2017 NFL Draft: Complete 7-Round Mock for the 49ers

by James Lebreton

Another year is in the books, and springtime is upon us. It’s time to bridge the gap between college hopeful and pro-ready rookie. For a team owner it’s an opportunity to get better, but for the NFL prospect it’s the best day of their life. There’s a new regime in place for the 49ers. With less than a week to go, let’s talk mock draft for San Francisco.

The NFL Draft is an exciting time for two reasons.

For starters, football is officially back. There are no games to be played yet, but with the selection of some rookie hopefuls your teams roster will begin to take shape.

For the next two weeks at least analysts will heavily weigh each pick, giving you some insight on just how much better or worse your team will actually be.

Secondly, everything resets itself. Even if your team came in dead last one season ago, you all officially have the same record.

That’s the beauty of another season.

It’s anyone’s ball game, and with a little help through the draft you may even find your team on the same level as the defending Super Bowl champions.

The higher your team picks the more entertaining the draft will be. Who will they select? Will they make a trade? And more importantly, will they trade back into Round 1 once they’ve already made a selection?

In less than a week all these questions will be answered. So strap yourself in, hold on tight and get ready to be excited. It’s time for the NFL draft.

And let’s mock out the Niners picks in 2017.

Round 1, Pick No. 2

Malik Hooker

Twelve years ago, when the 49ers had a pick this high in the draft they were in the same boat as they are now. They were staring down the barrel of a rebuild, and they were searching for their quarterback of the future.

The difference between now and then is that they won’t be burning their high pick on a quarterback. After months of speculation that the pick could be Reuben Foster, a few other names have come into play. Solomon Thomas, Mike Williams and, more often than not, Malik Hooker.

While it’s true the 49ers need to bolster their pass rush, recent talks have been the possible selection of a free safety. Although the edge position still needs to be addressed, their newly changed 4-3 defensive scheme can not work without a true free safety.

 With the strong safety position stepping into the box to play closer to the line of scrimmage, they need a specialist that can hold their own in the secondary.By switching to the 4-3 defense, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will be running a defense that will mirror that of the Seattle Seahawks.

If you can’t beat them, join them right?

The man that makes that defense work due to his position is free safety Earl Thomas. This year many scouts are comparing Thomas to Hooker.

Defensive back is very deep position in this year’s draft. So it’s hard to say whether the front office will covet Hooker or an edge rusher more. Either way, both positions need to be addressed.

In less than a week, we’ll find out which position is more important for the 49ers.

Round 2, Pick No. 34

T.J. Watt

The 49ers are in desperate need of help with the pass rush. They need someone who is quick off the line who will chase the quarterback until he catches him.

T.J. Watt isn’t the fastest guy around the corner, but he will wear you out and then target the quarterback when you’ve lost a step.

Aaron Lynch has lost his way. Last year he missed four games due to suspension and then sat most of the season with an injury. Ahmad Brooks is going into the last season of a six-year contract. He is overpriced and has also shown signs of slowing down.

If Lynch has a bounce-back year, he and Watt can form one of the deadliest pass-rush tandems at the linebacker position.

Defensive linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner are very good at overpowering opponents’ offensive lines and drawing the double teams. But if they have no one behind them in pursuit of the quarterback, you’ll never know how effective they can be.

Another strength of Watt’s is that he is experienced against the run, which also was a position of weakness last season. In only 14 games for the Badgers, he racked up 56 pressures, 30 quarterback hurries, 16 hits, 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss.

It’s time to address a position that has been lacking for three seasons. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman needs help, and the position needs to be considered dominant again.

Watt checks all of those specified boxes.

Round 3, Pick No. 66

Tre’Davious White

Cornerback Tramaine Brock has been released and Jimmie Ward might move back to his natural position at safety.

As of today the cupboard is bare at the cornerback position. Right now, the competition looks like this: Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser, second-year players Rashard Robinson and Will Redmond and newly acquired K’Waun Williams.

This is a very inexperienced position, but the addition of a skilled rookie like Tre’Davious White could push everyone else to better play. He has great feet, has great athleticism and has great instincts for man coverage.

