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Five red flag players the 49ers should avoid

© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

You can make a case for and against just about every player in the draft, and there’s a constant balancing act in determining whether a player’s upside outweighs his obvious flaws. For the players below, those flaws are too much for the 49ers to risk selecting them. They may turn out to have successful careers, but the evidence (through tape, measurables, and off-field actions) should rule them out.

1. K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State

Here’s Hamler’s… whoops, I mean, Tavon Austin’s measurable chart:

Hamler (5’8″, 178 pounds) didn’t get a chance to perform at the combine outside of the bench press (15 reps to Austin’s 14), and I have no doubt he would have put up astounding numbers, and probably a much better vertical than Austin, who was an infamous Rams bust with the No. 8 overall pick. Hamler is in that same speedy, tiny wide receiver mold, which should scare any general manager.

DeSean Jackson is the best possible version of that, but Jackson had and still has sticky hands. Here’s the main red flag: Hamler had the highest rate of dropped passes in college football last season among any of the top prospects at 16.9 percent. If you throw 50 passes, he drops eight or nine.

Deebo Samuel had the fourth-most dropped passes in the NFL last season, per FOX Sports, with nine, and had the fourth-highest drop percentage at 11.1 percent. But Samuel he also caught 70.4 percent of his passes, which was 68th-best in the NFL and 18th-best out of qualified receivers, per NFL Next Gen stats, which is not elite, but well above average.

Samuel is far more physical and built for longevity than Hamler, and if you have one young receiver who has some drop issues, it’s not exactly prudent to add another who has a track record being unreliable as a receiver. There are far too many more reliable options for the 49ers to take a chance on Hamler because he’s a speed demon.

2. Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Sell your Brown stock. Defensive tackles don’t need to have the wiggle or speed of defensive ends, but all power is not enough to make an elite defensive tackle, and Brown had the slowest 3-cone time of any defensive linemen in this draft. That’s turtle-level agility, and if you’re drafting a defensive tackle early in the first round, you want a disruptor, someone in the mold of DeForest Buckner or Chris Jones, who has some athleticism to disrupt the quarterback consistently. Javon Kinlaw has that. Brown does not.

His closest physical comparison is Leon Orr, who played in eight career games, but the better comparison might be Jordan Phillips, who went 52nd overall to the Miami Dolphins in 2015 after a prolific senior season at Oklahoma (38 tackles, 7.0 for loss, 2.0 sacks).

Phillips had a standout year last season in new pastures with the Buffalo Bills, racking up a career-high 9.0 sacks and 13 tackles for loss, which is almost Pro Bowl level. But it took him four years to get there, and he’s also a far better athlete than Brown, who’s much more of a bruiser, like Haloti Ngata, who was a fantastic athlete. To carry all that weight at the NFL level, you can’t be all force, you need some quickness, and Brown doesn’t have that. He’s sort of similar to Nebraska’s Darrion Daniels, another large, athletically-challenged interior presence the 49ers should avoid in this draft, unless it’s a late Day 3 pick. Brown might have a decent career, but he’s a Round 3 prospect.

3. Grant Delpit, S, LSU

Before the 49ers re-signed Jimmie Ward, Delpit was a popular option for them to draft. I didn’t understand it then or now. He’s had serious injury issues that deteriorated his confidence and tackling form, and he doesn’t close on the ball with speed.

With any safety, you want someone who processes information quickly, and acts just as quickly, with aggression on that processing. Delpit fails to do that. He’s a solid coverage safety, but when it comes to tackling, he’s a total liability. Maybe he’ll recover some of the form he had earlier in his college career, when he looked like a bona fide top-15 pick, but injuries and shaky form make him a stay away.

4. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri

NFL Network somehow ranked him the top prospect based on some (what I presume to be) narcotic-induced level of delusions, by combining production, size and athleticism. Yes, he’s large, and yes, he’s fast. But he only ran the 40-yard dash, which seems intentional.

Watching his tape, I don’t know what I’m supposed to get excited about. That he’s large and can run down the field fast? He’s a horrendous blocker, and doesn’t get any leverage, no matter who he’s blocking. There is no agility in his arsenal, and he doesn’t show up as an able route-runner or great pass-catcher. Dane Brugler, The Athletic’s draft expert, who breaks down prospects from every position in a colossal breakdown called The Beast, ranked him as his fourth tight end. That’s based almost solely on projection.

Overall, Okwuegbunam leaves you wanting more on tape, but he has a projectable body with the talent to win his share of one-on-one’s and get the job done as a point-of-attack blocker.

That’s fair in certain circumstances: see George Kittle.

But Kittle was an elite blocker, and an elite athlete on a successful team which was dominant in the run game. He didn’t get the opportunity to show himself as a receiver. Okwuegbunam simply isn’t gifted at either. I don’t see the talent, nor do I see the effort as a blocker. There are nine other tight ends I would take before him.

5. Saadhiq Charles, OT, LSU

As I was looking for a mid-round prospect the 49ers could target as a long-term Joe Staley replacement, Charles was one of the names that came up. His film has glimpses of dominance, but all too many instances of reckless or nonexistent technique. Comparing him with St. John’s Ben Bartch (Division III) there was a massive gap in footwork and hand technique.

You could see how Bartch needed to put on more weight, and add strength, but had the technical foundations and athleticism as tight end-to-tackle convert like Daniel Brunskill. Charles is athletic, but looks out of his depth in pass protection at times, letting rushers reach his chest frequently, and was also suspended for six games for a violation of team rules and was described to a Yahoo! Sports source as “tremendously immature.”

The extended quote follows:

“He’s a follower, not a leader. He gravitated toward trouble when he didn’t have money, so what’s going to happen when he does have [an NFL paycheck]? He makes it tough to trust him. He’s not reliable. In three years, he had a major discipline issue each year.”

It’s clear there’s upside to Charles in terms of his physical frame, especially in the run game. But his off-field issues combined with suspect pass-blocking form makes it all too risky for the 49ers to invest a pick with already decent tackle depth. They’d need to be completely confident that pick could be Joe Staley’s replacement in a year or two.


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