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NFL San Francisco 49ers

Five Players San Francisco 49ers Should Target in First Round of 2014 NFL Draft

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5 First Round Targets for San Francisco 49ers

jim harbaugh
Joe Nicholson - USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers came within a batted pass at the end of regulation from playing in their second straight Super Bowl appearance last season. Instead, they watched as their NFC West rivals the Seattle Seahawks took the NFC Championship on their way to a Super Bowl romp in Super Bowl XLVIII, possibly assuaging the pain of that final loss for 49er fans (or making it worse as their No. 1 rival reached the pinnacle of professional football).

This offseason, the team is gearing up to try and win back the West from their rivals to the north. To do so, they will need to address some needs on their roster through the 2014 NFL Draft this May. There are a number of excellent prospects that would help this roster improve as the draft appears to be one of the deepest in history. Looking at the roster, the biggest needs for the Niners this offseason appear to be at receiver and in the defensive front seven.

While the team has two excellent possession receivers in Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, they still need a stretch-the-field type of playmaker on the outside. Defensively, NaVorro Bowman will be out for at least half the season with a knee injury, Aldon Smith has had some off-field troubles, and Justin Smith is getting up there in age. Adding some fresh legs to the mix could help the San Francisco defense remain one of the best in the NFL.

So what direction should the 49ers go with their first pick at No. 30? Here are five players San Francisco should target in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

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5. Trevor Reilly, OLB Utah Utes

trevor reilly
Russell Isabella - USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Utes have had a recent run of sending front-seven defenders to the NFL (five since 2009) and Trevor Reilly is next up to continue the trend. At 6-foot-5, 245-pounds, Reilly is long and athletic with excellent balance and agility with the speed to chase down plays from the backside. He’s a versatile pass-rusher, splitting time in college between outside linebacker and defensive end, which makes him an excellent fit for the 49ers 3-4 scheme. He’ll need to develop a more physical edge to his game but can develop that while coming in as a situational pass-rusher and learn as the understudy to Aldon Smith.

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4. Kelvin Benjamin, WR Florida State Seminoles

kelvin benjamin
Kelvin Kuo

Kelvin Benjamin helped the Florida State Seminoles win a BCS National Championship in 2014 and could ride the momentum of his game-winning catch to a first-round selection in the NFL Draft. Also helping his stock is his unique blend of size (6-foot-5, 240-pounds) and speed. He’s got a ridiculous wingspan and has the short-area quickness to create separation. Benjamin is a matchup nightmare with his ability to win jump-ball situations, particularly in the redzone, and is tough to bring down once the ball is in his hands. He’s still developing as a route-runner and can take a bit to get up to full speed, but his ability to be a game-changer in the passing game is unquestioned.

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3. Trent Murphy, DE/OLB Stanford Cardinal

trent murphy
Kelley L. Cox - USA TODAY Sports

Few recruits have developed their talents quite as much as Trent Murphy did with the Stanford Cardinal over the last five years. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound edge rusher played primarily outside linebacker in college, though he shows a great burst out of a three-point stance from a defensive end position. He led the nation in sacks last season and has a tenacity and toughness that you just can’t coach. He’ll need to continue to develop, however, in order to find sustained success in the NFL, particularly his upper-body strength. While he’s displayed excellent hands to fight off blockers, he lacks the raw power to set the edge. Despite that, he plays with a toughness and physicality that would make him a perfect fit for the SF defense.

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2. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT Minnesota Golden Gophers

ra'shede hageman
Troy Taormina - USA TODAY Sports

Few prospects in the upcoming draft have the blend of size and athleticism that defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman brings to the table. The former Minnesota Golden Gophers standout is a massive 6-foot-6, 310-pound force of nature with the raw strength to collapse a pocket from the interior with his bull rush. More impressive is the athleticism and versatility he has shown to make him a fit at multiple positions across the defensive line in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. He can line up as a nose tackle or as a 3-4 defensive end and push offensive linemen around, making him an excellent heir-apparent to Justin Smith on the defensive line.

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1. Brandin Cooks, WR Oregon State Beavers

brandin cooks
Jaime Valdez - USA TODAY Sports

If the 49ers are looking to add an explosive playmaker at receiver, they could do a lot worse than getting Brandin Cooks from the Oregon State Beavers. The 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner set Pac-12 records for catches (128) and receiving yards (1,730) in 2013 and set a school-record with 24 career receiving touchdowns over three seasons. But most impressive may have been his performance at the combine where he ran a scorching 4.33 40-yard dash. Add that speed to his “joystick” moves and instant acceleration, and you have a dynamic and explosive offensive weapon that can help San Francisco stretch the field in 2014.