The San Francisco 49ers have built their deep and talented roster by hitting on a high percentage of draft selections for most of the last half-decade (2012 being the lone exception). General manager Trent Baalke and company stayed true to form with another excellent draft that included value in most of the rounds. Here is a breakdown of the 49ers’ 12 picks.
Jimmie Ward, S, Nothern Illinois
The selection of Ward in the first round was initially a surprise, mainly because of the position he played. Listed as a safety, Ward would have been thrust into the mix with Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea who are the unquestioned starters. However, the 49ers intend to play Ward at their nickel corner position, which was on the field over 60 percent of the time in 2013.
Ward has a nose for the ball and will contribute to the secondary immediately. He has the ability to make game-changing plays and also tighten up coverage in the slot, which is something the 49ers have struggled with.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
Many teams in today’s NFL have devalued the running back position. The 49ers are not one of those teams. In Hyde, they selected the best back in the draft at the end of the second round. He has the ability to be a bell cow and a player who can have a impact on the running game for years to come. He’ll backup Frank Gore initially, but could be in line to carry the load as early as 2015.
Marcus Martin, OL, USC
The 49ers got a steal in third round with the massive and versatile Martin. He can play anywhere on the interior of the offensive line but will most likely challenge Daniel Kilgore for the starting center position in training camp. Another option is Martin could play out this season as a backup, and compete to start at guard in 2015 should Mike Iupati leave via free agency.
Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
With NaVorro Bowman out of action for some time, Borland will throw his hat into the ring in an attempt to fill in for the All-Pro. He was productive in college, forcing 14 fumbles, but his size (5-foot-11) could be a factor at the next level. Borland may be nothing more than a backup and special teams player, which could make him a bit of reach in the third round.
Brandon Thomas, OL, Clemson
The 49ers have a habit of taking players who are injured and “red-shirting” them in their rookie seasons. Thomas is another example of this approach as the team will stash him away on the Physically Unable to Perform list while he heals from an ACL Injury. If not for the setback, Thomas had the potential to be a second round pick. He could project to play guard in 2015, either as a backup or possibly another replacement for Iupati.
Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
The 49ers needed a receiver to stretch the field and they got just that in Ellington. At 5-foot-9, Ellington lacks size but is a play maker once he gets the ball in his hands. He may not see the field much in 2014 with Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Johnson ahead of him on the depth chart, but he can provide an impact in certain packages. He will also most likely be a candidate to return kicks. The pick of Ellington provides excellent value in the fourth round.
Dontae Johnson, CB, North Carolina State
Trent Baalke has done an excellent job identifying corners who can be successful in San Francisco’s defensive scheme. Johnson feels like that type of player. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he brings a combination of size and athleticism to the secondary. Johnson could take some time to develop, which is fine since he won’t be expected to contribute right away.
Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida
There are questions about Lynch’s character and work ethic, but the 49ers took a chance on him anyway. He will be looked at as someone who can come in on pass rushing downs and will compete with Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta at outside linebacker. If San Francisco can get the best out of him, this pick could go down as one of the steals of the 2014 draft. If not, the 49ers can easily part ways with the fifth rounder.
Keith Reaser, CB, Florida Atlantic
With rare speed, Reaser could be a dark horse for a roster spot come 2015. He will spend this upcoming season on the PUP list as he recovers from an ACL tear, making him another player the 49ers will take a flyer on in hopes of a future return.
Kenneth Acker, CB, SMU
Acker had a strong pro day which may have helped him move up on some draft boards. He has good size at six feet and 190 pounds but will have a difficult time making the 49ers given the depth at corner back.
Kaleb Ramsey, DE, Boston College
Ramsey had issues staying on the field in college and already finds himself to be a PUP candidate with the 49ers as he is recovering from a calf injury. Even when healthy, he would have to compete with the likes of Ian Williams, Quinton Dial, Demarcus Dobbs and Tony Jerod-Eddie to win a roster spot.
Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma
Millard is another prospect the team hopes can help down the line as he is also recovering from an ACL. When healthy, Millard can be someone the team uses in short yardage packages on offense and can be plugged into special teams. Bruce Miller is the unquestioned starter at fullback currently, so Millard would have to fight for an eventual role.
Photo: Getty Images
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