Each year, NFL draft analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah assembles his list of the Top 50 draft-eligible prospects. Last week, Jeremiah released his first edition of the top hopefuls that featured some of the nation’s premier talent, including several names who have been linked to the San Francisco 49ers.
As we await the next installment of San Francisco’s Mock Draft Monday, set to debut on Feb. 8 on 49ers.com, here’s a look at Jeremiah’s NFL hopefuls that have been linked to the 49ers with the 12th-overall pick in this year’s draft.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Mocked by: Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
What Jeremiah had to say: “Pitts is a long, lean tight end prospect with excellent speed, ball skills and production. He has lined up inline, flexed in the slot and split out wide. He runs routes like a wideout. The former Gator has burst off the line, sets up defenders and explodes out of the break point. He beat upper-echelon SEC cornerbacks on a weekly basis. He builds speed to separate down the seam and tracks the ball naturally down the field. Pitts has an enormous catch radius. He uses his speed to pile up yards after the catch. He showed tremendous improvement as a blocker in 2020. He fits up, doing his best to wrestle and stay attached. He will fall off at times, but the effort is there. Overall, Pitts is a unique talent with the ability to take over a game. He is the definition of a mismatch player.”
How he fits with the 49ers: San Francisco already has star tight end George Kittle, however, Pitts adds yet another “positionless” option to their arsenal of talent that makes defending their offense even more of a challenge.
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
What Jeremiah had to say: “Wilson has average height and a lean/narrow frame for the quarterback position. He’s an excellent athlete and generates several wow plays in every game I’ve studied. Wilson has a dynamic throwing motion. He carries the ball low but once his hands separate, the ball comes out in a hurry with a high level of RPMs. He’s extremely accurate from a variety of platforms and arm angles. He makes some incredible throws while fading away with both feet off the ground, and he can drive the ball to the boundary from the far hash. He also uses his quickness and creativity to buy time to let his targets uncover. He’s effective on designed QB runs, but that part of his game will need to be limited at the next level due to his lack of size. My only real concern with Wilson is durability. He’s already been through shoulder surgery (after his freshman season) and he doesn’t have an ideal frame. If he can stay healthy, his upside is enormous.”
How he fits with the 49ers: There’s no official word on whether or not the 49ers are truly in the market for a quarterback as Shanahan said he plans for Jimmy Garoppolo to be on the roster come Week 1 of 2021. But should the 49ers opt to add young talent in the draft, Wilson did admit that he’s “very familiar” with the 49ers and believes he’d be a great fit in Shanahan’s system.
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Mocked by: Todd McShay, ESPN
What Jeremiah had to say: ” Farley has outstanding size, length and speed for the cornerback position. He mixes up his technique and effectively re-routes wideouts with a one- or two-hand jam in press coverage. He’s very fluid/loose and stays in phase with his man underneath and down the field. Farley has a quick/smooth pedal in off coverage and his patience helps him handle double moves. He shows exceptional burst when he does drive on the ball. The redshirt junior has plenty of speed to carry vertical routes. He can find and play the ball down the field. He’s aggressive to fill versus the run, but he will fall off a few tackles. Overall, Farley has all of the ingredients to be a No. 1 cornerback at the next level.”
How he fits with the 49ers: The 49ers currently have five cornerbacks set to hit free agency on March 17, namely, Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett and Ahkello Witherspoon. The team could look to shore up the cornerback position with one of the top defenders in this year’s draft.
Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
What Jeremiah had to say: “Slater is a slightly undersized tackle prospect. He plays with outstanding knee bend, foot quickness and balance. He explodes out of his stance in the passing game and does an excellent job of re-working his hands to maintain inside position. Slater gives a little ground versus power before dropping his weight and anchoring late. His best trait is his ability to recover when he finds himself in a bad position. In the run game, he plays with quickness and urgency when working up to the second level. He takes great angles and is one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to cutting off linebackers. He doesn’t have elite power to knock back defenders over his nose, but he does a good job of running his feet and staying attached. He has excellent awareness. Overall, Slater might lack ideal length, but it doesn’t hinder him and I believe he can excel at left tackle. If a team chooses to play him inside, he should quickly develop into a Pro Bowl guard.”
How he fits with the 49ers: San Francisco’s values versatility and Slater has the ability to play both the guard and left tackle position.
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Big Board Ranking: No. 11
What Jeremiah had to say: “Lance has a thick/sturdy frame for the quarterback position. He only started 17 games at North Dakota State, but there is plenty to get excited about. He split his time between under center and in the shotgun. He plays with excellent patience and poise, taking what the defense gives him. He rarely puts the ball in jeopardy (he didn’t throw an interception until his final collegiate game). He shows the ability to change ball speed and trajectory underneath, while also displaying the velocity to fit the ball into tight windows on intermediate throws. His deep-ball accuracy needs to improve, though. He has a bad habit of sinking his weight before he throws, which impacts his placement. He is very strong in the pocket, routinely shrugging off rushers and creating plays. He is ultra-competitive on designed QB runs, displaying build-up speed and power. Lance is going to need time to develop, but I’m going to bet on his skill set, competitiveness and decision-making.”
