Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft, this one spanning two rounds instead of the usual one, appeared while I was away.
A quiet (so far) Saturday provides an opportunity to run through Kiper's projections for NFC West teams. As usual, I'll sample from Kiper's analysis before offering a few thoughts, beginning with a look at the San Francisco 49ers.
31. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Kiper's give: Justin Smith will be 34 in September, and the 49ers need to think about who could take over for him long term, and spell him in the interim. Pound for pound, Hunt is as good an athlete as you'll find in this draft, and the 49ers currently have a roster that allows them to draft for ceiling at this slot. Hunt could add a little bulk and could become a rotation player behind Smith this season, with the potential to become that rare kind of impact pass-rusher in a 3-4 scheme from the defensive end position.
Sando's take: Kiper has projected a defensive lineman to the 49ers at No. 31 in each of his four mock drafts to this point. The three defensive linemen he projected to them previously -- Sharrif Floyd, John Jenkins and Datone Jones -- are all over the map in this latest mock. Kiper has Floyd going third overall to Oakland. He has Jones going 38th overall to Arizona. He has Jenkins going 57th overall to Houston. Bolstering the defensive line rotation makes obvious sense for the 49ers in this draft. Smith, a physical specimen known for his relentless work in the weight room, will presumably bounce back strong from his triceps surgery. However, his contract runs only through the 2013 season.
34. Matt Elam, S, Florida
Kiper's give: They added Craig Dahl, but safety is still a need. A deep class offers options.
Sando's take: Kenny Vaccaro was the only safety off the board when Kiper sent Hunt to the 49ers at No. 31. Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien went 32nd to Baltimore under this scenario, leaving Elam to the 49ers as the third safety selected in 2013. Again, the reasoning makes sense. Defensive line and safety are two positions just about any 49ers fan would like to see the team address in this draft. Elam could project as a long-term replacement for Dashon Goldson, who departed in free agency. Also, strong safety Donte Whitner is entering the final year of his contract.
61. Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
Kiper's give: A huge target for Colin Kaepernick, Escobar can keep the two-tight end look intact.
Sando's take: Hunt, Elam and Escobar would fill arguably the 49ers' top three needs this offseason. Escobar is known more for his receiving skills than for his blocking. The Scouts Inc. report on Escobar's blocking calls him "mostly a position-and-wall-off type blocker" who "frequently struggles to sustain and rarely drives defenders backwards." Of course, it's unrealistic to expect teams to land finished products in the second round. The 49ers' former No. 2 tight end, Delanie Walker, grew into his role over time. Under Kiper's scenario, Escobar would be the third tight end selected behind Tyler Eifert (17th overall) and Zach Ertz (39th). Ertz played under 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.