This is my Thursday column.
Don’t lick that envelope just yet, Trent.
I know you like to lock in your draft pick early. You wanted A.J. Jenkins so bad in 2012, you wrote his name on a piece of paper and sealed it an envelope days before you picked him. Your conviction was impressive, even though Jenkins wasn’t.
You should be more cautious this year. I count three players you should seriously consider taking with the 15th pick in the upcoming draft, three players who are envelope-worthy.
Here they are, ranked third to first.
3. Marcus Peters, cornerback, University of Washington
Most draft experts consider Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes the best cornerback in the draft. He probably will get picked before the 49ers have a chance to take him.
But some experts believe Peters is better than Waynes. In December, an anonymous scout from a team in the NFC East called Peters the “best cover corner prospect I’ve seen in the last 14 years,” according toNFL.com.
That takes us back to Champ Bailey, who was drafted by the Washington Redskins with the seventh pick in 1999. Bailey made 12 Pro Bowls during his career. He is a future Hall of Famer.
Peters might not be as good as Bailey, but Peters is good at everything a cornerback should be good at. Peters can play outside or in the slot, he can press a receiver or play off a receiver in man coverage, and he can play zone coverage, too. He picked off 11 passes in 35 games at the University of Washington.
Peters became Washington’s No. 1 corner in 2013, the year Washington’s previous No. 1 corner, Desmond Trufant, got drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Falcons. Trufant was outstanding in college, and already is one of the best corners in the NFL. Peters is better.
If he’s so good, why will he fall to pick No. 15?
In November, first-year Washington head coach Chris Petersen dismissed Peters from the team for arguing with assistant coaches during practices and games. That’s the main reason. Just because Peters clashed with Chris Peterson’s staff doesn’t mean he will clash with Jim Tomsula’s staff. Peters would be a terrific pick.
But he would not be the best pick. The Niners have used their past two first-round picks on defensive backs (Eric Reid in 2013 and Jimmie Ward in 2014). It isn’t wise to spend first-round picks on the same position every year. Other positions need premium young talent, too.
Besides, the 49ers’ problem isn’t their defense — it’s their offense.
2. Breshad Perriman, wide receiver, University of Central Florida
Perriman is a dark horse. He didn’t play in a major conference, so people didn’t see much of him, plus he didn’t run at the Combine because he pulled his hamstring. Until recently, draft experts didn’t know what to make of Perriman. They guessed teams might draft him in Round 2.
No one realized how fast Perriman is until he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.24 seconds at Central Florida’s pro day. He is the fastest receiver in the draft, and he’s big — 6-foot-2, 212 pounds.
If the Niners had Aaron Rodgers or any of the top-10 quarterbacks, Perriman would be a no-brainer pick. It’s always smart to surround great quarterbacks with as many talented receivers as possible.
But the Niners don’t have a great quarterback. They have Colin Kaepernick. What is Kaepernick going to do with three receivers? He can’t even get past the first receiver in his progression. He stares down option No.1 and then scrambles if that option isn’t open.
Kaepernick could have 10 great receivers on his team — he still would force passes to Anquan Boldin. Perriman would be a waste of talent on the Niners.
They have bigger needs than another wide receiver, anyway. Like tight end. Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald were terrible last season. They were one of the worst tight-end duos in the league. And they both have bad backs. The Niners would be shrewd to draft a tight end before a wide receiver, but there aren’t any tight ends worth the 15th pick.
That means, when it comes down to it, the Niners should spend their first-round pick on an offensive lineman.
1. Andrus Peat, offensive tackle, Stanford University
A strong offensive line would help Kaepernick more than a third receiver. The 49ers are a run-first offense. Kaepernick needs a strong running game to be effective. He can’t throw 50 passes per game and win. He’s effective when he throws about 25 passes per game.
He’s especially effective throwing play-action passes. When the opposing defense sells out to stop the 49ers’ running game, Kaepernick has the arm strength to throw the ball past the other team’s last line of defense.
But the 49ers’ play-action passes weren’t effective last year because the Niners’ offensive line simply wasn’t good enough. It gave up 52 sacks and allowed a ton of pressure. Play-action passes take longer to develop than other plays. The quarterback has to turn his back to the defense, fake a handoff, spin around and find someone who is open. By the time Kaepernick turned around last season, a defender often was in his face.
Peat is the best pass-protector in the draft. He’s also a good run-blocker, and he can play guard or tackle. He would be a fixture on the 49ers’ offensive line for the next 10 years.
Peat should be the pick. You can lick that envelope now, Trent.
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.