How he fits with the 49ers: Some mocks have the 49ers moving up to select Lance, others have the quarterback falling to 12th-overall. Praised for his arm strength and athleticism, many pundits see head coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and Lance’s abilities as a dream pairing.
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Big Board Ranking: No. 12
What Jeremiah had to say: “Fields has good size, excellent arm strength and remarkable athleticism for the quarterback position. He has produced monster numbers both passing and rushing in the Buckeyes’ spread system. He is at his best when he throws on time and in rhythm. The ball jumps out of his hand and he can deliver it accurately at all three levels. When the defense takes that initial target away, he’s had issues quickly aborting that opportunity, which has made him late on throws and also resulted in sacks. He has shown flashes of quickly getting deeper in his progressions (see: 2021 Sugar Bowl vs. Clemson), but that part of his game is still a work in progress. He’s dynamic as a runner. His first step is explosive and he pulls away from defenders with ease. He’s also incredibly tough, as evidenced by his performance after getting drilled in the semifinal game against the Tigers. Overall, I think Fields has a chance to be special, but it’s going to take some time for him to speed up his clock in the passing game.”
How he fits with the 49ers: Fields has been regarded as a Top 5 quarterback in this year’s draft and is likely to fall outside of the Top 10, let alone 12th-overall. Several national pundits projected the 49ers to move up in the draft to select Fields, whose proven himself as a dual-threat quarterback.
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Big Board Ranking: No. 15
What Jeremiah had to say: “Surtain has an ideal blend of size, speed and ball skills. He’s at his best in press coverage. He doesn’t consistently re-route receivers, but he avoids false steps and has plenty of speed to stay on top versus the vertical passing game. He will struggle at times versus smaller/quicker pass catchers. Like most big corners, he lacks top-flight short-area quickness. He has good eyes from off coverage, though. He identifies route combinations and makes aggressive plays on the ball. He is tough to fill versus the run and he’s a reliable tackler in the open field. Overall, Surtain is a very similar prospect to Marlon Humphrey when he was coming out of Alabama. I envision similar success for Surtain at the next level.”
How he fits with the 49ers: The cornerback position continues to be a looming question mark over the 49ers heading into the offseason. However, with continued strong play by San Francisco’s defensive line, Surtain II could help the 49ers return to their once league-leading passing defense.
Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Big Board Ranking: No. 18
Mocked by: Jordan Reid, The Draft Network
What Jeremiah had to say: “Paye has the ideal frame and explosiveness for an NFL edge rusher. He’s at his best playing on the outside, but Michigan had him moving all around their front, including playing head-up over the center. As a pass rusher, he is explosive out of his stance, but it looks different because of his short/choppy steps. I’d like to see him cover more ground, but that is easily correctable. He has violent hands to create a knockback, but he still needs to develop a better plan to consistently escape and finish. I love his effort and determination. Against the run, he crushes tight ends at the point of attack and can close in a hurry from the back side. He does have some stiffness in space, but he’s a capable dropper in the flat. Paye is raw, but there could be a huge payoff when he puts it all together.”
How he fits with the 49ers: The 49ers have one of the most dynamic pass rushers in Nick Bosa returning for the 2021 season. On the other end, there are still questions surrounding Dee Ford’s health, as general manager John Lynch revealed the team is still looking for more “clarity” on his health and future in the NFL. Paye could help add youth and stability opposite Bosa as a renewed pass rush tandem.
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Big Board Ranking: No. 25
What Jeremiah had to say: “Horn is a big, physical cornerback with plenty of speed and instincts. He’s physical with his hands to consistently re-route in press coverage. He is fluid when he opens up and can run/stay in phase with vertical routes. His short-area quickness is good for a big cornerback. However, he has some bad habits to break in off coverage. He catches and grabs too much. He will draw a lot of flags at the next level if that doesn’t get cleaned up. He does do a good job of locating and playing the ball downfield. He has outstanding hands to finish with the ball. He is more than willing in run support (see: huge hit versus Auburn). Overall, Horn needs to play with more confidence from off coverage (to avoid panicking and grabbing), but he has the skills to excel right away as a press-man cornerback.”
How he fits with the 49ers: For the third-consecutive year, the 49ers could look to a former Gamecock in the first two rounds to help bolster its roster. In seven games in 2020, Horn allowed just eight catches on 24 targets for 116 yards.
Christian Darrisaw, OL, Virginia Tech
Big Board Ranking: No. 28
Mocked by: Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports
What Jeremiah had to say: “Darrisaw was a solid, reliable starter at left tackle during his career with the Hokies. He has ideal size, length and balance. In the passing game, he has average foot quickness in his set but can bend his knees and plays with a firm base. He has a sharp two-hand punch and generally keeps defenders away from his chest. He plays with excellent awareness. He uses his upper-body strength to torque and turn defenders in the run game. He takes good angles to the second level, where he’s able to position and wall off linebackers. He will have some trouble adjusting in space because of his average change-of-direction skills. I view Darrisaw as a player who’ll be starting at right tackle very early in his NFL career.”
How he fits with the 49ers: Trent Williams is set to become a free agent next month. The left tackle revealed his interest in seeing his value on the open market should a deal not be done. If the 49ers do split ways with the Pro Bowl left tackle, Darrisaw could make an intriguing draft choice.