The 49ers began this draft with a little bit of a surprise. I must admit, the drafting of Aldon Smith threw me off guard. However, after reviewing what Baalke did in last year's draft class I believe 2011 was more calculated in terms of finding playmakers with the first two picks. To round out the draft, Baalke specifically targeted versatile and/or role type players to help with the new schemes which will be implemented by Harbaugh and DC Vic Fangio. Baalke went with a conservative approach drafting linemen early in 2010. Only time will tell if 2011's aggressive draft will pay off.
1st rd, #7 - Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri, 6'4", 263lbs. - The 49ers needed to add a defense playmaker in the front seven. More specifically, they needed to add a talented pass rusher. Aldon Smith is a young phenom with blessed pass rushing skills. He logged 17 sacks in two college seasons. He is coming out after his Sophomore year. This gives us an idea of how talented (but raw), Smith is. 11 of those sacks came in Smith's first year. He was injured last season (fractured leg), but came back after 3 games as a testament to his toughness. Smith can be washed out in running plays at times, but understands his angles. He has a tall, rangy build which helps in coverage. His true greatness will be getting to the QB. He also maintains pretty good discipline when double teamed or blocked without overrunning the play. At times, Smith was lined up inside. The 49ers love the versatility for Vic Fangio's 3-4 where pressure will be brought from different areas. Smith is a true boom or bust pick, but the safest one and less riskier than drafting Gabbert or Locker at this spot. Some view this pick as a reach, but only by a few spots. Smith has the upside and college production to justify this pick. This was an aggressive pick.
2nd rd, #36 - Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada, 6'4", 233 lbs. - The 49ers were smitten with Kaepernick early in the pre-draft process. They had multiple visits with Kaepernick. Kaepernick has the distinction as the only QB in NCAA history with career passing for more than 10,000 yards while adding 4,000 more yards rushing. Kaepernick passed for 21 TD's and 8 INT's in 2010. He added an additional 20 TD's rushing. Kaepernick has a unique blend of passing and rushing talent. He has impressive speed for his size. Kaepernick has good awareness and field vision. There are question marks concerning his delivery. The 49ers are confident that Harbaugh will be able to correct any delivery issues. Kaepernick's accuracy in 2010 greatly improved from his Junior year. It will also require a year or two for Kaepernick to transition from the Pistol offense in college to a Pro style offense. The 49ers are agressively targeting Alex Smith so they won't have to force Kaepernick into service before his time. Kaepernick is a local kid as well. The 49ers traded away a 5th and 6th round place to swap 2nd round picks with the Broncos to make this pick. This was an aggressive pick.
He likes throwing to his TE, #85. He'll love throwing to his new #85 TE.
3rd rd, #80 - Chris Culliver, CB/S, South Carolina, 6', 199 lbs. - Culliver's greatest asset is versatility. He has starts at CB and FS. Culliver transitioned to CB in 2010 where he had 7 starts and then was lost for the rest of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. He doesn't excel at any one area of coverage, but is somewhat well-rounded in all areas. His long-term future may lie at FS. He is expected to provide incumbent Dashon Goldson with competition. He may get an early look in dime packages. He doesn't seem like a ball hawk. Although, he does seem to be in the right position most times. Culliver also adds return skills. Culliver was viewed as a later round pick, but possibly due to injury. Good measurable's may have attracted the 49ers to take him a round or two early. Culliver ran a 4.36 in the 40 yard dash.
4th rd, #115 - Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma St., 5'8", 199 lbs. - Hunter reminds me of Brian Westbrook without the breakaway gear. He is extremely shifty and has a wicked first cut. Hunter has accumulated 39 total TD's in his 4 year college career, so he is no stranger to the end zone. He has good vision and sets up blocks well. Injuries prevented him from piling up more stats. He rushed for over 1500 yards in the two complete seasons he played. Hunter is an asset in the passing game. He is a good change-of-pace RB. This was a good value pick. Hunter has 2nd round skills, but probably slid due to injury and size concerns.
5th rd, #163 - Daniel Kilgore, OL, Appalachian St., 6'3", 308 lbs. - Kilgore's greatest asset are his intangible's. He has the mental make up to be an effective linemen in the NFL. However, his physical limitations may relegate him to career backup duty. Kilgore's future is at Guard. Kilgore does fire off well, and can be an effective pulling Guard. If he excels, he could push Snyder and Rachal for playing time at RG. The 49ers traded away a 6th and 7th round pick to draft Kilgore. So the team will expect Kilgore to compete.
6th rd, #182 - Ronald Johnson, WR, USC, 5'11", 199 lbs. - Johnson is a playmaker. He reminds me of last year's 6th round WR pick, Kyle Williams. Johnson is a one-speed and go WR. There is not much in the repetoire. Outside of a strong hitch move, his route running needs polish. He does have good deep speed though. Johnson can serve as a deep threat out of the slot. He will immediately challenge Williams and Ginn for the slot position. The 49ers got good value here and Johnson could eventually even challenge as a #2 WR. There were plenty of highlights for Johnson. He also adds value in the return game.
6th rd, #190 - Colin Jones, S, TCU, 6', 208 lbs. - Jones is another prospect that measured out well. He has 4.30 speed. Jones was moved around in TCU's defense. However, he was not known as a consistent force at S. He has the size to play SS. I believe the 49ers will value Jone's special teams play for which he will most likely make a name for himself in this area. The 49ers keep up with the theme at versatility along with Culliver and Smith.
7th rd, #211 - Bruce Miller, OLB, UCF, 6'1", 254 lbs. - Miller is quite an accomplished sackmaster. He has tallied up 36 sacks in four years. Miller reminds me of Travis LaBoy. He doesn't have an elite first step, but comes with a lot of strength and force. Miller is too small to play at DE and will transition to 3-4 OLB. He may be effective in certain Zone Blitz situations so Miller will fit right into Fangio's scheme. Miller doesn't have the measurables that Aldon Smith has making Miller a limited down edge player (pass rush specialist). Miller continues the trend of prospects with good measurables (4.7 40, 42 reps bench press). Rumor has it that the 49ers will try him at FB.
7th rd, #239 (comp) - Michael Person, OL, Montana St., 6'4", 299 lbs. - Person is an accomplished LT at Montana St. Like Kilgore, he has the mental makeup Harbaugh is looking for. Person does not have the base skill set to become a starter, but will provide adequate depth and perhaps become a capable backup. He can pull and get to the second level. He is hard working and intelligent.
7th rd, #250 (comp) - Curtis Holcomb, CB, Florida A&M, 5'10", 190 lbs. - Holcomb has logged 7 INT's over 3 years. He had a good Pro Day (4.46 40), which probably prompted the 49ers to take a late round flier. I suspect that Holcomb was added for Special Teams value.
Draft analysts and Sportwriters will criticize the 49ers for making aggressive picks. However, these same individuals do not look far enough into the minds of Baalke and Harbaugh to form an effective opinion. Many will penalize the 49ers for not drafting Blaine Gabbert and it is flat out wrong considering the 49ers had Kaepernick targeted all along. Some will criticize the 49ers for trading up for Kaepernick. However, the move was necessary given how the draft played out early for QB's.