Grading how well the 49ers did in the NFL Draft
I put out a bulletin to all the draftniks I know and asked them to list the top players in the 49ers’ undrafted rookie class. Their responses, plus an assessment of which positions were deepest and weakest on San Francisco’s roster, led to this list:
FS Lorenzo Jerome, St. Francis
Two things put Jerome atop the this list: 1. He had six interceptions last season, then had two each in the Senior Bowl and NFLPA all-star game. (He also forced a fumble in the Senior Bowl). 2. The 49ers didn't draft a single-high safety and don't have any obvious talents there behind Jimmie Ward, who has been injured in two of his three NFL seasons. Jerome doesn't look like a great athlete (he's 5-10, 201 and ran his 40 in a pedestrian 4.61 seconds), but his instincts appear to be sharp.
TE Cole Hikutini, Louisville
Like 49ers' third-round pick and fellow Sacramento native Ahkello Witherspoon, Hikutini played only one year of high school football and therefore was lightly recruited. He eventually found his way to Louisville where last year he led the team with 50 catches, eight touchdown receptions and finished second in receiving yards with 668. Hikutini has good hands (10 inches) and might have a shot at making the roster as the third tight end. At minimum, he seems like a worthwhile developmental project on the practice squad.
WR KD Cannon, Baylor
Kyle Shanahan cherishes speed at this position, and Cannon ran his 40 at the combine in 4.41 seconds. He also caught 87 passes for 1,215 yards and 13 touchdowns in Baylor's pass-happy offense last year. Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Jeremy Kerley and Trent Taylor seem to be the frontrunners to make the 53-man roster. That might leave one more spot.
G Bret Treadway, Lamar
Treadway is interesting because he can move, something Shanahan values in his zone-blocking scheme. Treadway (6-4, 295) needs to get stronger to survive in the NFL trenches, but his movement skills are what intrigued the 49ers. They had a private workout with him following his pro day. Treadway's 10-yard split in his 40-yard dash -- 1.71 seconds -- is excellent for an offensive lineman and matched that of tackle Garett Bolles, who was a first-round draft choice.
DE Jimmie Gilbert, Colorado
The 49ers are loaded along the defensive line after drafting three more linemen last week. That is, except for the important "Leo" pass-rusher spot where they are experimenting with Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair, Aaron Lynch and others. The team drafted Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round as a possible "Leo." Gilbert also fits after a 2016 season in which he had 14 tackles for loss, 10 1/2 sacks and six forced fumbles. His issue is mass. He's 6-4, 231 pounds with a thin frame, and he had only 12 bench-press repetitions at his pro day. He will be well-served by a year in the 49ers strength and conditioning program.
DE Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia
Nwachukwu is on the list for the same reason as Gilbert -- the 49ers must develop a right defensive end. He doesn't have Gilbert's weight or strength issues -- he's 6-1, 268 and had 27 reps on the bench press -- but didn't put up prolific numbers last year, either. He had 7 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks.
RB Matt Breida, Georgia Southern.
The 40-yard dash times at pro days sometimes seem fudged, so maybe Breida's 4.38-second mark is off a bit. But it's hard to fake his very impressive vertical jump (42"), his broad jump (11', 2") or his 23 repetitions on the bench press. Breida ran for 1,485 yards in 2014, 1,609 in 2015 but only 644 last year, which may explain why he didn't get drafted. He also has only 22 catches in his college career. He'd be higher on this list if the 49ers hadn't drafted a running back and traded for another on Saturday.
WR Victor Bolden, Oregon State
OL Erik Magnuson, Michigan
G J.P. Flynn, Montana State
S Malik Golden, Penn State
WLB Donavin Newsom, Missouri
OL Darrell Williams, Western Kentucky
QB Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi
WR Kendrick Bourne, Eastern Washington
G Evan Goodman, Arizona State
CB Zach Franklin, Washburn
FB Tyler McCloskey, Houston