Just got off a conference call with the dean of draft prognosticators, ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. For the last month, Mel has had the 49ers taking Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams at pick No. 13 and Texas safety Earl Thomas with their second first-round pick. Today, he will unveil a new mock draft that has both Williams and Thomas falling a bit. In the new mock, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller is the 13th overall pick while Williams falls to 16th. Kiper called Spiller a "great decoy" and described him as a cross between Reggie Bush and Felix Jones.
"I think they need him," Kiper said of Spiller. "I think they need a return man of his skills, they need a back of his ability to complement Frank Gore, which I don't think Glen Coffee is. And most of these teams now, the majority of these teams have a stable of three backs that complement each other, so it doesn't matter who you have as your lead guy. You need that 2 and that 3. Certainly Spiller is something they don't have. He's an elusive, dynamic game breaker and he catches the ball down the field as well as on the swing passes and he's a heck of a return man. He's going to run in the 4.3s. He's the only running back that I think warrants first-round consideration. Jahvid Best from Cal would have, but he's coming off some injury issues at Cal .... C.J. Spiller has an awful lot of value when it comes to all-purpose ability."
As for Thomas, Kiper still spoke highly of him but noted that the safety's size - 195 pounds - would raise concerns with teams:
"The size factor and how he'll hold up physically in the NFL may be something that pushes him maybe into the late-first early second (round) from where I had him, which is the only concern. Obviously you don't have accurate measurables on these underclassmen. Remember, he's a third-year sophomore coming out early. But I tell you what - he's got tremendous ball skills, a good tackler, a big-game guy. In the spotlight games, he was at his best. If you remember, some very good safeties went in the second round. So I mean, this is a guy if you can get him in the early to mid second rounds, I think you're getting yourself one heck of a player."
As far as the tackles, Kiper really likes Rutgers' Anthony Davis and feels he will/should challenge Oklahoma State's Russell Okung as the first tackle taken. He described Oklahoma's Williams like this: "He ultimately will be a right tackle, which is where he played as a junior. He could play inside." He had Iowa's Bryan Bulaga and Maryland's Bruce Campbell as the next two tackles.
-- Matt Barrows