This is my Monday column.
Here’s what the 49ers have to do in this year’s draft.
Trade up. Twice.
First, for a cornerback. The 49ers lost two starting corners during free agency – Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. The Raiders signed Brown and the Niners cut Rogers.
Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver are the best cornerbacks the 49ers have left. Brock played well last year, but he has started only seven games in the NFL. Culliver didn’t play last year – he tore his ACL during training camp – and he has started just six games in the NFL. Neither Brock nor Culliver is what you call an elite talent.
There are two elite cornerbacks in this year’s draft – Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State, and Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State. To get one of those two, the 49ers have to find a trade partner that owns a high pick in the first round and needs multiple players to restock a depleted roster.
The Raiders, the Browns, the Vikings, the Bills or the Titans.
Combined, the 49ers’ top-three picks – Nos. 30, 56, and 61 – are worth 1252 points on the NFL’s draft-pick-trade-value chart. The Titans’ No. 11 pick is worth 1250 points on the chart. Fair trade.
The Titans are terrible and own just six draft picks this year, plus they hired a new coaching staff this offseason. New coaching staffs usually like to bring in droves of their own new players. The Titans probably would be thrilled to turn one draft pick into three.
And with the No. 11 pick, the 49ers would take whichever cornerback they like best. I like Dennard a little more than Gilbert, but both are terrific.
Next, the 49ers have to trade up into the second round and draft a wide receiver, a fast receiver who can complement the Niners’ two possession receivers – Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. The Niners also need a big receiver who can replace Crabtree in 2015 if the 49ers don’t re-sign him – he will be a free agent after 2014, and probably will want top dollar on the open market.
So, the Niners need a big, fast receiver who can be the No.3 guy as a rookie, and can become the No. 1 guy in the future. Are there any receivers like that available in Round 2?
Yes. Jordan Matthews.
6-3. 212 pounds. Ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the Combine. No. 1 receiver the past three seasons at Vanderbilt. Most catches in SEC history. Fifty-eighth-best prospect in the draft according to CBS Sports. Jerry Rice’s cousin.
The 49ers have two third-round picks, Nos. 77 and 94. Together, they’re worth 329 points on the trade value chart. The Chargers’ second-rounder, pick No. 57, is worth 330 points. Fair trade. The 49ers can give their two third-rounders to the Chargers in exchange for the Chargers’ second-rounder, and then take Matthews.
Even after those two trades, the 49ers would have six more draft picks. Plenty. If the 49ers don’t make those trades, they would have 11 picks. Considering how good the 49ers roster already is, and the rookies who “red-shirted” last season (Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial and Marcus Lattimore), and the free agents the 49ers just signed (Antoine Bethea, Eric Wright and Chris Cook), the Niners would waste a significant portion of their draft if they were to use all 11 selections.
Some of those 11 picks wouldn’t make the final roster. If the 49ers want to make the biggest impact they can in this draft, they have to package their picks and trade up in the early rounds for franchise players. No sense in drafting players just to take up space, knowing before they even report to the first rookie mini-camp that they will be on the waiver wire in early September.
If the 49ers make shrewd trade-ups and wise choices during the first three rounds of the upcoming draft, they will be in a better position to unseat the Seahawks and to win the Super Bowl.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.