It’s official. Draft season is here. A time we can all look forward to, and the possibility of our favorite prospects being drafted by the 49ers is as real as ever. To start, I’m going to do a full simulation using the nine picks the 49ers are currently expected to have in the 2022 NFL Draft.
For this first simulation, I will strictly respect the current position of the choices. That is to say, no exchanges. Let’s have some fun with this, as this will be the first of many fictional drafts I’ll be posting over the next month ahead of the draft.
Round 2, choose 61
Josh Paschal, EDGE – Kentucky
The 49ers are sticking to their seemingly annual tradition of signing a defensive lineman with their first pick. While the unit is currently very deep, the 49ers still lack that real number two option behind Nick Bosa. Paschal’s selection gives them the chance to get a bona fide threesome to line up opposite their superstar edge rusher.
At 6’3,278 pounds, Paschal has the ideal physical traits to keep up with the NFL. In addition to physical qualities, Paschal was one of the best defenders in college football last season.
The pick gives the 49ers a player who arrives with a high floor and the ability to make an impact from day one. If Paschal continues to develop a deeper sack as a passing thrower, he has the ability to become a high-impact starter at the NFL level.
Round 3, choose 93
Nick Cross, Security – Maryland
The 49ers approach the Jaquiski Tartt-sized hole currently residing in their high school by taking on one of the most athletically gifted players in this draft. Cross put on a show at the NFL combine, running in 4.3 seconds while coming out on top on positional drills.
Cross has tremendous speed and range on the pitch and has shown a knack for playing football.
The pick gives the 49ers a legitimate running mate to place on the backend with Jimmie Ward, also achieving the goal of rejuvenating at the position and in the secondary as a whole.
Round 3, choose 105
Dohnovan West, Center Arizona State
All signs point to Alex Mack returning in 2022, but the 49ers are planning ahead with this pick by selecting their center of the future. West would be a phenomenal heir to the position, coming in at 6’4,300 pounds with the agility to operate in space at a high level in an outside zone offense.
West has also been strong in pass protection in 2021, allowing just four pressures on 372 pass-blocking snaps. This one is a no-brainer, adding depth to the offensive line while potentially setting Trey Lance up with his running mate for the next half-decade.
Round 4, choose 134
Otoni Ogbonnia, DI – UCLA
It’s all about the trenches! No, seriously, the 49ers continue to invest at the line of scrimmage and add a solid piece to the rotation on their inside defensive line.
At 6’4,320 pounds, Ogbonnia gives the 49ers depth and quality assurance behind Javon Kinlaw at nose tackle.
Round 5, choose 172
Hassan Haskins, running back – Michigan
A dynamic runner is added to the 49ers runners’ room to isolate a unit with some question marks at the moment. Haskins has experience excelling in zone and gap concepts and is the perfect size to take to the next level at 6’1 220 pounds.
Haskins is a tough north-south runner, averaging more than three yards after contact per attempt in 2021. That move gives the 49ers a set of fresh legs in the backfield and helps lighten the load of a rushing offense currently. scheduled to be directed by Eli Mitchell and Jeff Wilson Jr.
I actually think Haskins would have a chance to fight for a starring role in that backfield, and the advantage he would potentially add to the 49ers ground game is too big to ignore here in the fifth round.
Round 6, choose 187
Chigoziem Okonkwo, tight end – Maryland
Okonkwo is a really fun prospect to assess. At 6’2,244 pounds, Okwonko possesses more speed and the ability to stretch a defense both vertically and horizontally. His 4.52 40-yard dash backs up the speed he puts on the film, and he also added a 35.5-inch vertical to boot.
While I think he offers value in a tight traditional role, his versatility might be his ultimate calling card.
Okonkwo has the ability to be used similarly to 49ers pro bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk. This gives the 49ers immediate insurance in various positions. It also potentially prepares them for life after Juszczyk, a reality that may need to be prepared for sooner rather than later.
Round 6, choose 220
Chamarri Conner, cornerback – Virginia Tech
The 49ers are trying to fill the void left at the slot corner position by bringing in a player who is no stranger to playing nickel. Conner started all 13 games in the slot for Virginia Tech in 2021, en route to All-ACC honorable mentions.
Conner is a strong tackler in space and left an impact all over the court, recording 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks last season. Conner also has a strong special teams background, logging more than 500 special teams snaps throughout his career at Virginia Tech.
The 49ers are getting a player who, in the long term, can potentially fill the void left by the recently deceased K’Waun Williams while capitalizing on Conner’s special teams contributions in the immediate future.
Round 6, pick 221
Spencer Burford, Tackling – UTSA
One of my favorite prospects in this draft, Burford has all the physical traits to become an impact player on the 49ers offensive line. At 6’5,295 pounds, Burford is extremely fluid and would be a fantastic fit for the aggressive outside zone-based offense used by the 49ers.
Burford made the 2021 All-Conference USA first team, in a season in which he allowed just one sack of 338 pass blocking attempts. With uncertainty surrounding Mike McGlinchey’s future with the team beyond this season, Burford is offering the 49ers the opportunity to develop their own contingency plan for the job internally over the next year.
Round 7, Pick 262
Lucas Krull, tight end – Pittsburgh
Mr. Indifferent! Even with Okwonkoro selected earlier in the draft, the 49ers decide to add another player to compete for a spot on the shortlist. Krull is a prototypical height at this position, standing at 6-6 while weighing 260 pounds.
Krull was named the 2021 All-ACC second-team selection during a campaign that saw him catch 38 passes for 451 yards and six touchdowns. Fun fact: This would be the second time Krull has been drafted by a San Francisco professional sports team with this pick. The Giants drafted Krull in the 34th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft.