Jim Harbaugh doesn't like comparing players because one or both of them could be marginalized in the process.
But comparisons are fun.
We at 49ers.com got to thinking once NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah was asked (on page 7 here) about how the top tight end prospect available in next month's NFL Draft juxtaposes with the top tight end on Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers roster.
So, at the risk of giving too much credit to members of the deep 2014 draft class, we picked out six 49ers defensive players and paired them with a soon-to-be rookie. Their strengths, according to NFL.com, are followed by our analysis.
Clinton-Dix's strengths: "Good size and wingspan. Quick to read and react. Enough speed and fluidity to keep pace with slot receivers or tight ends. Ranges off the hash. Good hands to intercept. Takes direct angles to the ball. Drops downhill urgently, runs the alley and does not shy from contact -- wipes out ball carriers. Secure tackler. Can break down and tackle in space. Has special-teams experience. Well-coached in a pro-style defense."
Analysis: Big, SEC-bred safeties both, Reid and Clinton-Dix have similar profiles. They also produced throughout their collegiate careers. Clinton-Dix might not be able to start from day one the way that Reid did for the 49ers, but experts' belief is that he can grow into being a starting safety.
Mosley's strengths: "Exceptional instincts -- triggers fast downhill. Outstanding urgency. Plays with very good knee bend, balance and base. Secure, drive-through tackler. Hits with explosion and jars ball carriers on impact. Excellent lateral agility -- flows fast and ranges to the sideline. Exceptional weight-room worker with good functional play strength -- plays bigger than his size. Outstanding eyes and anticipation vs. the run. Very good coverage awareness with the ball in front of him -- clings to tight ends passing through zones and blankets speed backs in man coverage. Respected leadership presence -- lines up his teammates and directs traffic. Film junkie. Excellent attitude, effort, field intensity and overall energy. Exceptional football and personal character. Highly competitive. Humble, selfless team player. Outstanding football IQ. Scheme-diverse and versatile. Strong special-teams coverage performer."
Analysis: Two more SEC products who are about the same size. While comparing any linebacker to Willis seems unrealistic, we're making an exception here because of key words like "personal character" and "humble" as well as "selfless." At the very least, Mosley seems to have some of Willis' leadership qualities.
Mack’s strengths: "Disruptive first-step quickness -- immediately re-creates the line of scrimmage and plays in the backfield (record tackle-for-loss production). Outstanding instincts -- locates the ball quickly and is around the ball a lot. Very good body control, bend and balance -- plays on his feet and is seldom on the ground. Developed pass-rush moves (rip, dip and inside counter). Very explosive -- broad jumped 10 feet, 8 inches and boasts a rare 40-inch vertical. Excellent pursuit -- tracks down ball carriers from behind. Sacrifices his body and sells out around piles. Strikes with authority -- hits on the rise, violently jars ball carriers backward on impact and has a knack for dislodging the ball. Highly motivated. Played big vs. better competition (see Ohio State). Can zone drop and buzz to the flat with ease. Highly competitive and energetic. Regularly was the focus of defensive game plans and still produced despite facing multiple blockers and extra protection consistently rolled his way."
Analysis: A physical pass-rusher that can stop the run? Check and check. While Brooks took a step forward in the sacks department in 2013, Mack enters the league in '14 already with that skill set. He registered 10.5 sacks his final amateur campaign when opposing defenses were often giving him Jadeveon Clowney-type treatment.
Donald's strengths: "Quick off the snap. Plays with natural leverage. Gets under pads and into gaps and is highly disruptive penetrating. Explosive in short area -- recorded a 1.64-second 10-yard split at the combine. Good foot athlete -- redirects well and can work the edges and loop and stunt. Flexible enough to zone-drop in short area. Plays with awareness and consistently locates the ball. Closes hard and fast. Keeps working to the ball. Disruptive penetrating ability. Outstanding career production. Tough and competitive with terrific personal and football character. Ran the fastest 40-yard dash by a defensive tackle and the combine and bench-pressed 225 pounds 35 times. Was unblockable in Senior Bowl 1-on-1 drills."
Analysis: Anyone would be hard-pressed to be as dominant in college as Dorsey was in his day, but Donald showed his ability to overpower as a run-stopper if not a pass-rusher. Both men are sub-300 pounds, but Donald could still slide inside and play on the nose. Dorsey made this switch after coming to San Francisco via free agency last offseason.
Verrett's strengths: "Quick, twitchy and explosive popping out of his pedal. Good eyes, anticipation and footwork. Very feisty and athletic. Outstanding instincts. Superb reactive quickness and recovery speed. Very good ball skills -- consistently makes plays on the ball. Very willing in run support and plays bigger than his size. Athleticism was on display at the combine -- 40-yard dash (4.38 seconds), 3-cone drill (6.69), short shuttle (4.00) vertical jump (39 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, 8 inches) ranked among the best of the cornerbacks."
Analysis: Verrett isn't the bigger corner to come out this year, and he's certainly not from the biggest football school. But, like Brock, he has a nastiness to his game and goes after the ball like a receiver. Verrett ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and, like the rest of the names on this list, should be a first-round draft pick.