American Football

Who is your draft crush this year?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice
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Going over a draft crush in each of the first 5 rounds

If the 49ers were picking during the first round of the NFL Draft, it’d be easy to nail down a draft crush at a position of need. Mine would be Notre Dame’s tight end Michael Mayer, who, I believe, is one of the five best players in the draft.

But Mayer will be long gone by the time the 49ers make their first selection, even if they end up trading up in the draft. Here’s a draft crush for every round.

Round 1: TE Michael Mayer/OT Darnell Wright

Round 2: TE Sam LaPorta – LaPorta runs routes like a receiver and should have a productive career, similar to what we’ve seen from Bills tight end Dawson Knox or former Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz in recent years. I’d say LaPorta is better than both, too.

Round 3: DB Jammie Robinson/WR Trey Palmer – Robinson is the type of player who can destroy everything around the line of scrimmage. He’s beyond hard-nosed. He has plays where he’s taking on and beating blocks from offensive lineman. The value of the nickel position is raising, and players like Robinson are the beneficiaries.

Palmer isn’t a 49ers type of receiver, as he doesn’t thrive as a blocker or after the catch, but he’s a speed demon that consistently wins down the field. He went to Nebraska, so he’s flying a bit under the radar, but he transferred from LSU and should be a better pro than a collegiate wideout.

Round 4: OT Nick Saldiveri – Saldiveri is from Old Dominion, so there will be questions about the step-up in competition. Make no mistake, this guy is the real deal. He’ll likely play guard as his arms are below the 34” threshold, but I’d leave him at tackle and make him prove he can’t play outside. Saldiveri is the polar opposite of Mike McGlinchey. He does a fantastic job of absorbing contact, can mirror high-end athletes, is excels in pass protection.

Saldiveri would get drafted in the second round had he played at a bigger school.

Round 5: DB Jay Ward – The former LSU DB will likely go later than this, but I’m struggling to see why. He ran a 4.57 40, so his deep speed is elite, but Ward is a player who played every position in the secondary and did so well. I’d play him at free safety, where he had a game-sealing interception against Texas A&M.

Ward is one of the most physical players I’ve watched during this draft cycle, and a player who might find his name in the first round of many re-drafts next year. He’s my favorite defensive back in the class. His aggression fits the 49ers style like a glove.

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