Draftnik: In a pinch, Prince is the pick for 49ers

Is it draft day already?

Just kidding. Our first draft-related blog was 99 days ago, before the Super Bowl, before the lockout and before it became clear that Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller wouldn’t be around when the Niners were on the clock with the No. 7 pick.

Miller will surely be snapped up within the first six picks tonight.

But what about Patrick Peterson? If the LSU cornerback is on the board it will likely take the 49ers about 4.32 seconds – Peterson’s 40-yard-dash time – to make their selection.

But what if Peterson is gone, too? And Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Marcell Dareus and A.J. Green are also sporting the NFL-hat-with-blazer look. Anything can happen, of course, but it’s an entirely reasonable scenario.

If the Niners don’t want to trade down – or can’t find a willing trade partner – the most logical candidates at No. 7 would appear to be North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn and Nebraska cornerback Prince Amakumara.

CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang favors pass rushers over cornerbacks, all things being equal, but he said he’d select Amukamara if he were the 49ers.

“I would take Prince Amukamara. I think that he is a safer player,” Rang said. “I really believe the 49ers could use a pass-rusher more than they could use another corner. And the depth at the cornerback position is better than at outside linebacker as far as pass rushers … At the same time, I am that much higher on Prince. It’s not a huge disparity. It’s just that I believe Prince is the better, safer player. If you’re more concerned about taking the best available player rather than filling a need, then, to me, the choice is Prince.”

Why Prince? Rang believes Quinn is best suited to being a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL – an opinion shared by North Carolina coach Butch Davis. The Niners, presumably, would want the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Quinn to become a 3-4 outside linebacker.

“I agree with Butch Davis wholeheartedly that Quinn is at his best as defensive end in a 4-3 alignment and that’s what we’ve seen him do,” Rang said. “And that’s what his build is best suited for. He’s a very good athlete, but I don’t know if he’s an elite athlete in terms of the fluidity really needed to drop into coverage. And, of course, you’re not going to ask a 3-4 rush linebacker to necessarily be dropping into coverage that often. Their job is to get after the quarterback.

“But you see the same type of explosiveness in Quinn whether he’s standing up or he’s in a three-point stance. It’s rarer to have that type of explosiveness from the three-point stance so he’s a rarer commodity as a 4-3 defensive end. I do believe that he can be a good, or perhaps even very good, 3-4 rush linebacker. But I believe I believe he could be a Pro Bowl defensive end.”

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