Just got off a conference call with the dean of draft prognosticators, Mel Kiper Jr., who has the 49ers picking Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin in his latest mock draft. Kiper said Maybin had an outstanding 2008 and was the type of player in his quickness and explosiveness who could put up good numbers at this month's combine and rise even higher on draft boards. Kiper said Maybin had "phenomenal athleticism." Kiper: "This kid really flies off the ball ... He's got great value. (Teams) are going to go back to the film and look at the player. He's a guy you could see going 5-10."
Maybin began 2008 behind defensive end Maurice Evans, but as Kiper noted, displaced Evans in the starting lineup when Evans was suspended for three games. Maybin finished the season with 12 sacks and seven tackles for loss. Maybin, who would play OLB for the 49ers, has quickness. The question is whether he has the size having played at Penn State at around 240 pounds. He has said he is hoping to arrive at the combine at 250 pounds, and Maybin's measurements will be one of the more interesting aspects at the combine.
Weight is also an issue for another underclassman 'tweener, Everette Brown of Florida State. Some teams wonder if Brown has the body at this point to withstand the rigors of a 16-plus game season. In his final game at FSU, Brown weighed 225 pounds. Teams want their edge pass rushers to be around 260 pounds. This is an issue with which the 49ers are already familiar. They drafted Manny Lawson in the first round three years ago and the lanky linebacker has had a hard time adding weight - and explosiveness - to his frame.
Kiper, like a lot of draft experts, also is high on USC's Mark Sanchez. Kiper said that if Sanchez had returned for his senior season "he probably would have been - lock, stock and barrel - the No. 1 pick in the draft (in 2010)." Kiper said that Sanchez doesn't have the same powerful arm as the other top-rated quarterback, Georgia's Matthew Stafford, and that he's played the equivalent of just a little more than a season. But he said Sanchez's work ethic, leadership and athleticism made him worthy of a top pick.
I asked whether he thought the 49ers would consider Sanchez even if Alex Smith is back with the team this season. Kiper said they should. He has Sanchez rated as the fifth-best player in the draft. "He would be better than any of the guys they have there," Kiper said. Kiper said he expected Detroit at No. 1, Kansas City at No. 3 and San Francisco at No. 10 would consider picking quarterbacks.
Other Kiper observations:
- Despite the praise he gave Stafford and Sanchez, he said he thought New England's Matt Cassel was the better quarterback. "He showed that he should have been a No. 1 overall draft pick." Cassel, of course, was a seventh rounder in the 2005 draft, the year the 49ers selected Smith No. 1 overall. Alas, Kiper said he didn't think the Patriots were willing to deal Cassel this season. "If I were Detroit or Kansas City, I would make that move in a heartbeat. But he's not available right now," Kiper said.
- Kiper said this was another strong class for offensive tackles, although not as deep as last year's. Kiper has Alabama's Andre Smith, Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe at the top of the list. He said that Ole Miss's Michael Oher would be in the 15-25 range and that Arizona's Eben Britton was starting to rise up draft boards.
- Kiper had praise for Boston college defensive tackle B.J. Raji. Oddly, Kiper has Raji rated as the No. 10 prospect (see, below) but sees Raji going to Mike Nolan's Denver defense, which has the No. 12 pick. Kiper has Maybin rated No. 12.
- He saw a number of outside linebackers going late in the first round including Northern Illinois' Larry English and USC's Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews, jr. He has Virginia's Clint Sintim, a pass-rushing linebacker, going in the second round. The 49ers seemed to like Sintim at the Senior Bowl, but weren't blown away.
-- Matt Barrows
Kiper's value chart:
1. Michael Crabtree So. WR Texas Tech
2. Aaron Curry Sr. LB Wake Forest
3. Andre Smith Jr. OT Alabama
4. Matthew Stafford Jr. QB Georgia
5. Mark Sanchez Jr. QB USC
6. Jason Smith Sr. OT Baylor
7. Malcolm Jenkins Sr. CB Ohio State
8. Eugene Monroe Sr. OT Virginia
9. Jeremy Maclin So. WR Missouri
10. B.J. Raji Sr. DT Boston College
11. Brian Orakpo Sr. DE Texas
12. Aaron Maybin So. DE Penn St.
13. Chris "Beanie" Wells Sr. RB Ohio St.
14. Brandon Pettigrew Sr. TE Oklahoma St.
15. Knowshown Moreno So. RB Georgia
16. Percy Harvin Jr. WR Florida
17. Vontae Davis Jr. CB Illinois
Kiper's latest mock:
1 Detroit Matthew Stafford QB Georgia
2 St. Louis Andre Smith OT Alabama
3 Kansas City Mark Sanchez QB USC
4 Seattle Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech
5 Cleveland Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest
6 Cincinnati Jason Smith OT Baylor
7 Oakland Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri
8 Jacksonville Eugene Monroe OT Virginia
9 Green Bay Malcolm Jenkins CB Ohio St.
10 San Francisco Aaron Maybin DE/OLB Penn St.
11 Buffalo Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma St.
12 Denver B.J. Raji DT Boston College
13 Washington Brian Orakpo DE Texas
14 New Orleans Vontae Davis CB Illinois
15 Houston Everette Brown DE Florida St.