ESPN's NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper hosted a conference call on Tuesday and dropped all sorts of knowledge. Amid Kiper's vast recalls of hundreds of prospects, were a few specific pieces of information that were directly related to the San Francisco 49ers.
Here are five takeaways from the call as the 2016 NFL Draft is a little more than a week away.1. Arik Armstead had a productive rookie season.
San Francisco's first-round pick in 2015 was used in a limited role as a rookie, but he did see his playing time increase as the season wore on. Kiper, for one, was very impressed by what he saw from the 6-foot-7 defensive lineman.
Armstead showed flashes of how disruptive he can be along the 49ers defensive front.
"Armstead had a pretty good rookie year," Kiper said. "He had 19 tackles and a couple of sacks, but he was more productive, in terms of what they were asking him to do, than the numbers indicate. I thought he was a solid player, and I thought he got better as the year went along. I think Armstead was a nice pick for the 49ers."2. DeForest Buckner is full of potential.
Speaking of 6-foot-7 defensive linemen out of Oregon, Buckner has been mocked to the 49ers by several draft experts. Buckner is a rare breed of athlete at 291-pounds while possessing ridiculous 11 3/4-inch hands. Buckner posted 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks as a senior in 2015.
Similarly to the scouting report on Armstead a year ago, Kiper said that Buckner's top-10 draft stock is based largely on his sky-high potential.
"He's got a lot of talent," Kiper began. "He's still raw. He plays high. He's got to learn how to maximize that ability on a regular basis. I'm not sure he can be a 4-3 guy. I think he's strictly a 3-4 defensive end. He's still a developing talent who still hasn't gotten where he needs to be. He flashes, but he's not a consistently dominant player yet. But when you have the length and the huge hands and you flash like he does, you're going to go in the top 10. He's a tough evaluation for me."3. The best value at pick No. 7 is at offensive tackle.
The top players remaining when the 49ers go on the clock could include one or two of the top defensive prospects: Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, Ohio State pass-rusher Joey Bosa, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and Buckner. One of the top three offensive tackles – Ole Miss' Laremy Tunsil, Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley and Michigan State's Jack Conklin – could also be left on the board.
Given the choice between a few of the aforementioned prospects, Kiper said that the best value lies with one of the tackles.
"I think you would go Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley or Jack Conklin," he stated. "I think those are the three where their grades are very similar to the defensive players, but I think for need, one of those three would make sense for the 49ers. If you want to improve that line, you're guaranteed to get a 10-year guy there."4. You should get to know Conklin.
Here's a scouting report on the Michigan State tackle who Kiper called one of the most undervalued player's in this class.
"Talk about a guy who's underrated, Jack Conklin played extremely well at left tackle. He did a great job against Ohio State," Kiper said. "He did a great job against DeForest Buckner when they played Oregon. He had a great combine. He showed that he's a great athlete with tremendous length. I don't see how Jack Conklin isn't a pick inside of No. 7, let alone at No. 7.
"He's been rising fast these last two or three weeks."5. There could still be viable QB options in the second round or later.
The odds of Cal's Jared Goff or North Dakota State's Carson Wentz making it past pick No. 2 are slim to none. That's especially true now that the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles have traded up to grab the top two picks, respectively.
But that doesn't mean there aren't more quality signal-callers to be had in this year's draft. If San Francisco does hope to land a quarterback, Kiper laid out a few options beginning in the second round.
"Connor Cook could be there from Michigan State," Kiper began. "Christian Hackenberg from Penn State will be there I believe. Paxton Lynch will be gone. Jacoby Brissett from North Carolina State has gained a lot of momentum. Brissett is 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. He can throw the football. He's got a strong arm, and he's athletic. He's raw, but he's got talent."