San Francisco 49ers Draft Review

by Tommy Lawlor  –  ScoutsNotebook.com

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

1 – OT Anthony Davis – Rutgers
1 – OG Mike Iupati – Idaho
2 – FS Taylor Mays – USC
3 – LB Navorro Bowman – Penn State
6 – RB Anthony Dixon – Mississippi State
6 – TE Nate Byham – Pitt
6 – WR Kyle Williams – Arizona State
7 – DB Phillip Adams – South Carolina State

The Niners wanted to upgrade their O-line and boy did they ever. They traded up to pick #11 and took Rutgers OT Anthony Davis. He played LT for the Scarlet Knights, but it looks like he’ll start out on the right side in the NFL. Davis can be an outstanding run blocker. He’s strong enough to move his guy off the ball. He has good size at 6’5, 323. I was disappointed with his pass blocking in 2009. Davis reported to camp out of shape and wasn’t at his best. He still has a world of potential. When Davis gets his hands on you it is over. He reminds a bit of a smaller version of Jeff Otah. He played LT at Pitt and has become a very good RT for the Panthers. Davis could do exactly the same thing for SF. This move allows Joe Staley to stay at LT and gives Frank Gore a big, physical presence on the right side to run behind. That should improve the overall quality of the line.    

One of the keys to becoming a good NFL team is being able to move the ball and score on a consistent basis. SF has been painfully frustrating over the past few years. The offense would look so good one week, but disappear the next (maybe more). When things clicked, life was good. There just wasn’t consistency. Frank Gore is good enough to run the ball on anyone, but the blocking needed a boost. Adding a blocker with big time potential at RT was a very smart move. If the passing game can develop more this year, watch out. SF just might sit atop the NFC West.

I think Davis fits SF not only in the sense that he’s a physical run blocker and they are a physical running team, but that he’s the kind of player Mike Singletary can “coach up”. Davis doesn’t lack talent. He needs focus and motivation. Singletary will be demanding with him. Iron Mike won’t settle for “okay”. He’ll push Davis to play up to his ability. And Davis has to respect Singletary and all that he’s accomplished as a player and coach in the NFL. Davis will give max effort or Mike will ride him mercilessly.

The Niners didn’t stop with the selection of Davis. They had another 1st round pick and added OG Mike Iupati from Idaho. Great pick. He is a massive Guard at 6’6, 331. Iupati was the single best run blocker in the whole draft. He is a mauler. He was dominant in helping Idaho get to a bowl game after being a rock bottom program in recent years. Iupati went to the Senior Bowl and had a mixed performance. He was moved around from LG. Scouts and coaches wanted to see him at RG, RT, and even LT. While at his normal spot Iupati looked terrific. He was inconsistent at the other spots. He did show potential, but will need work, especially if he’s ever tried on the outside in the NFL. Iupati did have some issues with pass protection. He tends to grab instead of moving his feet and punching. That is fixed with practice and coaching. He doesn’t lack potential. Iupati could be a dominant player if he pans out. He certainly was at the college level.

Right now Davis is at RT and Iupati will be on the inside. Eventually it is possible that Davis could move to LT and Iupati to RT. Each guy should stay in a safe spot for now as they adjust to the league. With hard work and some experience this could be a bookend set OTs down the road.

In the 2nd round San Francisco took one of the most controversial players of the whole draft in Taylor Mays, the star FS from USC. Taylor wasn’t controversial in a bad way. He’s a good kid that never got in any trouble or anything like that. The questions with were all about football and potential. Taylor is a freak at 6’3, 230. He runs like a CB. He hits like a LB. His potential is through the roof. The problem is that Mays doesn’t consistently play at a high level. All that ability and 4 years of starting resulted in 5 INTs, 2 TFLs, and 1 FF. Taylor would argue that playing on such a good defense limited his opportunities, as well as the fact he played the deep middle so often. Still, those numbers just aren’t good no matter how you slice it. Taylor did have games where he looked great. The best I saw was against Cal in 2008. He controlled the middle of that field with his range and hitting ability. He leveled a couple of guys, leading to incompletions. If Taylor can play like that, he’ll be a steal in the 2nd round. I also think he needs to tackle more consistently. Hitting out in space is fine, but Taylor is too big/talented to be sloppy in the box. I expect small DBs to look sorta lost in traffic. Taylor has LB size, but looks like a CB at times. Get in there and mix it up, big fella. I think going to a blue-collar team will be good for Mays. At times he seemed to get too caught up in the whole USC glitz and glamour. I saw him on ESPN talking about a game where he made a play and then was looking in the stands to see if a girl he liked was watching. That’s cool in high school, but not so much in college, and sure as heck not in the NFL.  Can anyone imagine Hardy Brown, Ronnie Lott, or Singletary doing something like that?  No way.

