NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock held a conference call with the national media on Tuesday afternoon before the NFL combine begins on Saturday, February 22.
Mayock believes this is one of the deepest classes in the last 10 years and said a top-20 pick is as good as a top-15 draft pick. Here are some highlights from the teleconference call:
-Mayock said the WR class in particular is most deep, which is one of the 49ers biggest needs. It will be tough to trade up for WR Sammy Watkins out of Clemson, who is expected to go as a top-10 pick.
"Watkins is physically explosive," Mayock said. "He's got great hands. He's got good size. He's got very good speed and what I really, really liked about this kid is he's got toughness. He'll physically beat press coverage. He high points the ball. He's got a little attitude about him. He blocks people. You can see him getting pissed off during games and going after corners and safeties and linebackers. So he's got an attitude like he wants to be the best player there is, and when you combine that with his physical ability, I think it's awesome."
-In terms of other receivers who could be threats after Watkins, Mike Evans and Marqise Lee, Mayock liked at least four receivers who could be second-round picks or even taken in the late first-round. He thinks Evans and Lee will be taken from 11th to 20th overall.
He pointed out Odell Beckham (LSU), Paul Richardson (Colorado), Davante Adams (Fresno State) and Allen Robinson (Penn State). Mayock pointed out the production of Robinson, saying he has the strength to be in the second round.
-The toughest player in the draft is also a wide receiver, according to Mayock. LSU WR Jarvis Landry is one of his favorite under the radar players who could be a second-round selection. Landry has a projected second-round grade.
"Landry to me, with his toughness and ability to play inside or outside reminds me a little bit of Hines Ward," Mayock said. "He's one of the physically toughest players in this draft, for any position. He catches everything, he's the kind of guy I'd like to have as a teammate, so I really like him."
-The 49ers are in need of a cornerback and Mayock mentioned two specific players who are versatile enough to be a nickel CB. Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State) and Jason Verrett (TCU) were mostly on his radar as late first or early second round picks.
Mayock said he would have Verrett as a top-20 pick if he wasn't 5-9, 176 pounds. Joyner, on the other hand is more versatile as he can play both safety and CB. He drew a comparison to Arizona Cardinals CB Tyrann Mathieu who also played both positions.
On Verrett: "[He is] ideal for the slot because he's quick footed, he's tough, and remember, the slot guys, what gets overlooked is you have to tackle and this kid is a tough kid even though he's undersized. I really like Verrett."
On Joyner: "I think he's going to have to kick inside and either be a safety or a nickel or both as he's an explosive kid like Tyrann Mathieu."
Mayock has CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) as one of the best cornerbacks in the draft who is overshadowed by Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State). He could be a 49ers target with where Mayock projects him.
"I think Kyle Fuller is a first-round talent and is a first-round lock with sub-4.5 [40 yard dash]."
Mayock views Michael Sam as a situational pass rusher who could play the three technique. He is mostly seen as a "tweener" for OLB and DE.
"[Sam] has a DE skill set. I see a situational pass rusher who could become a special teams player. He should go as a 3rd to 5th round pick."
If Donte Whitner leaves in free agency, the 49ers could be looking for a SS and two player stand out to Mayock. He compared Calvin Pryor to Bob Sanders while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is considered to be the most well-rounded player.
"[Calvin Pryor] hits people and explodes everywhere," Mayock said. "He's better in the box than the back end. Clinton-Dix has a better range and he's a [more] complete player."
The 49ers currently have 12 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft. Here is the full list of where the 49ers will be drafting:
49ers 2014 Draft picks:
1. First round: Own pick, No. 30 overall
2. Second round: Kansas City Chiefs pick acquired for Alex Smith, No. 56 overall
3. Second round: Own pick, No. 61 overall
4. Third round: Titans pick acquired for a second round pick in a 2013 draft day trade, No. 77 overall
5. Third round: Own pick, No. 94 overall
6. Third or fourth round: Compensatory, TBA
7. Fourth round: Own pick, TBA
8. Fifth round: Own pick, TBA
9. Sixth round: Own pick, TBA
10. Seventh round: Saints pick acquired for Parys Haralson, TBA
11. Seventh round: Panthers pick acquired for Colin Jones in 2012, TBA
12. Seventh round: Own pick, TBA