Taking A Look at the Rest of the Niners Draft Picks

Alright, we reviewed the Niners’ first- and second-round picks earlier today. I say Kentwaan Balmer and Chilo Rachal were reaches, although they do fill need positions. On to the rest of the draft, with ESPN Scouts Inc. comments.

Third Round
Reggie Smith, Cornerback, Oklahoma
6-0, 199

“Smith doesn’t have great speed and can be beaten deep when left on an island. But he’s a versatile playmaker who can line up at corner or safety and contribute to the return game. He’s also strong in run support and capable of limiting a receiver’s production after the catch.”

Strengths:A versatile playmaker. Has experience playing CB and DS on defense, as well as returning kicks and punts on special teams. Is a big, strong cornerback prospect with great agility for his size. Very quick and fluid. Can flip his hips and mirror receivers underneath. Displays very good burst out of his pedal. Very instinctive. Diagnoses plays quickly and does a great job of reading QB’s eyes. Will get quick jumps on underneath throws. Shows adequate ball skills. Is also a very good open field tackler. Gets off of blocks well and is a physical, tough player at the CB position. Doesn’t shy away from contact and will take receivers out of their routes with press-man coverage. Wraps up after the catch. Has enough vision, quickness and agility to contribute as a punt returner in the NFL.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal top-end speed  both as a CB and RS. Is quick and fluid, but doesn’t display elite closing burst when ball is in the air. Lack of ideal experience at cornerback is evident at times in his inconsistent footwork. Durability is only a recent concern but toe injury must be monitored.

Overall: Smith was a productive three-year starter and an extremely versatile contributor for Oklahoma. He shuttled between cornerback and strong safety, playing effectively at both positions, and returned punts and kickoffs. In his first two seasons in Norman, he posted a combined five interceptions, 11 pass break-ups, 88 tackles (six for losses) and two fumble recoveries. Last season Smith logged three interceptions, 11 pass break-ups, 78 tackles (seven for losses) and scored on a 61-yard fumble return. A broken toe kept him out of the Fiesta Bowl, though he otherwise proved durable. For his career, he averaged 21.9 yards per kickoff return and 7.3 yards per punt return (one TD). Smith’s decision to leave school early was a bit surprising considering he finished his junior on the sideline with a toe injury. He has limited experience at cornerback and still has room to improve in terms of his overall technique at that position. However, Smith’s combination of size and athleticism is very good. Plus, his versatility will be awfully intriguing to many NFL teams. He should come off the board at some point in Round 2.

Fourth Round
Cody Wallace, Center, Texas A&M
6-4, 296

“Wallace is a technician who gets into position well and sustains his blocks, but he isn’t an overpowering run-blocker and has problems redirecting in pass protection.”

Strengths: Gets adequate hand placement, locks onto defender’s frame and can sustain once in position. Plays with good leverage for a player as tall as him and does an adequate job of getting under defender’s pads. Has a mean streak and never stops working. Plays with a wide base, has active feet and flashes the ability to redirect in pass protection. Gets adequate knee bend in pass set and can hold ground against bull rushers despite size. Keeps head on a swivel and looks to help guards when no one comes to him. Puts good zip on the ball and rarely makes quarterback adjust to it when shotgun snapping. Though lacks ideal bulk for an NFL guard has the frame to comfortably add weight and could eventually provide depth there.

Weaknesses: Hasn’t shown great lower body strength and is going to have problems driving two-gap defenders off the ball. Doesn’t deliver a violent initial punch and isn’t going to knock many defenders back. Takes some false steps, isn’t quick enough to get into position when footwork is sloppy and can have problems preventing penetration. Doesn’t extend arms and frequently bails too early when combo blocking up to the second level. Doesn’t take sound angles to blocks, lacks the quick feet to adjust to moving targets in space and struggles to get into position at the second level. Lunges and loses balance at times. Can recognize blitz but gets caught flatfooted when isn’t engaged with a defender and has some problems adjusting.

Overall: Wallace was redshirted in 2003 and appeared in four games as a freshman in 2004. He went on to play in 36 consecutive games (all starts) over the next three seasons (2005-’07) to close out his career. Wallace was a backup guard in ’04 before moving to center in ’05. Wallace is a little too light and his footwork is still inconsistent at this point but he has the strong upper body, frame, tenacity and smarts to develop into an excellent backup or capable starter in time. He projects as a fourth or fifth round pick.

