We're going to go through a quick breakdown and projection of the San Francisco 49ers' 2012 NFL Draft haul. The 49ers were very active with trades, moving down a couple of times and picked up some picks for 2013, and even moved up at one point to get a guy they knew they wanted in the fourth round.
San Francisco has very few holes on their roster - they finished 2011 at 13-3 and had an appearance in the NFC Championship game. All of their starters are set, except perhaps at right guard and the No. 1 receiver position. They're returning all defensive starters from last season - a big win for them, as it was the best defense in the NFL.
Anybody who tells you otherwise is selling something. Without further ado, let's take a look at the picks.
Round One: A.J. Jenkins, Wide Receiver, Illinois
Jenkins was the team's first-round pick at No. 30, with general manager Trent Baalke going as far as to put Jenkins' name in an envelope on Wednesday night, a full day before the draft even got underway. He's coming into a group of receivers of which there is no clear No. 1, with Michael Crabtree being the most likely candidate for that spot. Jenkins will immediately compete with Kyle Williams for playing time, and by all accounts, he'll probably win.
It's likely that the 49ers don't bump any receivers with the drafting of Jenkins - they were decimated by injuries last season and ended up with Joe Hastings on the roster. If anyone is bumped, it will be Brett Swain and Hastings.
Round Two: LaMichael James, Running Back, Oregon
This was a surprise pick in a different way. Where folks thought Jenkins was a surprise pick due to the placement, many are wondering why James was drafted because of the fact that he's a running back. San Francisco currently has a crowded backfield with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs and Anthony Dixon - not to mention Rock Cartwright, a special teams ace and Bruce Miller, the team's starting fullback.
That being said, the 49ers made it clear they wanted competition, and James will definitely compete. He'll try and take snaps from Hunter, and he'll try and show he's a guy that needs the ball. More than that, he'll try and show the 49ers that they don't need Jacobs or Dixon, and that's where the battle gets interesting. One or both of those guys will surely be gone by the start of the season.
Round Four: Joe Looney, Guard, Wake Forest
San Francisco traded back up to take Looney, an interior linemen - three rounds later than most figured they'd take a guard. Right guard is the only unsettled position on the team, with Daniel Kilgore and Alex Boone set to battle it out for the honors of starting there, by all accounts. Drafting Looney seems to take Boone out of that equation, not because he's better, but because Boone was always an ill-fit at RG and still might have a future as a starting tackle if Anthony Davis doesn't get his act together.
Looney is a bit more raw than some other guys taken here, but Kilgore was a fifth round pick in 2011 and didn't have a full NFL offseason due to the lockout, so they're on more equal footing than you might think. Looney will almost assuredly make the roster, and nobody should suffer for it, but his drafting might take away Kilgore's hopes of starting just as they've begun.
Round Five: Darius Fleming, Outside Linebacker, Notre Dame
This is an interesting pick due to Fleming's versatility - he's listed as an outside linebacker, but there's sentiment he can play inside. That being said, he'd have a tough time getting anywhere inside, with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman - the No. 1 and No. 2 inside linebackers in the league, respectively - in middle and Larry Grant, an amazing backup. Then again, perhaps the 49ers feel that Fleming can grow after a season seeing as how Grant is playing on a restricted free agent tender this season.
Either way, Fleming's best shot at playing time lies on special teams and as a pass-rush specialist. He'll want to work his way into gaining enough trust from the coaches to get unleashed on third downs, something the 49ers don't have an exceptional need for with Aldon Smith being their first round pick in 2011. He's not in danger of taking anybody's job, but look for him to try and shine early in the preseason to gauge where he'll be used in San Francisco.
Round Six: Trent Robinson, Free Safety, Michigan State
Robinson is the second pick that fills an actual need for the 49ers, who have no backup safeties to speak of. Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner are the guys starting, but beyond them, there's nothing. C.J. Spillman and Colin Jones are the other listed safeties. The former is primarily a special teamer who does, admittedly, see the field at safety in goal line situations, and the latter only saw the field outside of special teams once in 2011 - on offense as a wide receiver.
So enter Robinson, who is just about guaranteed a spot on the roster given the position he plays. If he plays as the coaching staff expects, he can be the primary backup safety with Reggie Smith having left for the Carolina Panthers. Robinson also has some high potential, and is considered a potential starter in the future. That could all work out perfectly for the 49ers, given that Goldson is playing on a one-year franchise tag in 2012.
Round Six: Jason Slowey, Center, Western Oregon
Slowey fills a need because the 49ers have no backup at the center position. He can also play guard, so that works out well for him. San Francisco was very thin along the offensive line in 2011, and now that they've lost a starter and a backup and will be running with a new starter at one position (while potentially losing their swing tackle), it makes sense to think that there will be more offensive linemen carried this season than last. Just don't expect him to be active on gameday.
Round Seven: Cam Johnson, Defensive End, Virginia
This is just a big value pick here. Johnson was projected to go higher and his talent is through the roof. He'll play outside linebacker with the 49ers, and there's definitely a spot for him on the roster. If Fleming is going to be an OLB, then that's where Johnson needs to compete, but smart money is on both of these talented guys making the roster. They'll battle it out to see who is active on gamedays, though.