Sunday, May 1, 2011
First round, No. 7 overall
He impressed the 49ers with his willingness to return after three weeks to play with a fractured fibula. He's young, having just turned 21, and still developing his pass-rush technique. He mostly played defensive end in college, so it's a projection to think he can be effective in the transition to outside linebacker, where he's slated to replace Manny Lawson. If he struggles with the new position, he should still be able to get on the field immediately on third downs when he'll line up at defensive end to get after the quarterback.
QB Colin Kaepernick Nevada (6-4 5/8; 230)
Second round, No. 36 overall
Yes, he's a project. But, as Harbaugh pointed out, all young quarterbacks are projects. Kaepernick comes from Nevada's "Pistol" offense and will have to learn how to take snaps under center and get out of the mindset of using his legs as much as his throwing arm. Harbaugh says Alex Smith is the favorite to be the 49ers' starting quarterback this season -- now that Smith has convinced Harbaugh that he'll re-sign once the NFL opens the door to free agency. Harbaugh has given Smith a copy of the new 49ers playbook. "There's some trust there," Harbaugh said.
CB Chris Culliver South Carolina (6-0 3/8; 199)
Third round, No. 80 overall
The 49ers began a run of cornerbacks in the middle of the third round. Within the next 10 pick, cornerbacks DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami), Johnny Patrick (Louisville), Shareece Wright (USC) and Curtis Marsh (Utah State) went off the board. The 49ers drafted Culliver as a cornerback, where he played as a senior. He has experience at safety and has kick-return skills, too. Culliver adds speed and athleticism to the secondary. But is he a better option as a 2011 starter than veterans Nate Clements or Shawntae Spencer?
RB Kendall Hunter Oklahoma State (5-7 1/4, 199)
Fourth round, No. 115 overall
The 49ers brought in Hunter for a visit several weeks before the draft to gauge his ability to learn and adapt to an NFL offense. Obviously, Hunter left a strong enough impression. The club added the exciting runner as a player who should be able to take at least a handful of carries every game away from workhorse Frank Gore. Of the 10 players the 49ers selected in this draft, Hunter might be in line to have the greatest immediate production. His first task is to wrestle the backup job away from Anthony Dixon.
C-G Daniel Kilgore Appalachian State (6-3, 308)
Fifth round, No. 163 overall
The 49ers are set at both tackle positions and left guard. But there is uncertainty at center and right guard. Center David Baas is a free agent, and Eric Heitmann's future is in doubt after missing last season with a neck injury. Right guard Chilo Rachal has been inconsistent. The 49ers were high enough on Kilgore that they traded up 11 spots into the end of the fifth round to select him. Kilgore played both guard and tackle spots in college. He played center in a spread offense in high school. He also lined up there in the Texas vs. Nation All-Star Game.
WR Ronald Johnson USC (5-10 3/4, 185)
Sixth round, No. 182 overall
The 49ers selected slot receiver/return man Kyle Williams in the sixth round last year. In Johnson, the 49ers got a similar player in about the same draft spot. Johnson got a glowing recommendation from 49ers receivers coach John Morton, who worked with Johnson the past four seasons as a USC position coach. "My ears and Trent's ears really perk up when you hear that," Harbaugh said. "The guy loves the game, loves practice. That's the best hours of his day is when he's out there on the practice field. Those things when they're coming from the position coach, and he's so passionate about it, that's the thing that really gets your attention." Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan are secure as the starters. Johnson will compete with Ted Ginn, Williams and Dominique Zeigler to get onto the field.
S Colin Jones TCU (5-11 1/2, 201)
Sixth round, No. 190 overall
Interestingly, Jones' best college game came on the biggest stage, when he put together a strong all-around performance against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Harbaugh was at TCU's pro day and chatting with quarterback Andy Dalton when Jones ran a great time in the 40. Dalton identified Jones for Harbaugh, who immediately took notice. "There's a guy," Harbaugh said, "that I cannot wait to watch him run down on a kickoff, full throttle, running his 4.3 with his mindset to get from point A to Point B and go hit somebody."
FB Bruce Miller Central Florida (6-1 5/8, 248)
Seventh round, No. 211 overall
This was the most curious pick of the 49ers' draft. At the combine, Miller was talking to 49ers linebackers coach Jim Leavitt. But in the days leading up to the draft, running backs coach Tom Rathman received the handoff. Miller was the Conference-USA defensive player of the year while recording 8.5 sacks as a defensive end. (That's three more sacks than Aldon Smith recorded during his injury-plagued final season.) The 49ers have Miller slated to be a fullback. But he's a guy Harbaugh said he just wanted on his team, period. "It's like a blinking light, 'I'm a football player, I'm a football player.'" Harbaugh said. "He may also be a pass rusher too. So, we're not closing the door on any options with that youngster. I think he is a football player."
C-G Mike Person Montana State (6-4 1/2, 299)
Seventh round, No. 239 overall
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