Scout’s eye view of 49ers’ defensive draft options

If the 49ers liked Tyson Jackson, whom the Chiefs selected with the No. 3 overall pick last year, they will really be smitten with Penn State defensive end Jared Odrick in this year’s draft.


DJ.jpgThat’s the opinion of Daniel Jeremiah, who worked as a scout with the Ravens and Browns. Jeremiah now shares his scouting expertise on his Web site, Move the Sticks, and on Twitter, where, as of this posting, he has 12,942 followers.


I was interested to get his opinions on some of the options the 49ers will consider with their two first-round picks. In this installment, Jeremiah addresses the defensive side of the ball.


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Jeremiah was with the Ravens in 2003 when the club selected nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin in the fifth round of the draft. Franklin played seven games his first two seasons with the Ravens. He started just one game in four seasons in Baltimore before the 49ers swooped in and signed him to a three-year, $6 million contract.


The 49ers have planned for more than three months to assign the franchise tag to retain Franklin for 2010. He’ll earn $7 million this season in the likely event the sides do not work out a contract extension.


Q: What are your views on Aubrayo Franklin, as far as being a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle?

DJ: “He’s perfect for it. He was (then-Ravens director of player personnel) Phil Savage’s baby in that draft. He had him targeted early in the process and thought he’d be a developmental nose that would take a little time. (Franklin) was put together and built perfectly for it. People don’t understand that it takes a lot of time to learn the nuances of that position in that defense and develop the technique. If you have the natural functional strength, that’s a huge part of it. And he’s a very strong dude.”


Q: How familiar are you with Kentwan Balmer?

DJ: “I (scouted) him coming out. He was one of those guys, it was a matter of which game you watched him. If you watched him one game, you didn’t see if. But if you watched the next game, he had some real ability. He could be real violent with his hands. Obviously, he has the prototypical size, but the consistency came and went.”


Q: Of the guys you’ve seen so far, who would you say are the defensive linemen who would fit a 3-4 style where the 49ers might be picking?

DJ: “The name to keep an eye on is (Jared) Odrick from Penn State. He’s climbing really quick. He’s a really good player. He’s a perfect 5-technique guy. He’s a perfect 3-4 end, because he has the size with his height and length and he’s really strong at the point, so he can hang in there and two-gap if he has to. He’s really good against the run and he has some quickness he can use in the pass game. A lot of people are comparing him to Aaron Smith of the Bengals.”


Q: Would he be a reach at this point for the 49ers at 16 or 17?

DJ: “I thought he’d be a really good 3-4 end, and I know when you get a defensive lineman that’s clean – in other words, he has desired height, weight, speed and that stuff, along with being a good player – I don’t think you can take those guys too early. Most people might have him in the bottom half of the first round. But I don’t think you can reach if you really believe in a D-lineman.”


Q: In other words, the Tyson Jackson effect?

DJ: “Taking a guy in the top-three that maybe should’ve gone in the 20s is different. I graded them both and I think Odrick is a better player coming out than Jackson. And now we’re talking about taking a guy at 16, as opposed to 3. I don’t think that’s too much of a reach?”


Q: What about Dan Williams of Tennessee and Brian Price of UCLA?

DJ: “Dan Williams is a big-time 3-4 nose. To me, if you’re going to invest as much money as you are in Aubrayo Franklin, and if you have a desire to get something done with him long-term, Dan probably isn’t your guy. And I think he’s going to go high, too. I think he’ll go No. 12 to Miami. . . . Price is one of my favorite players in this draft. I think he’s a prototypical 4-3 player. I think he fits that a little better. He can get upfield. He’s got inside pass rush and can penetrate. I think 4-3 teams are going to fall in love with him. He could be a 3-4 guy, but that’s limiting what he does best, which is not sit there and clog but get around blocks and get upfield. Teams that play that Tampa or Indy style, that kind of attacking 4-3 defense, are going to be real high on him. A lot of people don’t have him going in the first round, and I think that’s insane.”


Q: Which hybrid defensive ends/outside linebacker do you believe the 49ers could consider with one of their first-round selections?

