SANTA CLARA -- Margus Hunt, a defensive end out of Southern Methodist University, is projected by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. as the 49ers' first-round draft pick. But don't let that stop the chatter on other candidates.
Kiper, in a media conference call Wednesday, listed off a handful of prospects the 49ers might draft 31st and 34th overall in this month's draft. That assumes the 49ers stay in those draft slots rather than move up the board, which they can do thanks to a stockpile of 13 overall picks. The draft will take place April 25-27.
UCLA defensive end Datone Jones also could fit the 49ers' desire to add depth behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, Kiper said.
Finding a new safety to replace Dashon Goldson is another option, and Kiper can see the 49ers drafting Jonathan Cyprien out of Florida International or Matt Elam out of Florida.
Although Vernon Davis is locked in as the 49ers' starting tight end, they need to replace Delanie Walker, and Kiper's leading candidates are Zach Ertz (Stanford), Gavin Escobar (San Diego State) and Dion Sims (Michigan State).
If the 49ers do pick Hunt as Kiper's latest mock draft predicts, they'll be getting a player with "tremendous physicality and potential," Kiper said. Hunt's drawbacks, Kiper added, included his "ball-location skills" and technique that can be developed over the next two to three years. Listed at 6-foot-8 and 277 pounds, Hunt is an Estonia native with a track-and-field background.
Last year, Kiper projected the 49ers taking wide receiver Stephen Hill in the first round, and they instead took A.J. Jenkins at No. 30 overall. Hill went to the New York Jets in the second round (43rd overall). Jenkins had no receptions as a rookie while Hill totaled 21 for 252 yards and three touchdowns.
If the 49ers elect to again draft a wide receiver early and perhaps use one of their first two picks, Cal's Keenan Allen could be available, as Kiper projects him falling to No. 44 overall. Kiper had Allen slotted at No. 40 to the Tennessee Titans before his workout Tuesday.
Two years ago, the 49ers made what some considered a surprise move by drafting outside linebacker Aldon Smith with the seventh-overall pick. Kiper had Smith on his radar and projected him going No. 11 to the Houston Texans.