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49ers mock drafts: Why analysts are conflicted over ninth pick as decision day nears

Here's a look ahead at the possible 49ers NFL draft picks

The 49ers have the ninth pick in the NFL draft later this month. Here's a look at what players the team should pick up, according to 49ers reporter Matt Barrows.
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The 49ers have the ninth pick in the NFL draft later this month. Here's a look at what players the team should pick up, according to 49ers reporter Matt Barrows.

In two weeks, football players will hope to trade their college colors for NFL jerseys with the No. 1 on them.

The NFL draft kicks off its first round April 26 in Arlington, Texas, with rounds 2-3 the next day and rounds 4-7 on April 28.

The 49ers, who went 6-10 in 2017-18, have the ninth pick in the first round. The draft is drawing closer, but the same can't be said for analysts' predictions on whom San Francisco will take.

So who will hold up that red shirt at AT&T Stadium when his name is called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell? Here's a sampling from draft analysts across the nation.

ESPN (Insider)

Updated April 10 (McShay) and April 11 (Kiper)

A week after agreeing on whom the 49ers should pick, just as they did with the Raiders, things are back to usual for ESPN's main NFL draft analysts.

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are once again going different routes in their latest mocks.

Kiper has the 49ers taking Roquan Smith, a linebacker from Georgia. According to NFL.com, he has “elite athletic ability” while playing with discipline, but “will need more schooling on hand work when taking on blocks.”

"The uncertainty around Reuben Foster's future has me rethinking the 49ers' first pick," Kiper wrote.

"They have a glaring need at cornerback, but Smith is the type of talent that is tough to pass up. And if Foster gets his off-field issues straightened up, Smith could move outside to weak-side linebacker, and San Francisco would have one of the most talented front sevens in the league."

McShay has San Francisco on Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

His NFL.com profile says he will use the entire field and he "carries long speed of a human torch with ability to embarrass his defender." On the downside, he often "dances after catch on hitches rather than getting it upfield" and has an issue with drops (20 in three seasons).

"This is a little high for Ridley, who isn't a true NFL No. 1 wideout, but he's the clear top wide receiver in this class and a smooth route runner," McShay wrote. "He gives (quarterback Jimmy) Garoppolo another young receiver to grow with."

Both analysts had the 49ers picking Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick last week.

NFL.com

Updated April 12

NFL.com has multiple analysts offering mocks and analysis. For these purposes, we'll focus on the most recent mock, done by Bucky Brooks. Follow the link above for more from NFL.com.

Brooks has the 49ers selecting Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

NFL.com’s draft profile says he “combines length with rare reactive athleticism and agility to access and tackle opportunities from unconventional angles,” but adds that his “instincts are average” and “can be a step slow to diagnose.”

"Versatile linebacker adds some sizzle to the 49ers' defense as a run-and-chase defender with crafty pass-rush skills," Brooks wrote.

CBS Sports

Updated April 11

CBS Sports has multiple analysts offering mocks and analysis. For these purposes, we'll focus on the most recent mock, done by R.J. White. Follow the link above for more from CBS.

White puts the 49ers on Fitzpatrick.

According to his NFL.com draft profile, he possesses an "extremely competitive play demeanor with a history of showing up big in the biggest games" and is a "dangerous blitzer off the edge." However, he "needs to improve his awareness when asked to play deep safety" and "play with more patience" in the NFL.

"The 49ers still need help in the secondary after adding Richard Sherman, who is coming off a major injury himself," White wrote. "Enter Fitzpatrick, who could slide in at slot corner with Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon on the boundaries, or at free safety if San Francisco decides it wants to move Jimmie Ward to corner. Either way, the Alabama product is a talent you want on your defense."

Walter Football

Updated April 11

Analyst Walter Cherepinsky is keeping the 49ers on Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. According to his NFL.com draft profile, Ward has “supreme athletic ability” and allowed just a 32 percent completion rate over the last two seasons, but his size (5-foot-10, 191 pounds) and strength are question marks.

"The 49ers had a big need for a cornerback entering the offseason. They signed Richard Sherman, but he's a player in his 30s coming off a November Achilles tear. Even if he plays well this year, he's not a long-term option," Cherepinsky wrote. "San Francisco has little else at the position (Ahkello Witherspoon) so I could see them using this selection on the 2018 NFL draft's top cornerback."

U-T San Diego

Updated April 11

Draft analyst Eddie Brown is keeping the 49ers on Florida State safety Derwin James. His NFL.com draft profile says he is an "absolute alpha in the locker room" who is a "solid open-field tackler with reactive athleticism to handle late elusiveness." On the downside, he "gets locked in on receiver routes and loses sight of quarterback's developing intentions," has played just 26 games in college and has torn his ACL in the past.

"Much like the Seminoles themselves, James had a disappointing season, but few defensive backs can match his dynamic combination of speed, size, instincts and hitting ability," Brown wrote.

USA Today

Updated April 4

(Editor's note: Draft analyst Nate Davis has yet to post an update since last week, so this is a rerun of what he had previously.)

Nate Davis also tabbed James as the pick for San Francisco.

"The Niners have been busy building a Seattle-style defense laden with former Seahawks, including CB Richard Sherman and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith," Davis wrote. "James isn't exactly Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor but is a special player whose makeup is a combination of skills that include some of the best attributes of Seattle's star safety tandem."

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