Former general manager and NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly firmly believes the 49ers will be a team to watch. Casserly could see San Francisco trading in to the teens to select a player they have targeted on their draft board.
Who could that player be?
Casserly sees safeties Kenny Vaccaro (Texas), Eric Reid (LSU) and Matt Elam (Florida) as possibilities. Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert and LSU pass rusher Barkevious Mingo are also players to watch according to Casserly. If the 49ers look at a defensive end, the network analyst likes Jesse Williams (Alabama) and Kawann Short (Purdue) as options.
Many draft analysts have praised the depth in this year's draft class and Casserly agrees. While cornerback is a position with widely varying opinions amongst NFL GMs, Casserly thinks there will be plenty of value at corner in rounds 2-3.
49ers.com caught up with Casserly this week on the 49ers team cam, here are the highlights from the conversation:
On the 49ers' 13 picks
"One of the things you can do is try to move up and get a player you think is a cut above what you're going to be facing there. I think you can probably get into the teens. Whether somebody wants to move back that far, we'll find out. One other thing you want to think about, you want to come out of this draft with something good for next year - an extra two, an extra three, maybe even an extra one, who knows? Take one of those picks and get something for next year to give you a little more ammunition."
On whether the 49ers will be able to fill some of the positions they lost in free agency
"I think they have a chance. They'd have to trade up for Kenny Vaccaro. They'd have to get ahead of St. Louis and Dallas so that would have to get them into the teens - that's a possibility there. If they're sitting there, they could face Eric Reid as a possibility. Matt Elam is a possibility, though I think one of those at least get taken, if not both of them, because there are some teams that need safeties. Over at the tight end position there's Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame. Atlanta, right before them, who's trying to trade up to get a pass rusher – (Barkevious) Mingo, if they sit there, that's a name I think they certainly could take. He's also a kind of a fail safe guy, anywhere from the middle of the first round on back. He's kind of a fall back-type guy. The Stanford tight end, Zach Ertz, is a good player. The end of the first and beginning of the second, safety and tight end are two positions they can get filled.”
On depth at positions of need for the 49ers
"Well there is, at safety and tight end - we just mentioned that. Defensive end, certainly they need some depth there - a nose tackle like Jesse Williams from Alabama is a possibility. Sly Williams from North Carolina - not sure fits the 3-4 defense. He's more of an upfield type of guy. Short from Purdue - a guy who was probably rated higher at one point and has kind of slipped a little bit. This is a good spot for him - end of the first, beginning of the second. I think he can come in and help them at nose tackle."
On value in the middle rounds
"I think the position that's got everyone in a little bit of a quandary is cornerback. Most people have (Dee) Milliner as No. 1, then they have either (Xavier) Rhodes or (Desmond) Trufant at No. 2. Then after that if I asked five different teams, I'd get five different orders. I think there's about 10 second-round comers, which means some will go in the second, some will go in the third."
On projecting Eifert to the 49ers in his mock draft
"I'm not sure I would trade up to get him very far. If they have a conviction and he's sitting there with Atlanta, I'd get ahead of Atlanta, but I'm not sure if I'd get into the high 20's to do that. I like his speed. I like his athletic ability. I like his hands. I like his balance as a blocker. Those are things that are positives. I think he could use a little bit more strength, but most tight ends coming out of college aren't ready to be the complete package anyways."
On his reaction to the 49ers.com staff predictions of either Zach Ertz or Jonathan Cyprien
"Ertz is a natural there because they know him better than they no any of the other tight ends in the draft. Obviously they like him because they recruited him and he played well for them. Certainly they could take him. Tight end is a big position with the 49ers. Delanie Walker, that's a big loss for them. People say he was a second tight end, well they don't have a second tight end. They play with two tight ends. Fortunately,
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