If it seems like I’m overly focused on the 49ers as a landing spot for rookies consider the following tables from our new Team Splits App.
Some of this information will seem new and confusing to you so I’ll just point out the thing I want you to focus on, which is difference in play volume. Over the past three years the Eagles averaged 1095 offensive plays per season while the 49ers averaged 980.Beyond the fact that the 49ers are likely to increase their play volume in 2016 by somewhere between “a lot” and “a shit ton” they also have available opportunity at almost every position. Torrey Smith is the most formidable competition at wide receiver and he’s never been much more than a 20 percent target share guy. There have been rumors that the team could look to add another running back given Carlos Hyde’s difficulty staying on the field. Colin Kaepernick could be gone any day, leaving only Blaine Gabbert as the competition at QB. So the 49ers could do a lot of things in the draft that could shake up dynasty drafts. Drafting Vernon Adams would probably significantly change his ADP in rookie drafts.
First maybe it’s worth noting that without the emergence of Russell Wilson it’s probably unlikely that I or anyone else would pay very much attention to Vernon Adams. In fact, it might even seem easy to try to compare Vernon Adams to Russell Wilson as the result of a one-player similarity search, even if there could be pretty meaningful differences between the two.
While they’re similar in size and stature, Russell Wilson’s 40-yard dash time was significantly better than Adams (4.55 to 4.83). That difference in foot speed might even make it into the difference in college rushing numbers between the two players. College rushing stats are muddied because sacks are included but you could still look at Adams’ yards/carry average under two and see that it’s probably worse than Wilson’s average. I don’t want to get into the weeds trying to tease out true yards/carry or anything because my broad point is that in all likelihood Adams is not the same as Wilson when it comes to running ability. Wilson is faster and had better college rushing numbers.
But even if I think there are reasons to believe that Adams is not a prospect on the level of Wilson, because Adams just had a lot of success at Oregon he would skyrocket up rookie draft boards if the 49ers do take him. When I say skyrocket I mean he would go from likely undrafted to being in the mix somewhere in the third round of rookie drafts. The “How Soon Will Vernon Adams Start for the 49ers?” pieces would emerge almost immediately. The interesting thing is that Adams is likely to be a late round pick or undrafted free agent, so a lot of that buzz could emerge even if the 49ers don’t use a premium pick on him. Also, even if Adams isn’t a prospect on the level of Wilson, he could make up for it in volume if the 49ers continue the play volume that the Eagles have shown under Kelly.
Adams could also become a hedging strategy for owners that have either Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert, although that also depends on what happens with Kaepernick between now and draft time. I recently acquired Kaepernick as a way to gamble that he’ll stay in Kelly’s offense, so I can say that if the 49ers do draft Adams I’ll probably try to make sure that I come out of rookie drafts with the rookie. Actually that same statement would apply almost no matter who the 49ers draft at QB. I thought Kaep’s price was cheap enough that it warranted gambling on the potential that he could start in 2016. I’m also terrified that I’ll get a zero from Kap in that trade.1
Back to Adams for a minute. I agree with the various analysis we’ve had here on the site that he’s an intriguing prospect. But he’s also the type of player that you really can’t know what he is until he gets into an NFL game. There are just so many unknowns based on a limited college career against top flight competition, a physical profile that doesn’t match many NFL success cases, and the fact that he’ll be a late round pick. I’m very interested to see how he does, and the 49ers would be a great place to watch his pro career unfold. I have almost no confidence that he’s the next great small quarterback.
- Although the trade calculator says his value is close enough to zero that there’s not much distance for him to fall. (back)