San Francisco 49ers Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford – Round 1
This was the biggest surprise pick of the first round and probably the biggest reach on Thursday night of the 2016 NFL Draft. That being said, I think Garnett could be a solid starter for the 49ers. Across the league, a number of teams told me they had him rated as the top guard in the draft as a late-second, early third-round pick. Garnett wasn’t an appropriate value in the first round, but he looks like a safe pick to develop into a starting guard for San Francisco.

The 49ers needed help on the offensive line. A year ago, they lost guard Mike Iupati in free agency and their line wasn’t the same in 2015. On top of losing Iupati and Anthony Davis, San Francisco is changing schemes with new head coach Chip Kelly. Getting some linemen who fit Kelly’s system was necessary. Garnett (6-4, 312) is an athletic guard who can move to the second level. He can pull and is a smart technician. Garnett’s pass protection needs improvement, but he should be able to play quickly.

There might be some transition time for Garnett to be more well-rounded, but in time, I bet he is a reliable pass protector and good contributor in the ground game. I don’t think Garnett will be among the very best guards in the NFL, but I think he could be a quality starter and have a productive career.

Most Likely To Bust

Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU – Round 4
The 49ers weren’t the only team that had Robinson graded early on the third day. Sources from multiple teams told that they had him in this range. Robinson (6-1, 171) is a good athlete with size and speed. Teams like what he did early in his career at LSU. Off-the-field issues caused him to miss most of the last two seasons with suspensions, however.

In 2015, Robinson was booted from the LSU team and had an arrest for breaking into the apartment of former teammate Anthony Jennings. Robinson had filed a report with police in June accusing Jennings of stealing items from his apartment, so one can deduce that Robinson tried to get them back. In 2014, Robinson recorded 17 tackles with an interception. After missing the season opener, he started six games before a suspension cost him the final four contests. Team sources said they liked Robinson’s height, length, and his play before off-the-field issues derailed his career at LSU.

In the NFL, Robinson will have to stay clean off the field to avoid suspensions, and that is a big hurdle given his track record. He also is going to be rusty after barely playing the past two years. There isn’t a lot of patience in the NFL, so Robinson will have to hit the ground running as a third-day draft pick. Of the 49ers’ earlier selections, I think Robinson has the most bust potential.

Potential Boom Pick

DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon – Round 1
There were a lot of teams across the league that loved Buckner, and the 49ers were very fortunate that he fell to their pick in the first round. Many thought that Buckner would go third-overall to the Chargers, so to land him outside of the top five was an excellent value for San Francisco. Reuniting with former teammate Arik Armstead could form a dynamic tandem of five-technique defensive ends for the 49ers.

Buckner has excellent length and power at 6-foot-7, 290 pounds. He can hold the edge and stuff the run with the ability to get after the quarterback. Oregon’s scheme doesn’t lend itself to defenders producing big sack totals, but Buckner bucked the trend with a 9.5 sack season in 2015. He is a perfect fit as a five-technique.

With Armstead on the other side, it will be very difficult for offenses to double team both first-round picks. While both are worthy top-half-of-the-draft talents, Buckner has more physical talent and I believe he will be the better player. Sources say that Buckner is great off the field and works hard. Thus, I think he could turn into one of the top five-techniques in the NFL.

Future Depth Player

Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech – Round 6
The 49ers have a very unsteady quarterback situation with Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert. It wouldn’t be surprising if both of them flame out for Chip Kelly and Driskel gets an opportunity to play. I don’t think that Driskel will be a good NFL starting quarterback. That was clear from his time at Florida when he froze in pressure moments, turned the ball over, was injury prone, and had bouts of inaccuracy. That being said, Driskel (6-4, 234) has a great skill set with a strong arm and excellent running ability. He is a superb scheme fit for Kelly. I don’t think Driskel will ever be a quality starter, but I think he could be a future backup for San Francisco.

Walt’s 2016 NFL Draft Grades:

7. DeForest Buckner, DE/DT, Oregon A Grade
In the two hours in which I changed my third pick to Ronnie Stanley, I wrote that one team that won because of San Diego’s stupidity was the 49ers, because it allowed DeForest Buckner to fall into their laps. Excluding Tunsil, who is now scaring teams off because of some random picture, Buckner was the best player available. He also fills a huge need. The 49ers needed help on the defensive line to replace Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. They now have that with Buckner and his Oregon teammate Arik Armstead.

