Monday, April 30, 2012

2012 49ers Draft Review

I hope you guys are ready for heaping amounts of football talk, cause that's what we're going to be doing here over the next week or so, with the dust settling on the draft, UDFA's finding homes and mini-camps starting up around the league. Even with the NBA Playoffs underway, the NFL is still dominating sports airways and message boards right now, and likely will all week long. We'll start with a double-post reviewing and grading the 49ers draft, but we do intend on grading the Raiders draft, and UDFA's, even if there wasn't much to go off of.

A.J. Jenkins: Speed w/great Hands
On day one, a lot of 49ers were taken aback by their selection, with a plethora of offensive lineman still on the board and uber-talented CB Janoris Jenkins (who had he avoided off-field problems, would have easily been a top-10 pick). The 49ers, however, went with the fastest, most accomplished wideout in the draft, nabbing A.J. Jenkins in a similar move to last years pick of Aldon Smith. The similarities are that both players projected to be 2nd or 3rd round choices, and in Aldon's case, maybe a late-draft choice, but the 49ers obviously saw a similar trait in both players that made these guys more appealing to them than to most so called "draft experts". Stephen Hill was the one guy I thought may get his name called there if they were going to go receiver, but I see the logic in going with Jenkins over Hill. Jenkins was a 3-year starter at Illinois, and last season had one of the best receiving seasons in the NCAA, hauling in 90 catches for 1,200 yards and 9 TD's. The part that doesn't get noted in his stats, is that he had a very un-predictable QB situation at Illinois and never really had a top QB throwing to him, and he was still able to put up those gaudy numbers. The only knock on Jenkins really, is his slight frame and the fact that he's just 6-feet tall, not exactly the big red-zone target the 49ers were seeking. That said, he plays similarly to Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace, who are both successful 6-foot receivers, cut from exactly the same mold as Jenkins. I think that's the upside the 49ers saw in this choice, and although it stunned me at first, I've come around and I've grown fond of this choice. Of course, we'll have to wait and see how he does in pre-season and training camp, but I think Jenkins has a real shot at entering the year no lower than 3rd on the WR depth chart.

The 49ers continued their seeking of home-run threats on offense in round 2 and took LaMichael James, another guy that some scouts believe may have lasted until the mid-rounds, and looking back at the lack of RB's drafted, the 49ers may have done this one over if given the chance. That said, I loved James at Oregon, he's a small back, no question about it, but as I eluded to after the selection, so were guys like Brian Westbrook, Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles coming into the league, and all have turned into/were premiere runners. I just think that even with the 5'9", 195 pound frame, he's tough enough to go between
L. James had 300 carries in '10
the tackles (dude toted the rock over 300 times last season) and take that pounding inside. He also, obviously, has immense speed to the corners as well. The only part of his game which is a bit questionable, is his pass-catching abilities, as he's a guy the 49ers would like to get the ball in the hands of, whether it's on screens, kick returns or what not, he hasn't shown those good hands that normally come with small-speedy backs. Still, it's not a big issue, and an area that should be able to be improved upon, especially considering the 49ers will be designing plays specifically to get the ball in his hands... To complement the James pick, with their third selection and 5th round choice, they finally went O-line, grabbing  Wake Forest's Joe Looney. I liked the pick, as it fits a need, and after learning more about Looney, he seems like a 49ers O-lineman indeed. He's got the Mike Iuipati style long hair going, and plays similarly to the 49ers 2011 first rounder. He's tough, an experienced starter and is a load at 315, but an agile 315 that can break up-field on sweeps and screens. Here's his Scouting video, as you see, a potential 3rd rounder before getting injured in the senior bowl. He's likely not going to do much to start the year off, but could be a 2nd half contributor and end up being a steal if he heals up fully and regains form.

Robinson's a big play FS
The 49ers, with their final four selections, made more depth picks, adding to their defensive backfield by drafting one of the drafts top-5 safety's in Michigan State's Trenton Robinson. Here's his highlight video. He's a tad small at 5'10, 195, but he's a true all-around safety, with the ability to help with the run, play center field or come up and cover in man. Had he been 6'2", he probably goes in round 2-3. The 49ers only have 3 safeties on their roster right now, and Robinson will be on the roster as that 4th safety and the 49ers will be confident in using him. Now, I don't know much about C Joe Slowey who they drafted in the fifth but I really liked the pick of Notre Dame's OLB Darius Flemming, another value pick. He's another pass-rush specialist who looks like he can be a special teams monster. Cam Johnson, their last pick of the draft, is another guy like Flemming, who  many  projected to be a mid-round guy, but the 49ers got another potential steal in the 7th with this guy. Johnson was a guy I had listed as guys I'd target in round 3&4 in this post here, so getting him in the 7th is a huge coupe... In the next post above, we have the list of the un-drafted free agents the 49ers added, and brief notes about each player that I'm aware of and know anything about. However, it's grading time, and after the dust has settled, I've re-searched the 49ers draft picks, and look at some of the talent they by-passed in the mid-rounds, I have trouble grading them any higher than the C+/B- area. I mean, I like the Jenkins pick, loved the James pick and believe they got some value at the end of the draft, but they also passed up guys with huge upside like Jared Crick, Brandon Washington, Chase Minnifield and Vontaze Burfict. Of course though, as with any draft, we won't really know anything until these guys start playing as the 49ers Mini-Camp opened up today. More on that in the post above.

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