (nearly 6-foot-5) and didn’t display an ability to win vs press coverage outside or make plays on the ball downfield. Was always lined up in the slot, tight to the formation in Baylor’s spread offense, many times with a free release and nothing but a linebacker and green grass in front of him. Shows obvious ex-RB movements with the ball in his hands and the ability to break with some explosion as a route runner.
He played at 240 pounds at Tennessee before slimming down to 227 and Kyle Shanahan hinted that TE might be in his future. I’ve seen him billed as a freak, and while I don’t see that type of athleticism, he would standout as a dynamic matchup H-back with the ability to line up in multiple spots including in the backfield on occasion.
Shadow pick: Dru Samia, OG, Oklahoma
I had a few players ranked higher at this point, but offensive linemen were flying off the board and I wanted to add one of the few potential starters that were still available. Samia played on Shanahan’s south squad at the Senior Bowl and fits what the 49ers prefer up front as a competitor and a guard who can reach the second level. Overall athleticism isn’t amazing and he didn’t time great at the combine, so that could be a reason Samia is still around. He’s plays as nasty and physical as anyone in the draft.
Alternate scenario: If DK didn’t fall to Round 2, I would have gone with Dalton Risner there, then had Hakeem Butler in the 3rd and Amani Aruwariye in the 4th.
49ers pick: Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah
A punter in Round 4 is always going to be a tough sell for me. Two things. First, is a 27-year-old Wishnowsky worth a 4th rounder vs a replacement level punter that you don’t even need to spend a draft pick on (or a Jake Bailey in the 5th round)? Second, is the 49ers roster in a place where the team can start making luxury selections in 3rd-4th rounds?
On the bright side, the 49ers traded down first adding an extra pick before making this selection. Wishnowsky is the best punter in the draft, fills an immediate need and could provide some fun moments due to his athleticism as a former Australian rules footballer.
Shadow pick: Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
I was all set to go into sleeper mode at this portion of the draft, but I looked up to see Wilson was still on the board. I thought he was drafted in the 3rd. I’m not sure if the Reuben Foster-Alabama connection scares the team off Wilson, but he can be an every down linebacker in the NFL at multiple spots, has coverage skills and when you consider he is 6-1, 240 and runs a 4.6 — why is he still available?
I was eyeing CB Amani Aruwariye and FS Deionte Thompson who also had no business falling to Round 5, but they were just snapped up. LB Blake Cashman, CB Corey Ballentine and a handful of WRs like Kelvin Harmon, Emanuel Hall and Keelan Doss were also considerations here.
49ers pick: Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas
I wasn’t on Greenlaw during the pre-draft process. Watching his film post-draft, I don’t see the value in Round 5 when there are still players with every down ability on the board. I have Greenlaw well behind fellow 5th round linebackers like Ben Burr-Kirven, Mack Wilson and Blake Cashman.
Greenlaw has the resume of a priority undrafted free agent rather than a mid-round selection after running a reported 4.7 at his pro day while being an undersized (5-11, 237) former safety. Even though he does play with more speed than his 40 time suggests, I don’t see Greenlaw making an impact on defense early in his career, because he gets washed out very easily when blockers get to him. He’ll need to become a core player on special teams early in his career. There is always room for high character players on the roster, which probably has a lot to do with why John Lynch brought him in.
Shadow pick: Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn
Ballentine could have been the pick in the 5th if not for Wilson falling. I was turned on to Ballentine late in the process and was blown away. This dude has everything you look for in a small school cornerback transitioning to the NFL. He is competitive, athletic, gets glowing reports for character and dominated his competition at Washburn. On top of that, he showed out at the Senior Bowl vs better competition and wowed at the combine with 4.47 speed, 39″ vert and a 6.82 3-cone at 5-11, 197 lbs.
A scary story broke just hours after Ballentine was drafted by the New York Giants. Ballentine was shot, but should be fine. Unfortunately, his friend and former teammate passed away.
49ers pick: Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford
After a few head-scratchers, I like this selection by the 49ers. Smith isn’t as athletically gifted as some of the recent tight ends from Stanford (6-5, 255, 4.92), but he is a solid blocker, looks well-coached and shows natural ball skills. If the 49ers end up using Jalen Hurd as an H-back/Move-TE, then Smith profiles as the inline guy. Is it the end of Celek Time in San Francisco if Smith makes the final roster?
Shadow pick: Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
I wasn’t as high on Harmon as some people in the scouting community who had him in the late 1st/early 2nd round conversation, but it’s stupid he’s still on the board in the 6th. Harmon is yet another big receiver in this class (6-2, 221) and a lack of speed (4.60 at the combine) is probably the reason for his fall. Despite the pedestrian top speed, he can get open, plays really tough in traffic and owns a pair of strong mitts. Is he more Anquan Boldin or Laquon Treadwell? Teams are committing robbery with some of the wide receivers left on the board on Day 3.
49ers pick: Justin Skule, OT, Vanderbilt
Skule is a player that didn’t get much love during the pre-draft process even though he started a million games in college. He carries his 317 pounds in all the wrong places on his 6-7 frame. That said, he’s competitive and held his own against edge rushers like Josh Allen, even though it always looks like he’s on the verge of getting beat. He has to put everything into it when trying to move people in the run game.
Feels like a longshot to make the roster. I wouldn’t trust him as the swing tackle and he doesn’t move well enough in space to project to guard in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. In fact, I think Ross Reynolds, a UDFA guard from Iowa, has a better shot to make the 53.
Shadow pick: Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison
One of my favorite sleepers in this draft. At 5-10, 179, Moreland isn’t a physical specimen, but he did blaze a 4.38 at his pro day and gets high grades for quickness, toughness and coverage ability. A classic slot cornerback that should earn a spot in the league.
The idea here is to allow the draft to fall to you. Stay agile. Double up at deep positions if the value is there, and specifically at corner, add depth and competition in a league that continues to throw the ball more than ever. Oh, and the Cardinals just hired Kliff Kingsbury, drafted a QB and like 4 WRs. They are planning to chuck it.
49ers pick: Tim Harris, CB, Virginia
John Lynch finally pulled the trigger on a defensive back. Harris can play. He also fits the mold as a long boundary corner for Robert Saleh’s defense (6-2, 197, 32″ arm length). On the downside, Harris has dealt with injuries during his college career and is an older prospect at 24 years of age. 49ers might have a gem here late in Round 6 if Harris can stay healthy.
2019 Shadow 49ers (short version):
1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
2. DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
3. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, Florida
4. Dru Samia, OG, Oklahoma
5. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
6. Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn
6. Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
6. Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison
Actual 2019 San Francisco 49ers draft class:
1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
2. Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
3. Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor
4. Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah
5. Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas
6. Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford
6. Justin Skule, OT, Vanderbilt
6. Tim Harris, CB, Virginia
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