His run support isn’t great, but White always seems to find himself near the ball. He started 47 games in four years at LSU, and ranked eighth in the FBS with 14 pass breakups his senior season. He also won All-SEC honors. White was also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award, which for those who are unfamiliar, is given to the nations top defensive back.

He’s aggressive and grabby, but rarely ever gets flagged for pass interference. He is also a big contributor on special teams and fills a big need while playing many positions.

White is picked to go in Round 2, but with the 49ers picking right away in Round 3, he could fall right into their lap.

Round 4, Pick No. 109

Cooper Kupp

Regarded as one of the best receivers to ever play in Division 1, Cooper Kupp is the all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

At a competitive 6-foot-2, he loves to post up against defensive backs and fight for the catch. He truly believes he can catch everything thrown his way. At this moment in his career, Kupp is a third-string receiver for any NFL team, but in the near future he could challenge for a higher spot.

With the additions of Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin and the re-signing of Jeremy Kerley, the 49ers are a much better unit then they were one season ago. However, they are not a complete unit just yet.

Kupp would not only provide sufficient depth, but his competitive drive will be enough to push other receivers into better play.

In college, Kupp had the ability on more than one occasion to run away with the game. During his sophomore season, he outplayed Washington’s defense catching eight passes for 145 yards, 54 of those yards by way of two touchdown receptions against cornerback Marcus Peters. He doesn’t shy away from heavy competition, he welcomes it.

Kupp is a versatile weapon with a knack for coming up with the football. With as many roster holes as the 49ers have, a player like Kupp could fill many positions and prove to be extremely valuable.

Round 4, Pick No. 143

Brad Kaaya

The 49ers are in need of a quarterback to lead this team, that’s no secret. What is a mystery though it’s just who that man will be.

In the offseason John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. As it stands now, Hoyer will lead this team for the upcoming season while Barkley can play as a sufficient backup.

Shanahan has said in the past Kirk Cousins is his guy while Cousins himself has expressed feelings of discontent about staying in Washington. If acquiring Cousins for next year is in the teams future, then spending a high pick on a quarterback in this years draft would be counterproductive.

Selecting Brad Kaaya in the fourth round is a much smarter option moving forward. He’s a talented young quarterback who can be brought along at a much slower pace. It will cut out the pressure of starting him right away and give him the confidence he needs to make the transition into the pro level.

In three seasons, he threw just shy of 10,000 yards eclipsing 3,000 yards every year. Currently he is Miami’s all-time leader in yards, completions and attempts.

Drafting Kaaya is a win-win situation for San Francisco. Watching Cousins and Kaaya compete for the starting job next year would be more than entertaining. If Cousins doesn’t come to San Francisco, then Kaaya could compete with Hoyer for the starting job. Either way, it will give Shanahan options to consider whether Cousins is acquired or not.

Round 5, Pick No. 146

Jake Butt

Jake Butt might be the best Michigan tight end in Big-Ten history. He leaves as the all-time leader in catches and yards at his respected position.

Butt won’t burn you with speed, but he will go over the middle fearlessly and make the catch. He steps up when it matters most, as evidenced by his first two seasons as a Wolverine, where he had his best statistical performances against Ohio State.

In two seasons as an upperclassmen, Butt was named Big-Ten tight end of the year.

While it’s true Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek we’re just giving healthy extensions, the now ex-Wolverine could stroll into San Francisco and steal the starting job. He’s got the size and attributes to compete in the NFL, and the ball just seems to gravitate towards his 10-inch hands.

Butt’s not going to dazzle you with circus catches, but he will secure the ball in high traffic areas and pick up the first down. His skill set is much higher than a fifth-round selection, but suffering a torn ACL in the Citrus Bowl may cause him to slip down draft boards.

After witnessing former general manager Trent Baalke waste numerous pics on injured players, 49ers fans might find this selection hard to swallow. However, if you’re going to take a chance on an injured player, Butt is the one to take that chance on.

As a player, he brings to the roster what is lacking at the tight end position. Butt has reliable hands, he fights for yardage after the catch and is a red-zone threat. Regardless of the injury, the former Michigan co-captain adds value to the later rounds. It would be foolish for the 49ers to pass on him if he is still available at No. 146 overall.

