With the 30th pick of Pride of Detroit's 2012 NFL mock draft, the San Francisco 49ers select Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill. JCruize is serving as the 49ers' general manager, and his reasoning for the pick is below.
As everybody knows, the Niners were one game away from going to the Super Bowl last season. With rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh's hard nose approach to football, the 49ers managed to run and muscle their way to the top of the NFC West and eventually to the NFC Championship game. Led by a dominating defense and pounding running game, the 49ers ended the regular season with a surprising 13-3 record. What was not surprising was that the Niners were weak in the offensive passing department, ranking 26th in the NFL in total yardage and 29th in passing yards.
This weakness was most evident in their loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship game. The Niners simply did not have enough quality receivers for Alex Smith to throw to. This weakness is what prompted Niners GM Trent Baalke and head coach Harbaugh to bring in some talent in this offseason. With the signings of wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, it is the Niners' intent to surround Smith with as many weapons as they can, thus, also leading to the selection of Stephen Hill.
Hill is a 6'4", 215-pound match-up nightmare for defensive coordinators. He is faster than most defensive backs, posting a 4.36 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine. And with a 39+ inch vertical leap, he can out-jump anyone on the field. He is a physical wide out that can out muscle most corners when he is engaged. His spectacular combine is what sent scouts going back to look at his game film. And what they found was a receiver that could be very special.
Stephen finished his college career with 49 catches for 1,248 yards for an average of 25.47 yards per catch. That would be a Georgia Tech record except Hill needed one more catch to qualify. Even though Stephen is a physical specimen, he is still raw in terms of his route running and overall awareness for a wideout. Although hampered by the triple option offense Georgia Tech uses, Hill did develop some very good down field run blocking techniques. Stephen has excellent length, reach and very strong hands. He comes off the line a little upright and does not explode into his route with his first couple of steps, but these weaknesses can be coached up with a patient coaching staff.
Even though the Niners brought in a couple of receivers, I still think Hill will be a great fit in San Francisco and will have an impact this season. You really do not know what you will get out of Randy Moss, and Hill does run block downfield well, a must in Jim Harbaugh's run-first offense. Stephen was not my first choice -- that was Coby Fleener, the TE from Stanford. I know that the Niners are in need of a replacement for RG Adam Snyder, but you really do not draft a right guard this high. Kendall Wright was a possibility here as well. But when you compare the two receivers, I feel that Hill has a much higher ceiling. He is a notorious hard worker and has the dedication to the game to truly be special. In retrospect, I am glad that Fleener was off the board. It made this selection a no-brainer for me.
Check out the 2012 Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft tracker for a look at all of the picks.