Former 49ers linebacker and KNBR analyst and color commentator Gary Plummer previews the upcoming NFL Draft in his latest Point's of the Game column.**
I think it's amazing how much of a media circus the NFL Draft has become.
It has now become its own sporting event. It was ESPN 20-something years ago, who decided to put a camera at the event. Everyone thought they were crazy at the time. But now, the coverage on the Draft has picked up tremendously, especially the months leading up to it. The last couple of weeks leading up to the Draft is so intense that it's almost like it's become the Super Bowl of the offseason.
I think I have a rather unique perspective on the Draft. I was never even invited to the Combine and I was never drafted, but I went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL. With those experiences, I've always rooted for guys who don't get drafted. The one thing the experts can't measure is the heart of a player.
These potential draft picks have been heavily scrutinized by the scouting departments and front offices of all 32 teams, because now there's a much bigger emphasis by most teams (the 49ers being one of them) on a player's character. I know that's big on 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan and head coach Mike Singletary's list of players to potentially select.
But I'll stress it again; the one thing you truly can't measure is the heart and desire of a player. It's important to remember that these guys will mature at different stages. Some guys are finished products right now and they're not going to get much better. Some of the other players are just now hitting their stride or will develop into better players down the road. That's why there are always so many surprises in the Draft. These are still very young men. Certainly mentally, but physically they haven't matured all the way yet. I think that's the most intriguing part of the Draft – it's an inexact science.
When you look at who the 49ers will take in the first round, it's really hard to tell the information you're getting about the player is 100-percent accurate. Some of the coaches of the prospects will say great things about their players, because they want them to be drafted as high as possible, so in turn they can use that for recruiting purposes for their own programs. Because of that, there's always a lot of misinformation circling around a lot of the prospects.
Boston College defensive tackle BJ Raji was reported to have tested positive for an illegal substance at the NFL Scouting Combine, but now the report has been retracted. But is the damage already done there? It's hard to say. That's part of the uncertain element of the Draft. As much of a fine-toothed comb teams are using to find every little speck of information out of the player, you're going to miss out on some things. You're going to have people lying to you.
But when you look at some guys who excite me and could be a nice pickup for the 49ers, one of them is Raji. The guy was a beast in college and success in football always starts up front in the trenches. To think about Patrick Willis along with Takeo Spikes playing behind Raji – that's exciting to me.
Maybe the 49ers will have the opportunity to select a talented outside linebacker like Aaron Curry of Wake Forest or Brian Orakpo from the University of Texas. Watching both of those guys play in college, both of them were all over the field.
Also, I think there are a couple of wide receivers who should be considered with the tenth overall pick. Michael Crabtree from Texas Tech University and Jeremy Maclin from the University of Missouri have been fun to watch. They both have been game-breakers with explosive ability.
As of now, most experts are projecting four tackles, Jason Smith of Baylor, Eugene Monroe of Virginia, Andre Smith of Alabama and Michael Oher of Mississippi to go in the top ten. If any of those four are available, they should be considered as well.
In my opinion, there are so many players with great potential in the first round. I could see the 49ers moving back, because they have areas of need they can fill and add more draft picks at the same time. If another team is targeting a player and feels like they can move up to the tenth pick by offering more picks to the 49ers. The only way the 49ers will do that, is if they see a group of players they covet still available where they would end up selecting. If a group of players they are interested in are still around and a team is desperate to move up, then why not consider the trade option and move back a couple of spots? You still have the opportunity to pick the player you want and you get an extra pick. I could totally see the 49ers doing something like that.
Overall, the priorities for the nine picks the 49ers have need to be at outside linebacker or defensive end, wide receiver, tackle and help in the secondary.
The players who end up being selected in the second day of the Draft will be very important for the 49ers. Those picks cost so little against your salary cup, that's where your money is made.
When you see a player like Parys Haralson (fifth-round pick in 2006) sign a contract extension, it's so well-deserved. The reason it's merited is because he's a guy who was way more productive than his rookie contract. But that's the idea. That's the incentive for the rookies. They're trying to increase their value to the organization by the time they sign their next contract. Those second-day draft picks are so important, because if their production exceeds their salary, that can only help you as a team. You have to have guys like that. You can't have an entire team making eight-figure contracts. There can only be one of those guys per team. The majority of your roster has to be guys who came out of the second day of the Draft. It has to be that way in order to be able to compete in the NFL.
A lot of people don't get excited about the second day of the Draft, but in a sense, it's almost more exciting for the front office and the coaches.
I would also venture to say this Draft is more exciting than NBA, NHL playoffs, and the start of the MLB season. With the nature of the NFL, people love the game. And they should, it's an amazing game. It takes very special athletes to do what the players are going to be asked to do. I think that's why there's such great interest. People love college football as well and they watched the top prospects all season long. Now they're just hoping one of those guys, who they've been watching throughout their college career, becomes a member of the San Francisco 49ers. It's just all a part of the reason for why this weekend is so important.