The Latest Draft Talk on Marcus Mariota, Dorial Green-Beckham and Other Top Prospects

Tuesday's Niners Daily brings you the latest NFL Draft chatter on some of the top prospects in the class of 2015.*

He's not Mel Kiper Jr. or anything, but his words do count on this matter.

When speaking to the Bay Area press last week, Colin Kaepernick revealed his thoughts on one of the top prospects in this year's draft.

Missouri wideout Dorial Green-Beckham.

"Great talent," said the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who trained with receiver in Arizona this offseason. "Everything I saw of him, he was working hard, doing things well. Looks like a great prospect."

Green-Beckham isn't the only prospect being talked up at this time of the year. Mid-April is when draft chatter heightens prior to the first round of the NFL Draft on April 30.

Trade speculation, updated prospect rankings, even negative critiques seem to leak out in the days leading up to the draft. The reality is that you never know what to believe until the picks are made.

With that in mind, NFL Media analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Charles Davis spoke with reporters on a conference call this week to break down the upcoming draft.

As for the general feel for this year's draft, Jeremiah summed it up best:

"I can't remember one where it was more up in the air, just in terms of all these different position groups. There is no sheer pecking order when you talk to people around the League, and you talk about offensive tackles, edge rushers, defensive tackles, even getting into the running backs you get a variety of order from talking to the people around the League, so it's interesting from that standpoint."

For more on the latest draft storylines, we've boiled down some of the key takeaways from Jeremiah and Davis below:

TOP D-LINEMEN

Some in the mock-drafting business believe the 49ers will take a first-round defensive lineman this year.

If that's the case, here's a look at who Jeremiah and Davis believe are the most versatile player in defending multiple gaps on the line of scrimmage.

JEREMIAH: "To be able to have that flexibility, if you talk about interior linemen, to me, the reason I like Malcom Brown, is because of that ability. In terms of whatever you want him to do. You can play him in a 1 technique, in a 3 technique, you could play him -- I think you could play him in a zero and he could do that as well. He can two-gap, he can penetrate, and to me that versatility is one of the reasons why I have him up there, because those guys are hard to find. When you are sorting through those interior guys to me it's close with a guy like Eddie Goldman and Arik Armstead, they're really, really good players. To me, Malcom Brown and Arik Armstead are the two guys I think that can give you a little bit of both, and I put Eddie Goldman a little bit behind them because with Eddie you're getting a true 2-gap guy, you're getting somebody who can sit and clog, but you lose some of that up."

DAVIS: "I'm going to throw [Danny] Shelton in there, because we know his ability to play two gaps because he's in two-gap mode by lining up because of how big he is, and he has better movement skills in that short area, and I know his sack numbers went down as the season went on and the competition jumped up, but they started to run two or three guys at him every time to neutralize the guy. Again, I follow what Daniel is talking about. I think Leonard [Williams'] ability to move up the field is something we keep in mind in a big way, but he's utilized in so many different aspects so it will be fun to see how these guys progress because as you know getting to the quarterback and getting upfield pressure needs to be paramount on everything."

WHERE DOES MARIOTA GO?

If you need to know the top storyline of this year's draft, it could be the landing spot of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Some in the media, like ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski and NFL Network's Mike Mayock, believe the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is the top passer in this year's draft.

So has Mariota leap-frogged Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston as the top option for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

DAVIS: "My next mock draft comes out today, or later today, and spoiler alert, I actually put Mariota to 2 to Tennessee. Now part of doing mock drafts is you're doing some speculation, you're doing some guessing, and I spent some time over the weekend with somebody close to the Tennessee organization, who told me it's not as nearly as farfetched as we would have once thought, and I was adamant for weeks there was no way Tennessee would take Marcus Mariota, didn't seem to be a fit. I don't know if they're trying to blow smoke, if they're trying to confuse the issue, so we can't circle in on what they're doing, which is their right and I understand that, but I put him there as a possibility, we shall say what ultimately happens, shakes up my mock draft, but if Winston falls to 2, please tell me we're not going to spend 10 minutes waiting for that pick to go in. If he falls to 2, Tennessee run up there and get it done, please, because that makes no sense to do otherwise, if they feel good about the off-the-field, if all of that checks out for them, they should run up there, because it seems to be more like Kurt Warner back with Ken Whisenhunt and operating that offense."