Round 5, Pick No. 161

Kareem Hunt

Kyle Shanahan is known for drafting running backs in the later rounds, and this year will be no exception.

Carlos Hyde is still currently the starter. But after consecutive seasons of less than 1,000 yards and nagging injuries, he could soon be on his way out. To add insult to injury, John Lynch has already expressed concern Hyde may not be a fit for their style of offense.

Toledo running back Kareem Hunt, on the other hand, is a fit for the 49ers in many different ways and has already met with the team at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

To push Hyde, the team added quality depth with the signing of running back Tim Hightower. He already has ties to Shanahan, and is familiar with the type of offense that the 49ers will be running.

In three seasons, Hyde has averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Hunt has never averaged lower than 5.5 yards per carry. How he transitions to the NFL is yet unknown, but as of now it seems as though his success is greater when touching the football.

Don’t expect Hunt to push Hyde for the starting job, but Hunt will take away significant reps from the former Ohio State Buckeye.

Round 6, Pick No. 186

Isaac Asiata

The 49ers traded back into the first round last year to draft offensive guard Joshua Garnett. The hope was that he would push fellow guard Zane Beadles for the starting job. It’s too early to call on how Garnett will pan out, but needless to say, he did not impress many people his rookie season.

As stated earlier, the 49ers have many roster holes to fill. Lucky for them, the draft provides talent along the offensive line well into the later rounds.

Isaac Asiata not only adds strength and aggression to the interior line. He brings flexibility as well. In college, he played both guard positions and lined up as a center as well. At 6-foot-3 and 323 pounds, Asiata is an immovable force.

With 35 reps of 225 pounds at the combine, he knows how to move weight when going to head to head with the defensive line. Sometimes he gets too aggressive and allows himself to be pulled out of blocks. This causes him to lose his balance and can lead to the defense getting the better of him.

Asiata does have the ability to be coached up from that weakness though. One thing’s for certain, he never backs down from a challenge and others are often intimidated by his strong work ethic.

San Francisco will have to invest a couple of their picks to strengthen the offensive line if they want to compete for the upcoming season. In the sixth round, Asiata is the guy to invest in.

Round 6, Pick No. 202

Ben Boulware

Ben Boulware was the heart and soul of his team at Clemson University. He’s also a very good football player.

In 2014, he was Clemson’s top backup linebacker. His hard work paid off when he was promoted to starter the following year. Where he lacks in measurables, he certainly makes up for with heart. Boulware provides solid depth at the inside linebacker position, but his bread and butter is special teams play, where he accrued 25 tackles with 1.5 for a loss.

Boulware served as a team captain for the Tigers, and compares heavily to an Anthony Dixon type. He’s a contributor on every play, and has a great locker room presence. Though he is penciled in as a late selection in the draft, Boulware has put together somewhat of a legacy while at Clemson.

As a sophomore, he became the first Tiger in 24 years to return a pick-six in a bowl game. In his senior season, he won the Jack Lambert award, which is given to the nation’s top linebacker. He can nullify the run, as evidenced by his 26 tackles for a loss. On passing plays, Boulware can also get after the quarterback.

The 49ers need to get better at the linebacker position. If they draft Boulware, they can do so without burning a high pick on draft day.

He excels when others think that he may not. Going in the sixth or seventh round just might provide the proverbial chip he needs to make him a stand out in the NFL.

Round 7, Pick No. 219

Greg Pyke

In the seventh round, most of the prospects taken end up playing as a reserve or are sent to the practice squad. Offensive guard Greg Pyke wins this selection for his versatility.

He’s a guard prospect, but he can play tackle also. Pyke pulls well in the run game which is an area that could help the 49ers in a big way. Pyke has issues with leverage and balance, but when he gains the upper hand against his opponent, he knows how to drive it home.

During his sophomore season he earned an All-SEC second team selection as a tough run blocker for running back Todd Gurley. That year, Georgia averaged 258 yards per game, and Pyke was a large part of that effort.

Many feel Pyke’s transition into the NFL will be unsuccessful, but with his ability to move around the line, he’ll be worth a look for San Francisco.

 

James Lebreton is a screenwriter, publisher, and author for Niner Noise

Twitter @jamesplebreton

 

 

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