It’s widely assumed the 49ers will select a quarterback, cornerback or a pass-rushing outside linebacker with their No. 7 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
But the draft won’t end there. San Francisco will still have at least nine more picks and six more rounds to address whatever area of need it didn’t fill in the first round.
With that in mind, I asked CBS Sports senior draft analyst Rob Rang to highlight a few non-first-round possibilities at the three positions of obvious need for the Niners.
Rang had no problem ticking off quarterbacks who would be suited for the West Coast Offense. And he didn’t hesitate to identify a few tall, physical cover guys – the type the 49ers prefer – who are later possibilities. But pass-rushing outside linebackers? Rang had to work harder for this one.
In Rang’s estimation, there is a steep dropoff after three prototypical 3-4 outside linebackers — North Carolina’s Robert Quinn, Texas A&M’s Von Miller and Missouri’s Aldon Smith – are snapped up in the first round.
“This is a pretty weak class of those types of rushers,” Rang said. “… In terms of the depth at the positions, quarterback and cornerback are both better than pass-rushing linebackers.”
Rang had a caveat: It’s more common to luck into pass-rushers in the later rounds than it is to find quarterbacks or cornerbacks. He said some NFL personnel departments just have a knack for finding such gems.
Of course, the Niners haven’t possessed such a knack, which explains they’re still seeking a get-to-the-quarterback linebacker.
Rang did highlight two linebacker possibilities that intrigued him in the later rounds. (I’ll also be posting his thoughts on later-round quarterbacks and cornerbacks):
BROOKS REED, ARIZONA
Rang’s projected draft round: Third
The skinny: Reed was a three-year starter at defensive end at Arizona and compiled 17 sacks during his career, including 6.5 while earning first-team all-Pac 10 honors as a senior. He bolstered his stock with a solid performance at the Senior Bowl where he was a stand-up pass rusher and displayed an array of effective pass-rush moves during practices. There are concerns that he might be a tweener – too small to play defensive end in the NFL and not agile enough to be a 3-4 linebacker.
Rang: “He has legitimate pass-rushing experience and prowess. He’s got a variety of pass-rush moves. Obviously, I don’t know if he’s quite as explosive as someone you might get in the first or second round.”
THOMAS KEISER, STANFORD
Rang’s projected draft round: Fourth
The skinny: Keiser moved from defensive end to outside linebacker after defensive coordinator Vic Fangio brought his 3-4 scheme to Stanford this past season. Keiser numbers dipped at his new position – he had 4.5 sacks in 12 games in 2010 after collecting 15 in his first 25 games at Stanford. Keiser ‘s decision to enter the draft after his junior season was a surprise and he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine.
Rang: “He’s a guy that really flashes at times. He certainly has the size — he’s a good football player. He just got overshadowed a little bit by some of the other Stanford defensive players they had this year. Looking back at his film, not this last year, but the year before that and he was the one making some splash plays. So he’s a guy that obviously they are going to know very well.”