The Bay Area's picking in the Top 10
After overall disappointing 2017 seasons, the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers both finished 6-10, with Oakland stumbling after a playoff season in 2016 and San Francisco finding a new star quarterback in former Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo. In the coming draft on April 26th, San Francisco picks 9th overall and Oakland picks 10th. Below, I'll highlight both team's needs and make an attempt to predict the best players to fit those needs at the 9th and 10th picks.
San Francisco 49ers needs and who fits at 9th overall
It seems like former head coach (and current Michigan head coach) Jim Harbaugh took all of the best players with him when he left San Francisco in 2014. At one point before Harbaugh left, the 49ers boasted one of the most athletic and talented rosters in the entire NFL. Unfortunately, due to retirements, failed draft classes, and free agency issues, there has been a mass exodus of talent from the team. Second year head coach Kyle Shanahan and second year GM (and future Hall of Fame safety) John Lynch have done a good job rebuilding the roster in their first full year together, and they hope to continue with another strong draft class this year.
Needs: LB, DB, WR, OL
Players who fit:
Trumaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
In today's NFL, defenses have to be just as quick and agile as the offenses they have to stop. Look no further than All-American linebacker Trumaine Edmunds, one of the most explosive and athletic players in this year's draft. He is truly the next step in the evolution of linebackers in the modern NFL. 10 years ago, he would've been a very large box safety rather than the super agile linebacker he is now. Edmunds can play inside or outside linebacker, depending on the needs of the team, and his athleticism and versatility will make him a longtime asset for whatever team picks him. He can rush the passer, stop the run, and play pass coverage, making him a true three down linebacker. Given Reuben Foster's recent legal issues and apparent lack of an NFL future, the 49ers may want to invest early in a new leader for their defense. If Edmunds is the pick, he'll be given an opportunity to lead their young and hungry defense, and his versatility will make him a star.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Just like Edmunds, Fitzpatrick represents a new breed of defensive players who can play multiple positions and slide seamlessly into any defense, negating an offense's attempt at creating mismatches by going no-huddle or moving players around the formation like chess pieces. Praised as one of head coach Nick Saban's most reliable players during his time at Alabama, Fitzpatrick has the leadership ability and the competitive drive to help reestablish a winning culture in the San Francisco locker room. His ability to play a multitude of defensive back positions during his time in college should translate well to the NFL, where he played both safety positions, slot (nickel), outside cornerback, and even some weakside linebacker/safety hybrid, or "star" position. If he's the pick, the 49ers will be selecting one of the most versatile and capable defenders available to them.
Derwin James, DB, Florida State
Heralded by some FSU fans as the next Sean Taylor due to his combination of size and ability to play safety (*cough cough* HELL NO), Derwin James was one of the most impressive athletes to play for the Florida State Seminoles, proving himself by being named a 2015 freshman All-American. However, injuries slowed him down, suffering a torn meniscus in 2016 and a slow and semi-productive 2017. Given his athleticism and ability to move around on the defense, James would be a great pick for a San Francisco defense looking to replace free safety Eric Reid after he was allowed to leave via free agency. James's ability to play both safety positions and maybe even a weakside safety/linebacker hybrid make him a weapon for any defensive coordinator.
Oakland Raiders needs and who fits at 10th overall
Stop me if you've heard this before: the Raiders need defensive help. I know, I know, it's hard to believe given Khalil Mack's Defensive Player of the Year award at the conclusion of the 2016 season. Oakland has a few stars on defense (Mack, defensive end Bruce Irvin, and safety Karl Joseph), but if they want to contend for the playoffs and possible Super Bowl consideration, they'll need players like these to help them make the leap.
Needs: LB, DB, DT, LT
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Winner of the Butkus Award, given to the best defensive player in the nation, Roquan Smith has displayed the ability to make plays all over the field from his position as a "Mike" linebacker in the defense. Sideline-to-sideline agility, making plays in the run and the pass game, and displaying leadership qualities throughout his collegiate career would translate well to the NFL and the Oakland defense. Although Mack is the legitimate leader and heart of the defense, Smith would fill the role of enforcer and playmaker that every great defense needs. Brian Urlacher had Lance Briggs, Ray Lewis had Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed, and Khalil Mack could sure use a Roquan Smith.
Trumaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
As stated above, Edmunds represents a more agile and athletic linebacker than the prototype from 10 years ago. He brings speed, agility, and playmaking ability that would make any defense instantly better, and frankly, the Raiders need all three of those. If available, Edmunds could be the playmaking linebacker behind a defensive line that includes Irvin and Mack, allowing one of them to get free and make a play in the opposing team's backfield. I think he'd look good in Silver and Black, don't you?
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
As stated above, Fitzpatrick has the ability to play all over the defense and make plays in either safety position, in the slot as a nickelback, or as an outside cornerback. He's one of the most versatile playmakers in this draft, and versatility and playmaking is something the Oakland defense has been sorely lacking. Coached by one of the best in the business, he would bring leadership and drive to the locker room. If he's available, Oakland would continue a recent trend of loading up on 1st round talent on the back end of the defense, allowing him to join safety Karl Joseph (2016) and cornerback Gareon Conley (2017).
These are my thoughts on the 49ers and Raiders first round picks. Agree? Disagree? Am I completely wrong? Let's discuss on Twitter.
8/7/2019 11:54:31 pm
I can never really predict how this team will do. If you ask me, they have a lot of talented players, however, their coaching structure is just bad. If you give these players to a consistent coach, then they could really make a run for the championship. I am not saying that they are bad, what I am saying is that they could do better. I really want them to make a step in the right direction, especially in their coaching system.
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