Sixth Round
Josh Morgan, Wide Receiver, Virginia Tech
6-0, 219

“Morgan isn’t much of a threat after the catch and he takes far too many plays off. On the other hand, he has good quickness and changes directions well for his size, so he can get open underneath. He can also contribute on special teams.”

Strengths: Has adequate height and is thickly built. Is quick and displays good change-of-direction skills. Knows how to find soft spots in zone and not afraid to go over the middle. Shows good sideline awareness and has generally done a good job of getting feet down inbounds. Flashes excellent upper body strength and can shed press coverage. Uses frame to shield defenders from ball, flashes ability to make the tough catch in traffic and has the potential to develop into a productive red zone receiver. Runs hard after the catch and flashes the ability to pick up yards after contact. Flashes a mean streak and can sustain blocks if he wants to. Plays with a good motor and looks to throw blocks downfield. Has experience returning kickoffs as well as punts, can get to the punter when going for a block and can contribute on special teams.

Weaknesses: Lacks elite top end-speed and is going to have a harder time getting behind the defense at the NFL level. Doesn’t have great elusiveness, isn’t fast enough to go the distance when gets a seam and isn’t much of a big-play threat. Will occasionally take his eyes off the ball and drops some passes should catch. Doesn’t always work hard enough as a backside receiver and his effort as a blocker is even worse. Character is a big concern; charged with obstructing an officer in late September 2006 and Virginia Tech suspended him for the Georgia Tech game as a result.

Overall: In his first three seasons at Virginia Tech (2004-’06), Morgan appeared in 37 games (12 starts) and had 76 receptions for 1,265 yards (16.6 average) and 11 touchdowns. In 14 games (11 starts) as a senior, he posted 46 receptions for 552 yards (12.0 average) and five touchdowns. For his career, he also had 26 kickoff returns for 450 yards (17.3 average), 14 punt returns for 148 yards (10.6 average) and six rushing attempts for 20 yards. Morgan suffered a left foot fracture in the spring before his first season. He was suspended one game in 2006 after his arrest for disorderly conduct and obstructing justice. Morgan has the tools to develop into an effective sub-package possession receiver in the NFL. However, he lacks the top-end speed to provide big plays as a route runner or after-the-catch. He also gives an inconsistent effort and comes with some off-the-field baggage. As a result, Morgan could be selected anywhere from the fourth round to the seventh round of the 2008 draft.

Seventh Round
Larry Grant, Outside Linebacker, OhioState
6-1, 235

“He possesses an adequate frame with room to add bulk. He plays with good leverage and plays hard from snap to whistle. He times blitzes really well with the ability to beat blockers in the backfield, but and needs to improve instincts and hand use when shedding blocks.”

Strengths: Has adequate size and is big enough to add bulk to frame. Plays with a mean streak, plays with adequate leverage and flashes the ability to hold ground at the point of contact. Works from the snap until the whistle, takes adequate pursuit angles and is a sideline-to-sideline player. Gets good depth and reads quarterback’s eyes when asked to drop into zone coverage. Times blitz well, he flashes the ability to beat blockers in the backfield and has adequate closing speed. Capable of lining up at all three linebacker positions and is versatile. Blocked 12 punts in two years at the junior college level in 2005, blocked two kicks last year and can contribute on special teams. Made steady progress while at OhioState and should only get better with added experience.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal instincts, takes too long to locate the ball and is vulnerable to play action as well as misdirection. Doesn’t deliver a violent punch and takes too long to shed blocks. Lacks elite explosiveness and isn’t going to make as many tackles in the backfield as did at the collegiate level. Has a wide stance but base immediately narrows and loses balance at times. Doesn’t show great burst coming out of cuts, lacks prototypical top-end speed and is going to have problems matching up in man coverage. Takes too long to open hips when forced to turn and run and lacks the second gear to recover once caught out of position. Lacks ideal ball skills and isn’t a playmaker in coverage.

Overall: Grant attended and played for Community Collegeof San Francisco in 2004 and 2005, amassing 175 tackles in two seasons and earning National Junior College Player of the Year honors in ’05. He transferred to in 2006, appearing in 12 games (including one start at strong-side linebacker) and turning in 18 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. As a senior in 2007, he started all 13 games and had 51 tackles (9.5 for losses), five sacks, a forced fumble, an interception and five pass breakups. He was a special teams ace at both OhioState(three blocked kicks) and CCSF (six blocks in ’05 alone). Grant may never develop serviceable man-to-man cover skills but he can still bring a lot to a team. He’s versatile enough to provide some depth at all three linebacker positions and he has the potential to develop into an excellent special teams’ player.

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