DJ: “If (Derrick) Morgan is there from Georgia Tech, he’d definitely be worthy. I think he might be gone. He’s perfect. He’s probably the best pure pass-rusher in the draft. He’s capable of doing that. For what they ask of him to do in that defense, he can do it. What they do with Mike Singletary is similar to what they did with Mike Nolan. Those guys major in attacking the quarterback and minor in dropping into coverage. He’d be fine. He’s a big-time player. Another person who you really don’t hear a whole lot about is Sergio Kindle of Texas. I think he’s somebody they’re going to have to really study and look at because he’s got perfect size and speed and explosiveness for that position. He’s strong. He’s not as polished as a pass-rusher as Morgan. He’s not as polished as (Brian) Orakpo, coming out of Texas, but he’s a really, really good blitzer. So I could see him in the discussion for them.”


Q: I closely watched Rolando McClain in one game, the BCS title game, and based on what I saw and the talk about his smarts and passion for the game, I thought he’d be a great fit for the 49ers. But reading what you’ve written, it sounds like you don’t put him in that top-echelon class.

DJ: “To his credit, his best game was the national championship game. He played very well. He’s athletic. He’s a very good player. I think he can be a very good player. But we’ve had a pretty good run, starting with (Patrick) Willis, (Jon) Beason, the three USC guys last year, with Aaron Curry. Those guys were all really, really explosive, fast players – strikers as hitters and they force fumbles. They have some knock-back and can take on blocks. Whereas McClain is really instinctive. He’s a good athlete. He’s not going to run super-fast. He doesn’t take on. He works around blocks. He’s more of a catch tackler than a striker. He’s good. He’s a good player, but he’s not in that group with those other guys.”


Q: Are there any cornerbacks or safeties that you really like in the middle of the first?

DJ: “Joe Haden (Florida) is really good. He reminds me a lot of Leon Hall, who came out of Michigan and has been a really good player for the Bengals. He’s not a real big guy – I’m anxious to see how big he is at the combine, but he’s real tough and excellent ball skills. He just doesn’t have that elite size that you’d like if you’re going to take a cornerback in the top-five. He doesn’t have that, but he’s really good. He can step in and play right away. The safety, obviously, Eric Berry (Tennessee) is going to be long gone. He’s really good. He reminds me of Ed Reed. Then you have Earl Thomas (Texas). A lot of people are grading Earl Thomas as a corner. He has really good feet. They play him nickel on third downs and you see him line up and cover in the slot, and he’s really good. If he got drafted by the Niners, it wouldn’t surprise if they drafted him with the intention of putting him at corner.”


Q: Might Earl Thomas fall as a safety because he’ll come in undersized?

DJ: “Yeah, he’s not that big. And Earl Thomas misses tackles. He’s not a great run-support player. But he’s excellent in coverage and he’s a really good floating safety. So if you have the ability with him to let him float over the top where you match him up in the slot and cover, he’ll be fine. I don’t think he’s somebody you want as a support player because he doesn’t have the size and he misses tackles.”


Q: I’ve been receiving emails about this guy for two years . . . Taylor Mays . . .

DJ: “I don’t want to take somebody who’s been highly thought of and totally trash him, but he’s frustrating to watch because he’s so big and so fast, but he doesn’t make many plays. It’ll be interesting to see because what I’ve heard is he’s going to put on an absolute show at the combine. Every year there is a combine star who helps his stock, and he’s rumored to be the guy this year.”


Q: And that will keep him in the first round?

DJ: “I think there are always teams that feel they can get it out of him. If he tears up the combine with his size and he’s played on a good defense for a lot of years and been solid, so there’s always a chance he’ll go in the first round just based off measurables. But, for me, as a player he grades out more of a second-round, third-round pick guy.”


Q: Does Mays have a better chance to be a linebacker?

DJ: “He could. But the thing with him as a linebacker is he’s more of a shoulder-thrower and doesn’t wrap up. So it’s not an easy move. Thomas Davis did it with the Panthers, so I know there are teams using that as precedent to move (Mays) to linebacker. But I don’t think it’s a situation where he plugs in Year 1 at linebacker and plays. It would take him a little time to figure out.”


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In my next post, Daniel Jeremiah will look at the 49ers’ options on offense and among punt and kickoff returners.


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