As part of a 2016 NFL Mock Draft with Draft Utopia, I was assigned the 49ers first two draft choices at No. 7 and No. 37 overall. There is usually enough talent in most drafts to find day one starters in the top two round and sometimes in upper part of the third round depending on who falls and how well teams scout.
The 49ers going into the draft are coming off one of their worst seasons ever and the worst offseason of all time where they lost multiple players to retirement and free agency. They have needs at virtually every position except two.
At strong safety, they have an Antoine Bethea who has done a quality job when healthy. Then at running back, they have Carlos Hyde, who is expected to be the feature back. Even if the 49ers plan to have him split time, I think it would be unwise to grab a running back in the first two rounds of this draft when they could get legitimate franchise players in the top 40 picks.
The only question I had at the time was which stud player would fall to me at seven for me to snag?
My group draft commenced and the first six picks were as follows:
1. Tennessee Titans Laremy Tunsil, LT, Ole Miss.
2. Cleveland Browns Jared Goff, QB, Cal.
3. San Diego Chargers Joey Bosa, 3-4 LOLB, Ohio State.
4. Dallas Cowboys Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars Jalen Ramsey, FS, Florida State.
6. Baltimore Ravens Myles Jack, 3-4 MLB, UCLA.
Now in real life, I expect the Titans to trade the top pick, leverage the Browns or any team that wants to leap frog the Browns. But, in this mock draft, there was no trading allowed or else I would’ve been tempted to move up to grab Bosa for sheer pass rus or even Ramsey/Hargreaves because the 49ers have not have a great secondary in forever. Bethea would match well with Ramsey and Hargreaves is a solid prospect even if Alabama had its way with him in their matchup last year.
However, at 7, I was still quite pleased to find my decision to be an easy one. With the 7th pick, the San Francisco 49ers select…
Quarterback Carson Wentz from North Dakota State.
Wentz was the easy choice for me because the 49ers are practically done with Kaepernick who has been inconsistent to say they very least. He’s had over two dozen games that we’d call average or rotten eggs. He’s had a fair share of elite starts, but he quite frankly relies too much on his legs and he’s going to turn 29 in November. It’s evident that he will not become the passing quarterback the 49ers need at least not without Jim Harbaugh there anymore to guide him. Kaepernick ended the season early with an injured left shoulder and Blaine Gabbert was a good backup, but is a draft bust in his own right from his tenure with the Jaguars.
Wentz is the best QB on the board and maybe the best in this draft. I’m actually pleased that in this mock, the Browns took Goff while Wentz fell here because Wentz has a great arm. Accurate. Good sense in the pocket. He has been a key part of a dynasty at North Dakota State where he started for two of the last five consecutive FCS Championship teams. FCS is considered inferior to FBS which is why there will be some questions as to Wentz, but many times, there are diamonds that end up in the oddest of places.
Kurt Warner went to Northern Iowa, Jerry Rice went to Mississippi Valley State, Joe Flacco went to…Lord Almighty, an FCS school named Delaware and he’s a Super Bowl MVP. So the question of Wentz being in the FCS is overblown.
Take note that Wentz is a native of Bismarck, North Dakota, and nothing exciting happens in that area where it’s mostly corn fields and small towns built around farming. It would be somewhat easy for Wentz to go to the biggest city, Fargo, which roughly 115,000 population accounts for about 1/6th of North Dakota’s total population and is a three hour drive from home.
The question shouldn’t be why Wentz went to North Dakota State, but rather how well is he going to do in the upcoming draft exercises, workouts and interviews because if he impresses, there is no reason to think that a team like Cleveland or even Dallas would want to take the 6’6, 235lb passer.
If the 49ers took him, I feel they’d be on the right track to the playoffs.
Now, as the draft proceeded, I had to hope for someone to fall 30 slots in order for me to get a steal at 37. The draft commenced like this.
8. Dolphins Emmanuel Ogbah, RE, Oklahoma State.
9. Buccaneers Shaq lawson, RE, Clemson.
10. Giants Reggie ragland, MLB, Alabama.
11. Bears Ronnie Stanley, LT, Notre Dame.
12. Saints Noah Spence, LE, Eastern Kentucky.
13. Eagles Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson.
14. Raiders DeForest Buckner, LE, Oregon.
15. Rams Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss.
16. Lions A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama.
17. Falcons Jaylon Smith, MLB, Notre Dame.
18. Colts Scooby Wright III, 3-4 MLB, Arizona.
19. Bills Taylor Decker, RT, Ohio State.
20. Jets Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State.
21. Redskins Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech.
22. Texans Jake Coker, QB, Alabama.
23. Vikings Jack Conklin, LT, Michigan State.
24. Bengals Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss.
25. Steelers Darian Thompson, FS, Boise State.
26. Seahawks Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama.
27. Packers Brett McMakin, 3-4 MLB, Northern Iowa.
28. Chiefs Jarran Reed, 3-4 LE, Alabama.
29. Arizona Cardinals: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State.
30. Carolina Panthers: Jason Spriggs, LT, Indiana.
31. Denver Broncos: Sheldon Rankins, 3-4 RE, Louisville.*
*The Patriots due to Deflategate forfeited their first-round selection
Round 2 Selections
32. Cleveland Browns: Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State.
33. Tennessee Titans: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State.
34. Dallas Cowboys: Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana.
35. San Diego Chargers: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis.
36. Baltimore Ravens: Artie Burns, CB, Miami FL.
A lot of good players fell between 7 and 37, but there was one player whom I was delighted to see was still there. With the 37th pick, the 49ers select…
Defensive Tackle Andrew Billings from Baylor University.
Billings is a behemoth, a bulldozer, a charging elephant and a battering ram. He’s 6’2 310lbs and has been compared to a young Mark Henry, who is now with the WWE after once being the World’s Strongest Man in weightlifting competitions. Billings is a weight room warrior and his tape is explosive and the fact that he’s 19…I repeat 19-years-old and doing the things he’s doing is astonishing. He turns 20 in March and his youth will make a lot of coaches salivate because he’ll only get stronger in the next few years under their tutelage.
Basically the 49ers will stick him at nose tackle and tell him to push forward. The nose tackle is at the direct center of every play because he’s lined up opposite the center and the ball is right in front of him. The 49ers run a 3-4 and while Ian Williams is their nose tackle, there is no guarantee the 49ers will re-sign him in free agency.
In it’s truest sense, the nose tackle is a guy who takes up the three middle linemen and plugs up the inside running lanes and in the passing game, he creates space for interior pass rush by the two ends or a linebacker blitz.
Then if the offense decides to focus on the other defenders and put just the center on him a dominant nose tackle goes right up the middle like a hot knife through butter.
Theoretically, the 49ers could take Billings and put him at defensive end along Arik Armstrong and Williams at nose tackle. That’s a wow interior line right there with Tank Carradine and Glenn Dorsey in reserve. The end’s position is like the nose where his job is interior pass rush and handle the offensive tackle and guard that play on his side.
With these two picks, I think the 49ers would do a good job of rebolstering their team. It’ll take some time to rebuild, but there’s reason to hope provided the 49ers can regroup and make the 2016 draft a good one.