With the NFL draft a week away, experts and analysts are honing their predictions for what should be their most accurate guesses for the incoming class. Or, they’re floating new scenarios to mix it up.
Either way, fresh predictions for the April 27-29 draft reveal new candidates at No. 2, an aligned ESPN brain trust, and some analysts wavering from Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, once the prohibitive favorite and now just the favorite.
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It’s probably wise to not get too excited about the prospect of any player. While the second pick offers opportunity for elite talent it also has led to some immense disappointments. Take the last 20 years for example: Quarterback Donovan McNabb to Eagles in 1999, quarterback Ryan Leaf to Chargers in 1998; wide receiver Calvin Johnson to Lions in 2007, wide receiver Charles Rogers to Lions in 2003.
Updated April 19 (insider)
Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay are holding firm to Thomas at No. 2 in their latest mock drafts, which cover three rounds. They also agree that San Francisco will take a quarterback in the second round, and a defensive back in the third.
Predicting passers at No. 34 overall, Kiper has the 49ers taking Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes while McShay gives Clemson’s Deshaun Watson the edge, saying newly acquired quarterback Brian Hoyer will serve as an “adequate bridge” to Watson while he develops.
Updated April 5
Sports Illustrated NFL writer Chris Burke breaks down the Plan A/Plan B draft scenarios of each team, and he has a new top priority for the 49ers: Ohio State safety Malik Hooker. In previous recent mocks, he has had the 49ers selecting Thomas and LSU safety Jamal Adams. Now, he relegates Thomas to Plan B status.
“If the 49ers really are committed to playing a Seahawks-style scheme on defense, they need an eraser on the back end. Hooker isn’t going to be an Earl Thomas clone on Day 1 (or possibly ever), but he is a threat to pick one off every time a QB drops back,” Burke writes.
Updated April 17-19
CBS analysts Rob Rang, Dane Brugler, Jared Dubin and Ryan Wilson are sticking with Thomas at No. 2, but another defector has emerged. Pete Prisco thinks the 49ers will go with a different option to bolster its defensive line, one whom he views as under the radar: Tennessee end Derek Barnett.
“This is a kid scouts love a lot more than the draft media does. He will go higher than expected,” writes Prisco, CBS Sports senior NFL columnist.
Will Brinson is holding strong to the belief coach Kyle Shanahan will grab what could be his quarterback of the future: North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky.
“This makes more sense to me than to other people apparently,” writes Brinson, CBS Sports NFL writer. “Trubisky fits what Kyle Shanahan wants to do and is the best quarterback prospect in this class.”
Updated March 28-April 18
No longer are the six NFL.com analysts in agreement that Solomon should be penciled in for the second pick.
In Chad Reuter’s scenario, the Browns take Trubisky at No. 1 and that leaves Myles Garrett for the 49ers, who would gladly grab him up, he says. But Reuter isn’t claiming any inside knowledge with Cleveland’s thinking; he’s just entertaining how it would trickle down to the rest of the draft.
Bucky Brooks has the 49ers taking Adams, the LSU safety: “The 49ers snag a Ronnie Lott-like leader and playmaker with the second overall pick.”
Updated April 11
The Ringer’s Danny Kelly projects the 49ers to take Thomas as their top pick.
“With the jury still out on Aaron Lynch (1.5 sacks in seven games last year), San Francisco needs a true weakside edge rusher for early downs,” Kelly writes.