Scout’s eye view of 49ers’ draft options at tackle, return game

Arguably, the 49ers’ two biggest needs entering the offseason are offensive tackle and return specialist. The 49ers should have some options at those spots on the first two days of the three-day NFL draft, which gets going this year on Thursday, April 22.


Daniel Jeremiah worked as a scout with the Ravens and Browns. He has been in those draft meeting rooms, and he knows the criteria NFL teams use when judging talent. Jeremiah shares his knowledge on his Web site, Move the Sticks, and on Twitter.


Yesterday, we posted Jeremiah’s thoughts on what the 49ers might think about some of the defensive players available in the draft. In today’s installment, we shift the focus to offense and special teams – specifically, offensive line and return specialists.


Q: I’m working under the assumption that the 49ers are going to be taking an offensive tackle with one of those first two picks. How deep is that offensive tackle group where you can draft a guy and feel comfortable about putting him at right tackle from Day 1?

DJ: “To me, the guys I feel comfortable with are (Russell) Okung (Oklahoma State), and he’s a true left tackle and he’ll be long gone by the time the 49ers pick, but I also like Trent Williams (Oklahoma) as a right tackle. He played right tackle as a junior and was much better than he played as a senior moving over to the left after (Phil) Loadholt came out. If you watch him as a right tackle the year before, I thought he was really good and can play there. I think Anthony Davis (Rutgers) can plug in and play at right tackle. . . . Everybody has this guy, Brian Bulaga from Iowa, going up there. I don’t see it. I watched him against Brandon Graham of Michigan, and he gets beat every-which-way. You watch him against (O’Brien) Schofield, the defensive end from Wisconsin, and he gets after him. A lot of these report were, ‘He played so well in the bowl game against (Derrick) Morgan from Georgia Tech.’ But Morgan is lined up on the other side for most of the game. And one of the few plays he is other there, they have a couple good battles, but Morgan beats him for a pressure in limited plays over there. So I don’t really see him being worthy of where the 49ers are picking.”


Q: What about Mike Iupati of Idaho?

DJ: “He’s really good. He’s one of the best guards to come out in a long time. It’s just a matter of whether you want to pick a guard that high. The one thing with the Niners is the run game hasn’t been that good recently, so if you really want to put a mauler or a road grader in your run game, he’s the guy. He is as physical as it gets. He was really, really good during the week at the Senior Bowl. He gave up a couple pressures, maybe gave up a sack in the game, but they were moving him around. He played left guard, they moved him to right guard, and he wasn’t quite as comfortable at right guard. He’s a natural left. . . . He was reaching out and wasn’t moving his feet. I think when you go from left to right and you’re comfortable playing in one spot, you’re thinking about your feet, so you’re late to react. The natural instinct for him was to reach and grab the guy. He’s got really quick feet. The stuff he struggled with in that game are all coachable. He can bend, he’s flexible. He’s really, really strong and he’s got quick feet. On the tape, he’s dominating.”


Q: The 49ers need a return guy. Who jumps out at you, as far as guys who can catch a punt, with good hands, and can make that first guy miss?

DJ: “Well, (Javier) Arenas is the best returner in the draft from Alabama. He’s an undersized corner. He can plug in right now and play nickel. He’s not going to run really fast, so he might drop a little bit because of that. But he’s got the best ball skills in the draft and he’s the best returner in the draft. He’s just undersized and he’s not going to run that great. He’s somebody, because of his return value, he could go in the second round. You might even get lucky enough to get him in the third, if he really puts a pedestrian time up. But he’s hands-down the best returner in the draft.”


Q: Better than C.J. Spiller of Clemson?

DJ: “Well, Spiller is the best kickoff returner. He’s got rare explosiveness. He’s an ACC track star. He’s got big-time speed. He’s somebody I think the 49ers will look at. I know they have (Frank() Gore, and they like (Glen) Coffee, but this is just a rare game-breaker and a big-time explosive player. He’d be a nice piece, especially when you’re trying to develop a young quarterback. You can just swing it out to him and he can take it. That’s a pretty nice weapon to have at your disposal.”


Q: How reliable is he catching punts?

DJ: “He’s fine. I think he’s better off as a kickoff returner. I think he has more natural feel there. But if you see him catch the ball out of the backfield, he’s got natural hands. He can catch it really easy. He can go back there and catch punts, no problem.”


Q: What are your feelings on Jahvid Best of Cal?

DJ: “I think if you take the durability out of it, I think he goes in the 20s just because of the explosiveness. It’s a copycat league, and you see what Chris Johnson has done. And Best is productive and he’s explosive. He can do a lot of things. But you’re going to have to answer the durability question. If he comes out of the combine and everything looks good with all that stuff, I think he can go in the bottom of the first round. I think somebody will move up to get him early in the second if he were to be around.”


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