Singletary got himself a really good LB when he picked Navorro Bowman in the 3rd round. He played OLB at Penn State, but will move inside for the Niners. Bowman has okay size at 6’0, 242. He’s a tough, physical player. He has terrific instincts. He also seems to come up big in the big games. I’m sure that didn’t escape SF when rating him. He had 5 TFLs in the Rose Bowl vs USC as a Soph and looked every bit as good as the Trojan LBs. This year he had 9 total tackles (1.5 TFLs) in the bowl win over LSU. Bowman showed real playmaking potential this year. He ran a fumble back 91 yards for a TD in one game and in another returned a pick 73 yards for a score. He finished his career with 36 TFLs. Bowman is an interesting pick compared to the other guys. Davis and Mays are naturally gifted, but might lose focus at times. Bowman is a football player. He wasn’t always so keen on being a student-athlete. He’ll be happy to be in the NFL where he can concentrate on football. The only real knock on Bowman were some questions about him using marijuana. He got busted at PSU for that and didn’t handle the situation well initially. There was talk that Joe Paterno might kick him off the team, but Bowman was just suspended and got back into the good graces of his coach.

The next pick came in the 6th round, where SF had a trio of selections. They started by taking RB Anthony Dixon from Mississippi State. He had a great Senior season and a pretty good career overall. Dixon ran for almost 4,000 yards in his career. 1,391 came in his Senior season. Keep in mind that total could have been better, but he was suspended for the opener due to a DUI arrest from last summer. I was surprised to see Dixon slide all the way to the 6th round. He isn’t a great athlete or the most polished player, but Dixon is talented. He has good size at 6’1, 233. He’s a downhill runner with good strength and power. He can be too upright at times and that will hurt him in the NFL. You can get away with that in college, even in the SEC. Not in the pros. Dixon will need to prove that he can block and be a reliable receiver out of the backfield to earn playing time. He did catch 56 passes in his MSU career, but that’s different than being part of an NFL passing offense. I think Dixon is a good fit for the Niners offense. He’s the kind of punishing, downhill runner that should work in their scheme. SF needs someone to step up and win the #2 RB job. Gore is the starter, but Glen Coffee wasn’t all that impressive last year and Michael Robinson is clearly a role player. Dixon should be in the mix and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him end up as the backup to Gore.

The Niners went for another blocker after that. Instead of a lineman they took Pitt TE Nate Byham. He’s 6’4, 268, real good size for a TE. Byham can catch and block. His numbers weren’t impressive in 2009, but that was due to the emergence of Dorin Dickerson. Byham has soft hands and is an effective receiver. He isn’t a top athlete, but is the kind of guy you want as a backup or #3 TE. He can hold his own as a blocker in running situations and also be a threat on play-action passes. SF needs help behind Vern Davis. Byham is good value.

The last 6th round pick went for Kyle Williams of Arizona State. He is a dangerous WR/RS. Williams is an insurance pick. San Francisco traded for Ted Ginn in the offseason. He’ll project as the main RS and a backup WR. Williams is there to challenge Ginn and provide depth. Williams (5’10, 185) had a good Senior year, catching 57 passes and 8 TDs. He has good hands and very good RAC ability. He could develop into a solid slot receiver. He has experience as both a PR and KOR. He’s not dynamic at either spot (no TDs), but is reliable and has enough speed and quickness to deliver solid returns.

The final pick of the draft class was CB Phillip Adams from South Carolina State. Many people thought SF could go for a CB early in the draft. They went elsewhere and then took a developmental project in Adams. He has okay size at 5’10, 192. He only runs in the 4.5 range, which isn’t ideal, but he can be a physical DB. He picked off 11 passes at SCSU and ran 2 back for TDs. He also has some PR ability. Adams ran 2 punts back for scores in his college career. Adams helped his cause with a solid performance in the Texas vs The Nation AS game. He wasn’t facing great talent, but held his own against other NFL hopefuls. Adams needs to show he can handle NFL athletes. Both he and Kyle Williams could be ideal for the Practice Squad where they can have time to develop and then challenge for jobs in a year or two.

Niners draft tracker at NFL.com

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