San Francisco 49ers

And the winner is ... 2015 draft crush revealed

If long-armed DeVante Parker is in the vicinity of the 49ers’ first-round selection, Trent Baalke should take him.
If long-armed DeVante Parker is in the vicinity of the 49ers’ first-round selection, Trent Baalke should take him. AP

SANTA CLARA -- Toward the end of the 1993 hit "The Fugitive," Tommy Lee Jones' character pleads with Harrison Ford's titular character with: "It's time to stop running!"

I have the same message for 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. He messed up on a wide receiver, A.J. Jenkins, in 2012, and has been running from the position ever since. Last year he ended up with a dozen picks in perhaps THE GREATEST WIDE RECEIVER DRAFT IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND and used one, a fourth rounder, on Bruce Ellington.

This year's receiver class is believed to be nearly as good. He can't rely on Ozzie Newsome to vet his wide receivers forever. At some point he has to plunge back into the murky waters of the draft pool and return to the surface with a No. 1-caliber receiver.

Who fits that description and could be around -- or at least nearby -- when Baalke on the 49ers are on the clock at pick No. 15?

There is only one -- Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker. He is the object of the "2015 Draft Crush."

(Pull back curtain revealing Parker; Wait for applause to subside)

Why Parker? He's big (6-3, 209), he's fast (4.45 40), he's productive, he's versatile and he appears capable of taking over, at some point, the No. 1 role from Anquan Boldin, who is 34 years old and entering the final year of his contract.

Parker started four games last season, played in six and still finished with 855 receiving yards. Extrapolate that over a full, 12-game college season and he has 1,710 yards.

What stands out about Parker is his length and fluidity. His arms are 33 1/2 inches long -- think Baalke noticed that? -- which, combined with his leaping ability, 36 1/2 inches, allows him to win jump-ball scenarios. That makes him a red-zone, goal-line threat, something the 49ers never could squeeze out of Michael Crabtree (though Lord knows they tried).

Parker averaged nearly 20 yards a catch last season and showed an ability to get deep. But he did most of his damage on short to medium routes, especially crossing routes in which he was able outrun the defense for big gains. In that way, he seems to be an excellent complement to Torrey Smith, who promises to do his best work deep downfield in the coming years.

Is Parker perfect? No.

* He didn't play a full season in 2014 due to a fractured fifth metatarsal (foot) he suffered in the summer. After dealing with Crabtree's foot and lower-leg injuries since 2009 and seeing 2014 first-round draft pick Jimmie Ward deal with two foot injuries last year, any foot-related issues should give Baalke and the 49ers pause.

* While NFL coaches and GMs have raved about the way West Virginia wideout Kevin White came across in interviews, Parker left them wanting more. He was quiet and reserved, and he raised the eyebrows of a few teams by stating that he would bring his entire entourage, including family, to whichever city he lands. That's not something NFL decision makers usually want to hear. (Notable: Parker has had no off-the-field issues).

* Parker won't win any Mr. Universe competitions. He's got a lean body and has been criticized for not being physical enough. (He stinks as a run blocker, for example). That is, he's faster, longer and far more athletic than either Boldin or Crabtree but may lack the others' grit).

The injury issue is perhaps the most troubling. But it also could work in the 49ers' favor if it causes him to drop -- notably past the Vikings and Dolphins -- to the 49ers at pick No. 15. That's a sort of no-man's land in the draft. There needs to be a reason for an elite talent to drop to No. 15, whether it's character concerns or injury concerns. For Parker, it may be injury concerns.

There are also some who believe that Parker wasn't fully healthy last season. If that's the case, the 49ers would be taking an injury risk but also might be getting a player who is better than what he showed on film in 2014.

As always, Draft Crush doesn't denote the best player in the draft but rather the best player, best fit and biggest need within striking distance of the 49ers.

Some others who stood out and who will be available at various points in the draft:


Marcus Peters, Washington.

Peters is probably the best all-around cornerback in the draft and plays the type of aggressive style the 49ers like. Yes, his attitude is a concern. But his character questions are not nearly at the same level as some other prospects -- receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, for instance -- and Peters would be entering a secondary that has excellent leadership in Antoine Bethea, Eric Reid and coach Tim Lewis. If Parker is gone, Peters could be their pick.

Edge rusher

Owamagbe Odighizua, UCLA; Preston Smith, Mississippi State

Smaller pass rushers like Nebraska's Randy Gregory, Clemson's Vic Beasley and Missouri's Shane Ray have been getting all the publicity. But Odighizua and Smith are bigger -- and perhaps better -- players who will be available late in the first round and into the second. Both are long-armed and powerful. Smith shows excellent strength in his hands; Odighizua is quicker, and of the two, likely will be taken first.

Defensive line

Marcus Hardison, Arizona State

He's received precious little pre-draft buzz for someone who weighs 309 pounds and had 10 sacks, 15 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and forced six turnovers last year. Hardison's 33 1/2-inch arms are not quite in the Baalke optimum range. But they are close, and he seems like the type of quick-twitch defensive end the 49ers would take in the middle rounds.

Running back

T.J. Yeldon, Alabama

He's got excellent size and power and has better moves than you'd expect for someone who weighs 226 pounds. This is the best draft for running backs in recent memory, which means that someone like Yeldon could be available later than he would in a normal year.

Draft Crush Memory Lane

2014: WR Cody Latimer. Yeah. Ok. I get it. It seems like Latimer was the one receiver from last year's draft that didn't have a sensational season. In fact, he caught just two passes. But with a year of learning an NFL playbook under his belt and Peyton Manning as his quarterback, the sky remains blue. The Bee stands by its crush. Here’s what I wrote about Latimer -- and Odell Beckham Jr. -- last year.

2013: DL Tank Carradine. He played 146 snaps last season and had three sacks. That's a pretty good ratio, one that you would think would warrant more snaps this season. Plus, his name is Tank, which is awesome.

2012: TE Coby Fleener. He had 774 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last season. The 49ers' entire tight end corps combined for 433 yards and two touchdowns. This is not a typo. The 49ers selected Jenkins in this spot, then used a second-round pick on Vance McDonald the next year. The prosecution rests, Your Honor.

2011: OLB Von Miller. He has 49 sacks over the last four seasons. Aldon Smith, by comparison, has 44. (J.J. Watt has 57. Note to the other two: Your sack total improves if you're, you know, actually on the field).

2010: RB C.J. Spiller. He's averaged five yards a carry in five seasons and now will be playing in a dome with Drew Brees as his quarterback. Cha-ching!

2009: Percy Harvin. Ok, he's not going to land the role of lead choir boy. But here's the question, 49ers fans: Would you have taken him over Crabtree?

2008: Carl Nicks. Was once the NFL's best guard. Played in only nine games in 2012-13 after dealing with nasty MRSA infection and is no longer in the league. 49ers went with Kentwan Balmer in this spot, begging the question: Worse pick, Balmer or Jenkins?

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