By Brian Cox @bacox87 on May 17, 2014
The San Francisco 49ers really hit a home run drafting Jimmie Ward. Ward is extremely versatile and has instincts similar to those of Tyrann Mathieu of the Arizona Cardinals. Ward will fill an immediate need at the nickel cornerback position for the 49ers. Possibly as soon as next season, I expect Eric Reid to shift over to strong safety and Ward to take over at the free safety position. Ward will be star in the league playing centerfield.
Carlos Hyde might be the steal of the draft. He is a natural replacement for Frank Gore. Hyde will make his bones this season, most likely Gore’s last season with the 49ers, and then take over full time next season. As good as his hands are and as much as his running style fits the 49ers’ scheme, Hyde will be a top level back for the next four to six years.
Marcus Martin was the best center in the 2014 draft and the 49ers somehow were able to get him in the third round. With the recent vacancy at center due to Jonathan Goodwin’s departure, Martin will be in a training camp competition with Daniel Kilgore. Martin will most likely win the competition and be their starting center for the foreseeable future. Martin’s skill set fits perfectly with what the 49ers like to on their offensive line.
Chris Borland is a tackling machine. The biggest problem for him is that he is behind the two best linebackers in the NFL, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Borland will be a special teams ace right away and will be in competition with Michael Wilhoite to be Bowman’s replacement until he’s healthy. The only significant playing time Borland will get at inside linebacker in the next three to five years will be due to injuries of Bowman or Willis.
Brandon Thomas suffered a torn ACL just a month before the draft so he will spend the whole 2014 season on the PUP list. Mike Iupati’s contract will fall by the wayside with all the other young players due for extensions and the 49ers will have a void at the guard position. They will most likely transition Thomas to guard, a la Alex Boone, and Thomas will be a top tier guard for years to come.
Bruce Ellington has the potential to be an excellent return man in the NFL for the next seven to ten years. He will eventually take over this role for the 49ers. As a wide receiver, he won’t have much of an impact this season but will be a solid slot receiver for the 49ers for a long time. I don’t think he has the skill set to ever be a number one receiver and wouldn't be a very good number two.
Dontae Johnson is a big bodied cornerback that is very versatile. He played safety in college so his skill set allows him to do a lot of things. 49ers GM Trent Baalke has already said Johnson will be competing at the cornerback position and I think his ceiling is as a solid nickel corner, which is an increasingly important position in today’s NFL.
Aaron Lynch has some character concerns but is an exceptional athlete. When he transferred from Notre Dame to South Florida after his freshman year of college, he lost a lot of weight. I think if he has any chance of staying on the 49ers’ roster for more than a season or two, he’s going to have to get that size back. He’s competing at a stacked position and I just don’t see a future for him in San Francisco.
Keith Reaser is another luxury pick. He will spend the entire 2014 season on the PUP list. When he finally comes back, he will be a solid addition. He can play all types of coverage pretty well. He will make his money covering guys in the slot and if he comes back from his injury just fine, he’ll be able to do it for many years.
Kenneth Acker fits the Richard Sherman mold more so than other big cornerbacks. Acker played some wide receiver at SMU, which helps his ball skills a great deal. He is also a big guy, similar to Dontae Johnson. Acker is a player that, at the very least, will be a very serviceable backup. He will stay in the league for awhile and could possibly develop into a good starter.
Kaleb Ramsey has a long history of injury problems. Besides that, he’s fighting for a roster spot at a position that is incredibly deep for the 49ers. Ramsey probably won’t make the 53-man roster and will probably bounce around the league for a few years. His ceiling, especially with his injury problems, is the practice squad.
Trey Millard played a lot of football at Oklahoma. He’s a prototypical “football player” that head coach Jim Harbaugh looks for. The only problem is that he tore his ACL and a few other ligaments this past October. However, he will still most likely play this season and I fully expect him to be a special teams standout. He will also be used to spell starting fullback Bruce Miller from time to time on offense.
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