The thesis of this post is based on this statement of irony: I wouldn't be at all surprised to find myself incredibly surprised by our pick at #21.
Plain English - Pioli will probably go in a direction none of us sees coming.
There is certainly precedent for it. We knew in '09 that Pioli was "in love" with Jackson but few of us thought he would pull the trigger for him with a top ten pick. Last year Arenas, Moeaki, and Lewis were considered reaches, but we're pretty happy with them all now. Pioli has no problem targeting a player and gunning for him with the pick he has, value be damned.
Here is my suggestion for a longshot pick at 21, who actually might be better value than some of the "obvious" choices.
DT Stephen Paea
Call this my Muhammed Wilkerson. Paea is an absolute monster who could come in and make an impact immediately. A lot of people are giving him a "maybe" as a 34 NT but I think it can work. He's a bit light at
210 310lbs but give him 10 - 15lbs and you're into typical NT range. He's short at 6'1 which in my mind is helpful. It's hard to play too upright when you lack the height to do it. Speaking of, he plays low with great leverage. Reminds me of Ndamukong Suh. He possesses true anchor strength. Absolutely obliterates blockers lined up against him. Can dunk guards with one arm. Looks like a man amongst boys. Can occupy two gaps just as an anchor or also with his rush. He can require two blockers just to put the breaks on his violent advance. Violent is probably the best word t describe Paea. Outright unblockable by a non-lineman. Decimates ball carriers on contact. Would do brilliantly in a system like SD or DAL but is so talented that he would be hand pressed to bust in any position. Kind of guy you just find a place for. 3 down player.
When I watch him on tape I see a man amongst boys. He overwhelms opponents, most of them with ease. You see interior linemen get tired of fending him off. You can count on him to rarely if ever be overwhelmed himself. You hear all the time that he has first round talent...but. But nothin'. If you line up any other NT prospect against him, I'd bet on Paea. If you haven't watched any tape on him, I suggest it. Again, he's a monster.