In the past two days I've looked at Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis and Florida cornerback Joe Haden, the two guys I feel are most likely to wind up in a 49ers uniform this season. In fact, there's a reasonable possibility that both will be drafted by the 49ers next Thursday. The next guy on my list happens to be the lucky winner of my 2010 draft-crush competition. He is ...
Clemson running back C.J. Spiller
Before we go into Spiller's pros and cons, a word of clarification: The most important criterion for this list is whether these guys are still on the board when the 49ers pick. For example, I think the 49ers would rather draft Tennessee's Dan Williams than Spiller. But I also think that Williams stands a much better chance of being drafted ahead of Spiller. Capisce?
There has been a lot of talk that Spiller is a Top 10 pick. I don't buy that. The biggest knock on him is that at 196 pounds he is not a three-down runner. In fact, I spoke to one NFC scout this week who said he thought Cal's Jahvid Best was a better running back than Spiller. My sense is that Spiller will fall to the second half of the first round and that the 49ers would feel far more comfortable taking him at pick No. 17 than pick 13.
That being said, it seems to me that Spiller would be a shot of adrenaline to two phases of the game, special teams and offense, and would be an ideal pick for a team poised to take control of the NFC West. The 49ers essentially have three open starting spots in 2010 - right tackle, kick returner and punt returner. Spiller can fill two of those spots immediately, and perhaps more importantly, add an element of dynamism to an offense that was sorely lacking last season.
The 49ers ran up the middle more times than only one other team, the Jaguars, in 2009, and defenses knew what was coming. The 49ers can't be as predictable this season, and having a guy like Spiller in the backfield - even if it's for only a handful of plays early in his career - will keep defenses on their heels. Spiller scored 21 touchdowns from 50 yards or more at Clemson.
Spiller often was compared to Reggie Bush while at college. Another comparable is Chris Johnson - a small, speedy runner who has excelled on a more physical, power-running based offense. Spiller weighed 196 pounds at the scouting combine. Johnson weighed 197. Unlike Best, Spiller has been resilient while at Clemson. He played four years - rotating with James Davis the first three - and never missed a game. Perhaps more importantly, he fought through pesky injuries as a senior, something that comes with the territory in the NFL.
I'll be checking this post throughout the day. So if you want to challenge me on Spiller, I'm game. Dissent is welcomed here ... as long as it's civil.
The 49ers are holding their "local" pro day today for Bay Area players who are eligible for the draft. They also are hosting free-agent outside linebacker candidate Travis LaBoy. I'll have more on LaBoy later today.
-- Matt Barrows