Speaking of Oregon, it’s nice that Buckner has familiarity with Chip Kelly. I think it always helps when a prospect or free agent goes to a team where he’s comfortable with the scheme and coaching, and that’s the case here.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

28. Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford MILLEN SMOKES KIELBASA ON TWITTER Grade
A Millen grade! The 2016 NFL Draft is complete!

Wow. Taking Joshua Garnett here at No. 28 would’ve been bad enough, but to move into the first round to grab him is borderline insane. I don’t know if Garnett was the only person who accepted an invite to Trent Baalke’s birthday party or not, but that’s no reason to select a third-round prospect at this juncture. Moving up for Myles Jack would’ve made a ton of sense, and quite frankly, it would’ve been one of the best picks in the first round. Getting Garnett here after a trade, on the other hand, is absolutely ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as posting a picture of someone smoking a kielbasa on Twitter.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

68. Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State B Grade
You know what’s funny? Will Redmond would’ve made more sense as a trade-up target than Joshua Garnett at No. 28. Redmond is a skilled corner, but dropped because of an injury. Cornerback wasn’t a huge position of need for San Francisco, but the range is at least right, as Redmond probably would’ve been a second-round pick had he not sustained a torn ACL.

133. Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU C Grade
It’s not horrible to take a major risk at the end of the fourth round, but that’s exactly what Rashard Robinson is. Robinson missed all of 2015 because he was suspended for violating team rules. Robinson also has work-ethic issues, so he desperately needs to mature if he ever wants to make a living playing football.

142. Ronald Blair, DE, Appalachian State C- Grade
It’s difficult to understand this selection. I have no problem with Ronald Blair as a player, but his fit in San Francisco’s defense is highly questionable. Blair, who is a poor athlete, seemed like he would be a decent 4-3 left end prospect. He doesn’t translate to the 3-4, however. Chip Kelly doesn’t really understand NFL concepts, so it’s not a surprise to see a sketchy pick like this.

145. John Theus, OT, Georgia D Grade
Many teams didn’t view John Theus as a draftable prospect, so it’s not a surprise to see the 49ers choose him in the fifth round. They must not have been paying attention to the Senior Bowl, where Theus was constantly abused and embarrassed. I don’t know if he’ll be able to hold on to a roster spot for very long.

174. Fahn Cooper, OT, Ole Miss B Grade
This tackle pick is probably better than the one the 49ers made 29 selections earlier when they picked John Theus. Fahn Cooper played right tackle his entire career at Ole Miss until Laremy Tunsil was suspended. Cooper slid into the blind side and did a solid job. Cooper has poor athleticism, but he might be able to compete for the job at right tackle at some point.

207. Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech B- Grade
The 49ers keep drafting decent prospects who don’t appear to be good fits for their schemes. Jeff Driskel projects as a better quarterback than some of the ones taken earlier this weekend – cough, Cody Kessler, sneeze – but he doesn’t have the accuracy that Chip Kelly loves in his signal-callers. Still, it’s hard to hate this pick, given that Blaine Gabbert is likely to start this fall.

211. Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida B Grade
Kelvin Taylor is the son of Jaguar great Fred Taylor. Unfortunately, Kelvin is not nearly the same player his father was. Kelvin was a mediocre runner at Florida, and he tested as one of the worst athletes at the Combine. Still, this was about the right place to draft him as a backup.

213. Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State B Grade
Aaron Burbridge was one of the top receivers in the Big Ten this past season, but wasn’t taken until the sixth round of the draft because teams feared that he didn’t have the ability to separate at the next level. Burbridge, after all, was one of the worst testers at the Combine. Still, he’s worth a shot at this juncture, given his high production level in school.

249. Prince Charles Iworah, CB, Western Kentucky B- Grade
Prince Charles Iworah was just an above-average player for Western Kentucky, but I guess he caught Chip Kelly’s eye when he showed off some stellar athleticism at his Pro Day. He has upside, but he’s very raw.

2016 NFL Draft Team Grade: B . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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