I'll be heading over to Raiders headquarters for the draft tonight, but a few thoughts about the 49ers' first-round situation as it stands...
Hey, this could be a little like 2009, when the Raiders took WR Darrius Heyward-Bey with the 7th pick and the 49ers then took WR Michael Crabtree with the 10th pick and we got to compare and debate the two for a long time -- or at least as long as DHB stuck around clanging easy passes for the Raiders.
Of course, 49ers fans had a little more to yell about with Crabtree, and still can yell about it now that Heyward-Bey is on to his third team.
The Raiders are at 5 (but may move down) and the 49ers are at 30 (and I think are likely to move up), so pending those parentheticals, who knows how this might go because I do believe each team is heading towards taking a WR with their first selections.
I wrote about the Raiders earlier and suggested that events could push GM Reggie McKenzie to select Texas A&M WR Mike Evans at 5... that is, if WR Sammy Watkins, DE Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack are all taken before the Raiders' pick.
The Raiders could move down in this scenario, and that will be a huge part of what happens tonight.
Meanwhile, it definitely looks like the 49ers will try to move up to get a second-tier WR (somebody behind Watkins and Evans), and LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. is probably the best of that class.
I think Beckham fits exactly what the 49ers want in a young WR -- great hands, speed to run past people on the outside, productive enough to throw into the slot in a 3-WR set with Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin and could project to taking either one of the starters' places down the line.
Ideally, I think Beckham is the 49ers' realistic target. But how high would they have to go? At this point, I'm guessing they might have to get into the 10-12 range, and that might be too much—might cost an extra 2nd-rounder, and the 49ers don't like to burn that kind of pick.
In the same way, I think the 49ers would love to get a shot at Watkins or Evans, but that would take a jump into the top-10, and that's almost certainly too pricey for the 49ers—that would probably take them tossing in next year's No. 1 pick, and the 49ers just don't do things like that.
Or at least they haven't ever done things like that. It's just not who Trent Baalke is and what he believes in.
Believe me, the 49ers have looked at Atlanta's roster imbalance since the Falcons did a similar deal to move up to take WR Julio Jones in 2011 and the 49ers DO NOT see this as a sign that they should start burning future #1s.
It isn't just the pick itself that the 49ers cherish (because it could end up being in the 30s again), it's that when you keep your #1, you can always use it to package with another pick or two to move higher in the round... as the 49ers can do this year, holding #30.
Or like they did last year to move up to grab Eric Reid.
So I don't see a jump into the top 10, though we shall see with the always unpredictable Baalke. I just think he wants to keep his premium picks because the 49ers are going to have to start replacing some of their most expensive players soon...
Once that expected Colin Kaepernick mega-deal kicks in next year, the cap economics for this team change dramatically.
That leaves Beckham on the table, if the 49ers can move into the low teens. I see this as a strong possibility, but maybe Baalke and Jim Harbaugh think the price is getting too high even for a guy they really like.
Which could push them to consider alternatives in the 20s, which might cost them only a #3 or #4 instead of a #2 to move up... and that is an important distinction for the 49ers, especially in this draft.
If they go into the 20s, I'd think the target would either be Oregon State's Brandin Cooks or USC's Marqise Lee.
Lee is a size/speed guy and the 49ers love those guys. Lee could project to be a long-term starter for the 49ers, no doubt.
Cooks doesn't have the 49ers' preferred size for a WR, but he's an incredible play maker and definitely would give them something they don't have—an explosive, productive slot guy.
They could throw WR screens, they could put Cooks in the backfield and force mismatches, they could do all sorts of things they just haven't done much of in recent years.
But Cooks might not ever project to full-time status—he doesn't look like he'll be much of a run-blocker, so would WR coach John Morton play him more than 10-15 snaps a game?
The 49ers have had issues when Baalke has taken WRs who don't fit what Morton likes (and Harbaugh has sided with Morton), and that's how they ended up with the A.J. Jenkins debacle.
I think Baalke and Harbaugh will decide they want something different, if they can't get Watkins, Evans or Beckham. And they will count on the coaching staff to figure out how to get Cooks in there for 15 to 30 plays right away and to be seasoned and ready for a playoff game vs. Seattle.
That's where this is aiming and where it has to aim.
You don't beat Seattle's D by doing the same thing all the time and Harbaugh spoke to this earlier this off-season. The 49ers' offense needs to be different, and taking Cooks is one way to start that process... and he'd be a nice extra weapon for Kaepernick.
I'll guess they make a small jump and get Cooks... if they can't/don't move up to the teens to get Beckham.