After Friday’s display from offensive linemen and running backs at the NFL Scouting Combine, quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends showcased their skills Saturday in front of coaches and scouts.
Day two did not disappoint.
Wide receiver is a position that has eluded the 49ers in recent history. Busts like A.J. Jenkins have led to a lack of options for San Francisco offenses over the past three seasons.
While some expect the 49ers to address the need at wide receiver in free agency with big names like Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshal becoming available, there are still some quality choices in the 2017 draft that could add some youth and vibrance to wide receiving depth charts in San Francisco.
John Ross (WR) Washington: Ross was the standout of the day after a blazing 40-yard time of 4.22 eclipsed Chris Johnson’s combine record of 4.24 set in 2008.
Already projected as a first-round pick, Ross may have impressed enough to rise into the Top 15. With the No. 2 and No. 34 picks this year, the 49ers trading down to snag Ross seems highly unlikely.
Cooper Kupp (WR) Eastern Washington: Though he attended a college not known by many casual college football fans, Kupp set himself apart from the pack in Saturday’s workouts.
Showcasing his sure hands, Kupp aced the receiving drills, even convincing sure-to-be Hall of Famer Steve Smith Sr. that he is the No. 1 wide out in this year’s draft class.
On top of his 4.62 40-yard dash time, Kupp set himself up to be a late first-round or early second-round pick. He could be an option for San Francisco at No. 34.
Stacy Coley (WR) Miami: At 6-foot-1, Coley fits the build for a good addition at slot. A 4.44 40-yard dash time ranked 15th among competing receivers, showing an ability to flash in long-yardage situations. Coley is a projected fourth-fifth round pick, which could make him a good fit for the 49ers roster, especially for competitions sake.
Coley showed solid hands in skill drills though a few drops explain his lower ranking in the 2017 draft class. The 49ers could make this selection late in the fourth round with their compensatory No. 143 overall, received for losing Alex Boone to free agency in 2016.
This is far and away the biggest need for the 49ers. After Colin Kaepernick opted out of his contract this week, San Francisco is left with a total of zero QBs on their roster for OTAs April 4 and minicamp in June. The gaping hole must be addressed via free agency or the draft, likely both.
This year’s draft class includes several options that the new coaching staff and front office is expected to look at long and hard.
Mitch Trubisky (QB) North Carolina: The 6-foot-3, 203-pound, prototypical quarterback is high on the wish list of teams looking to draft a QB early. His mobility and accuracy set him apart from the rest of his class.
Draft experts expect either the Cleveland Browns to take Trubisky with the no. 1 overall pick, or the 49ers to snag him off of the board at No. 2. Either way, expect him to go early.
Running a 4.67 40-yard dash, Trubisky demonstrated his ability to be a mobile quarterback, while his skill drills showed that he looks to be an accurate passer at the pro level.
DeShone Kizer (QB) Notre Dame: In essentially a race for second place among quarterbacks in this year’s draft, Kizer had just a decent day. He showed no struggles getting the ball down field, a good sign from a young quarterback, but on several occasions, Kizer’s passes sailed above receivers, maybe due to jitters. His 4.87 40-yard dash failed to reach the top of the boards.
Kizer did little to justify interest from the 49ers with the No. 2 overall pick, but crazier things have happened.
Deshaun Watson (QB) Clemson: Running an identical 4.67 40-yard dash time to Trubisky, Watson made his case as to why he should be the top-ranked quarterback in this year’s draft. Coming off of a championship season at Clemson, Watson showed he knows how to compete.
Watson’s arm looked strong and capable of making any pass at the pro level. It will be interesting to see how teams’ assess him moving forward, but it doesn’t seem unlikely that Watson could go in the first round based on his Combine performance.
Gears shift from offense to defense Sunday at the combine, as defensive linemen and linebackers hit the field. These look to be important position groups for the 49ers, as the defensive front seven remains an area of concern heading into 2017.