The San Francisco 49ers have gone defense with the 11th pick in the draft, taking Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis.
What the Experts Say:
- Rick Gosselin’s Final Ranking: 3rd overall
- Mel Kiper Final Ranking: 12th overall
- Scout.com Final Rankings: 9th overall
Biography: Two-year starter awarded a variety of All-Conference and All-American honors since his junior campaign. Senior totals were 137/11.5/3 after 128/9.5/3 as a junior. Sophomore numbers were 70/11/5 when he was a reserve.
Pos: Fierce, run-defending linebacker who is best in the box. Fires up the field, plays with great suddenness and flashes on the scene. Plays heads-up football and takes good angles to the play. Possesses a thick, strong build, defeats blocks and easily brings ball carriers down on initial contact. Remains disciplined with assignments.
Neg: Lacks top lateral range, struggles in coverage and does not possess a quick break to the throw.
Most draft analysts worried San Francisco wasn’t interested in Willis because the organization didn’t bring him in for a visit but why bring him in when you know you are going to take him? Willis played for Noland and the 49er staff at the Senior Bowl and they named him team captain that week. Chances are that’s when San Francisco started to lean toward taking him and any doubts they had were likely erased during film studies. Willis needs to work on reading routes and possibly add some bulk to his frame but he has few other weaknesses.
A stout run defender, he takes the shortest path to the ball and wraps up upon contact. Willis can also match up with most backs and tight ends when he drops into coverage. Finally, he is a leader on the field and a hard worker off it. In other words, he is the kind of player defenses are built around and he immediately improves San Francisco’s defense.
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