THIS PROSPECT JUMPS OUT 

The cornerback depth in this year's draft seems to vary depending on who you're speaking to. But one thing is for sure, you can't deny the athleticism of Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones.

Jeremiah has Jones ranked as one of the top defensive backs in this year's draft class. And that was before Jones starred at the NFL Scouting Combine.

JEREMIAH: "I mean, you know, interesting thing about Byron Jones is when he jumped out of the building in the Combine. I think some people assumed this was -- you hear, this guy came out of nowhere, this is an underwear Olympics superstar, there is no tape to back up what you see, and here we go again getting carried way with a workout, but I had him in my top 50 going into the Combine. I think he was 48 or somewhere around there, and right now I have him at 38 so it wasn't like this was a meteoric rise based on a workout. He's a good player when you study him on tape, the year before you go back and watch him against Michigan and watch the plays he makes in that game as a press corner, can located the ball down the field, he's physical, and then this year you saw him play in the boundary, had a bad shoulder so he missed tackles but he has good feet. I think he can definitely play corner at the next level and, you know, look, if somebody is interested in him as safety because there are no safeties in this draft I guess I can kind of understand that, I think he could do it. But to me, I look at the safety position when you're moving those guys because they can't play corner. I think this guy can play corner and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him sneak into the first round."


SAFE PICKS

These top prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft have been connected to the San Francisco 49ers in recent mock drafts.

If cornerback depth is a toss up, safety predictions might be even harder. Jeremiah noted that safety might be the most challenging position to grade out on a yearly basis.

JEREMIAH: "For me it's been going back a few years now it's been the hardest position for me to evaluate has been the safety position, because you have to watch more tape on that position than any other because of the spread offense and the college game. It's bubble screen right, bubble screen left and you look down at your notes you've watched three or four games on a safety and I don't have anything about his ability to range off the hash, be able to make plays across the field, in terms of being -- route recognition, being able to make drives and make plays on the ball, there's so many predetermined throws and hitters in these spread offenses, angles and their ability to break down a tackle in space, and then you will also see some examples now where they will let the guy cover down the slot, like Amos from Penn State, you will see him going down covering the slot, which is something that will definitely translate to the next level, but it is a hard position to evaluate and to go along with what Charles was saying, you look at these colleges -- I pay a little bit of attention to some of these recruiting deals with these high school kids when it happens and you'll get a kid that's a five star and he can play receiver and he can play safety, and just about every time colleges are putting them at receiver, because you're playing against an offense that goes four and five wide, you can say the safety out of the game; whereas, you put him at receiver he can score touchdowns, win games, so the overall position, the talent at the position and the ability to evaluate it it's not where it needs to be."

PRO DAY IMPACT vs. PRE-DRAFT VISIT

The last stage of the pre-draft process is taking place in 32 NFL cities this week.

Pre-draft visits.

The final step after pro day performances, are the private workouts and final interviews at team facilities. This is the last opportunity for players to really differentiate themselves as a quality draft addition.

JEREMIAH: "I definitely think tape is the way to go, but I do think Pro Days and these private workouts, which a lot of teams are doing now, they're hopping on a jet and going out and working these guys out privately, not just as quarterback, but I'm talking 20 to 30 different players and getting a chance to ask them to do things you would ask them to do for your team so you get a better evaluation, but I always felt the teams that are coach-driven in personnel, meaning that the GM kind of works for the coach, I thought those teams are more likely to put more into the Combine, the All-Star games and in the Pro Days because that's the first impression for some of these position coaches, and even head coach to see those players, so they don't have that tape at that point in time to fall back on, so I think sometimes you can allow that workout, that first impression to color when you end up seeing on the tape. So I found that personnel-wise when you watch these guys and studied them and you see something that's different at a Combine or All-Star game you have more clarity on that to not get dissuaded by it. Everybody will say it's all about the tape, it's all about the tape, but there are plenty of examples of guys that have hurt themselves in the postseason."

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