Grading the Draft
One of our resident draft gurus @AArikian compiled some short analysis on the 49ers 2012 NFL Draft picks. The 49ers ended the draft with some good solid depth and a couple draftees have a shot to push for some serious playing time.
1. AJ Jenkins, WR Illinois
Positives: I’m confident that at the very least, he will be a good player. Someone with his speed, body control, route running and hands won’t bust in the NFL. He gets open and offers the QB a comfortable window to throw the ball into. The best case scenario for him is to land somewhere in between a Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings.
Negatives: Adds another average-sized WR into the mix when we could’ve used the size of someone like Stephen Hill or Rueben Randle in the redzone. Not very strong at this point and will have to hit the weight room. Not going to break a lot of tackles. His value has been questioned by some and will compared with guys like Hill, Randle and Quick for the next couple years.
2. LaMichael James, RB Oregon
Positives: Explosive, small RB who seems to cover 5 yards in the blink of an eye with those short, choppy steps. He will not run anyone over in the NFL, but the lack of size will help him tuck away behind our linemen and burst out for huge gains, similar to the way Kendall Hunter does it. Can catch the ball, return kicks/punts, and will infuse energy into the stadium every time he touches the ball. You can think of him as a Percy Harvin or Darren Sproles type of player who will make his impact felt even though he may never be a starter.
Negatives: Not the big, powerful back we envisioned taking to replace Gore down the line. Clearly though, the team has a different vision, with guys like Hunter and James carrying the load along with perhaps a goalline specialist in the future. The other thing with LMJ is his value will be defined by how good the coaches are at getting him the ball in space and giving him opportunities to make big plays. If he touches the ball only 3-4 times a game, this pick won’t be worth it. We need to utilize him.
Grade: B (mostly dependent on usage)
4. Joe Looney, G/C, Wake Forest
Positives: Pretty thick-looking interior lineman who is smart and plays tough and has solid power, particularly in the upper body and in his hands. Loves to pull and does it well. Has seen some work at center in recent months and could project there, or at least play it if needed. A potential starter if can work on some of the issues mentioned next.
Negatives: Short arms and coming off a Lisfranc injury. He needs technique work in pass protection and has to make sure he keeps a natural bend and shuffle his feet enough to stay in front of the quicker pass rushers. Needs to get thicker in the trunk and not be so top-heavy…that’ll help with some of these issues. A redistribution of weight would do him some good. Needs to cut his hair.
5. Darius Fleming, OLB Notre Dame
Positives: Stout build for his frame. Can set the edge in the run game and get after the passer when assigned to do so. A decent athlete. Could be a special teamer to replace Bowman on that unit. Has a chance to make the team as the 4th OLB and a special teamer.
Negatives: Nothing really special about his game. Lacks ideal height. Somewhat stiff. Likely to be no more than a backup/special teamer.
6. Trenton Robinson, FS Michigan State
Positives: Good speed and quickness to help make him a solid cover safety. Has a good feel for the passing game and could serve as a specialty extra DB in passing situations as well as a special tamer.
Negatives: The media has him graded a lot better than what I would expect just from watching some of the clips of him. His tackling looks awful, which is not a good trait in a free safety. The lack of size is also bothersome as he’s actually a shade under 5-10 and I’m not sure how he’d fare if he had to go up against an NFL tight end. Mel Kiper compared him to Bob Sanders, which I also don’t see at all. I’m hoping I’m wrong, but I think even with the 4th safety position up for contention, he will have to battle a guy like Michael Thomas to make the team.
6. Jason Slowey, G/C Western Oregon
Positives: This guy became monsterously powerful in a shockingly short amount of time. He could only do 3 reps of 225 upon arriving at W. Oregon and ended up doing 38 at the combine, and said he’s done as many as 45. That rate of development is outstanding and bodes well for his developmental arc. Looks quick in pass protection. Plays with a nasty streak and has functional power to drive opponents off the ball and into the ground. Looks to have great awareness and does a good job picking up his assignment on the fly. This is one of my favorite picks of our draft and he could be a starter at center in a year or two if things go well.
Negatives: Has added a lot of weight in his time at W. Oregon and still needs to add and maintain a bit more to be a nice-sized interior lineman, which sometimes poses a challenge. Will have to make a huge jump in competition. Needs to sink a bit lower and maintain a good base and overall refine his technique. Will need to learn the ins and outs of the center position which is not always easy to grasp.
7. Cam Johnson, OLB Virginia
Positives: Very good size, nice explosiveness (35 inch vert) and flashes the ability to get after the passer. Can hold his own against the run and has solid technique when he’s keyed in. Has a real shot to make the team as the 4th OLB/rotational pass rusher and would seem to do well if he specializes in that role. A better player than Fleming, all else aside.
Negatives: His biggest problem is the sickle cell. This has caused major issues with fatigue and difficulty maintaining a high level of effort down-after-down. Has also been said to have work ethic concerns, which you figure may also be driven by the sickle cell rather than a bad attitude. He is inconsistent and not likely to become a starter based on these issues.
Honorable mention (UDFAs):
- Chris Owusu has a chance to push Kyle Williams off the team if 6 WRs are kept. He has outstanding speed and explosiveness and knows the offense. He has severe concussion issues that started not too long ago, similar to Williams and it may be a battle to see who can stay healthy. The odds that we do keep 6 WRs seem slim to me given the crowded backfield, OL and TE positions, but I suppose it could happen. Randy Moss could also flame out and create an opportunity for someone like Owusu.
- Michael Thomas could push Robinson to be the 4th safety. He’s not much bigger, but he is explosive (runs a 4.5 flat with a 38 inch vert) and knows Fangio’s defense.