NFL Combine
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A tackle, center, wide receiver, edge rusher, and cornerback. Each player could start and would be an upgrade

We’re heading into the bulk of the NFL Draft season, meaning we’ll see mock drafts a couple of times a week. Mock drafts are nothing more than an exercise to give you an idea about who the prospects are and the neighborhood in which they’re expected to be drafted.

Let’s familiarize ourselves with a few players the 49ers could select with their first pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. The following players are all available in current mock drafts or are being taken after the 49ers’ initial pick.

Kingsley Suamatia – BYU – OT

There’s a scenario where 9-10 offensive linemen are selected before the 49ers pick. They could trade up to select one or trade back. Suamatia is the top option if the team stays put at No. 31 or trades back.

The long-limbed 6’5, 326-pound sophomore is a bit of a dice roll. Suamataia is tremendously gifted athletically and is as impressive at times as he is inexperienced. This would be a bet on 49ers offensive line coach Chris Foerster to develop the former five-star recruit and refine his skill set.

I’m willing to forgive Kingsley’s inconsistencies in his hand placement and awareness in pass protection since he’s so young. He tends to go for kill shots, but that can be honed in.

What you can’t teach is a 21-year-old tackle with elite quickness and movement skills, strength, and the ability to execute the simple things—like walling off defenders at the second level. We’re taking a high-upside tackle with a better chance of performing like a first-rounder with some seasoning. If Suamatia returned to school, he would’ve been a top-15 pick next year.

He also started 12 games at right tackle in 2022 before switching to the left side in 2023, so going back to the right side won’t be this significant adjustment. The hope would be that Suamatia learns the ropes while Kyle Shanahan can simplify his role and “hide” him if necessary early on as a rookie, but we see Suamatia blossom into a star during the second half of the season.

Zach Frazier – West Virginia – C

The 49ers aren’t going to take an interior lineman this early…right? If they do, it should be Frazier. Re-signing Jon Feliciano to a one-year deal with Spencer Burford, who has a year left on his contract — not to mention Jake Brendel, who is still on the roster — alleviates the pressure to select an interior player in the first round.

But Frazier is a stud and comfortably an upgrade over either of the three players mentioned above. Let’s ignore the value and talk about the football player.

Frazier had over 45 career starts, nine at guard and the rest at center. He was a two-time state wrestling champion and played in the Senior Bowl. He’s not going to wow you with his athleticism or movement skills, but that doesn’t mean he can’t excel in a zone scheme.

Frazier can hit targets on the move, understands angles — which negates any athletic deficiencies, and has some serious grip strength and pop in his hands. As you’d expect from a wrestler, he’s a people mover who puts himself in the right position and fights through the whistle. Contrary to Suamatia, Frazier’s hand placement and processing are strengths.

No. 31 might feel early for Frazier, but he’s one of the 31 best players in this draft and a player you can pencil in as a starter for two contracts.

Adonai Mitchell – Texas – WR

This would be a luxury pick. Mitchell’s teammate, Xavier Worthy, stole the show at the NFL Combine, but Mitchell was the best receiver at Texas. I’ll take it one step further. Mitchell is the second-best receiver in the draft.

That sounds like a hot take, but Mitchell oozes with WR1 traits. He’s a glider in the same sense as Michael Crabtree, but he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Mitchell is an electric route runner who can win at every level. It’s effortless, which is why Mitchell’s speed is deceiving. However, the defensive backs he went against during his time at Texas are well aware of Adonai’s skill set. Some of his best routes happened on plays where he didn’t have a reception.

Mitchell can separate with the best of them, has insane body control when the ball is in the air, and is a deep threat. His usage on screens tells me he is a bigger threat with the ball in his hands than most analysts are leading on.

Mitchell suffered from focus drops but caught 92 percent of passes in his direction that was catchable. He made 50/50 balls down the field look like 80/20. It was notable that whenever Texas needed a play, they targeted Mitchell, not Worthy.

There are only a few players in this draft who are better than Mitchell. While that sounds silly now, it won’t look like that a year from now. If he goes to the Kansas City Chiefs….

Laiatu Latu – UCLA – Edge rusher

Signing Leonard Floyd shouldn’t take the 49ers out of the edge rusher market if a talent like Latu falls. He’s the most polished pass rusher in the draft with an array of pass-rushing moves. Latu did not impress at the NFL Combine, as his vertical and broad jumps were below average. But he plays with a relentless motor and won non-stop last season. No edge rusher in the draft had a higher pressure percentage or tackles for loss per game.

Because he’s not your typical explosive athlete with long arms drafted early, shedding blocks and setting the edge might be a struggle early on during Latu’s career. There are also questions about his medicals. But if those check out, Latu will have no business available at the end of the first round.

TJ Tampa – Iowa State – CB

I’m trying to hit on every position. Based on what they’ve done in free agency, cornerback is an unlikely spot here. If Clemson’s Nate Wiggins falls, John Lynch should sprint the card to the podium. Tampa is a possible trade-back option. I have a first-round grade on him, so No. 31 isn’t a reach from my perspective.

Tampa did not perform at the NFL Combine because he was recovering from a hamstring injury. He plans to work out at Iowa State’s Pro Day.

When looking at defensive backs, I care about their recovery speed more than straight-line speed. Unlike the Alabama cornerbacks, Tampa has a burst and second gear to close on receivers. He’s also 6’1 with a wingspan in the 89th percentile.

Tampa gives the 49ers a press-man cornerback who is an absolute menace in run support. So we have a high-end athlete with superb cover skills, is aggressive as a tackler, and finished seventh or higher in the Draft for cornerbacks in yards per coverage snap in both man and zone coverage.

This would bump Deommodore Lenoir inside full-time and give the 49ers three competent cornerbacks — something they haven’t been able to say they’ve had in some time.

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