When the NFL Draft begins selections in Arlington, Tex., April 26, the San Francisco 49ers have the No. 9 pick in the first round.
Here is an in-depth look at the team’s needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com’s experts.
Who would you pick and why?
TOP 5 NEEDS
- Wide receiver: Much as Richard Sherman is expected to make life easier for whoever the 49ers decide to line up at the opposite corner, imagine what, say, Odell Beckham Jr. would mean to move-the-chains types Pierre Garcon and speedy Marquise Goodwin. It’s no surprise that the 49ers have been linked to a draft-day trade for Beckham because this year’s prospects aren’t remotely comparable.
- Defensive end: You simply cannot have enough edge rushers and corners. The 49ers acquired one of the latter in free agency, giving them less of a need there. But even though they have used first-round picks on defensive linemen the last three seasons, none has made 49ers fans forget the glory days of Charles Haley. Exhausting a fourth straight first-round pick on a defensive lineman is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean the need doesn’t still exist.
- Strong safety: Safeties and cornerbacks are the players most commonly linked to the 49ers in the draft because they are likely to be among the best athletes available at No. 9, and the 49ers have needs at both positions. Finding a replacement for Eric Reid is probably a slightly higher priority because the 49ers use their strong safety like a fourth linebacker, a position at which they could use a safety net in case Reuben Foster has more problems.
- Linebacker: The Aaron Lynch experiment having failed, the 49ers are back in the market for an athletic linebacker, most likely to play the strong side. If all goes well, this guy will sit and watch a healthy and motivated Reuben Foster ( if he is back) in the middle, a fully recovered Malcolm Smith on the weak side and an improved Eli Harold on the strong side, with recently re-signed Brock Coyle filling in where needed. But that’s a lot of ifs, especially given the fact the NFL hasn’t ruled on Foster’s recent off-field issues.
- Tight end: This is more of a luxury, which means perhaps it can wait for 2019 free agency. Or maybe if the Patriots want to give the 49ers another gift for a second-round pick. The fact is: Tight ends are becoming more and more prevalent in the NFL passing game, and the 49ers’ current best, George Kittle, at this point is best known as being backup quarterback C.J. Beathard’s college teammate. As with Beathard, the 49ers could be a whole lot better if Kittle were the backup.
–BEST FIT: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama. The 49ers surely have options here, including trading back for multiple picks (including a first-rounder), and packaging that first-rounder with next year’s No. 1 in an attempt to lure Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants. Short of making a trade, Texas-San Antonio’s Marcus Davenport fulfills the need for an edge rusher, while Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds could be the desired athlete at linebacker. But Fitzpatrick potentially fills two needs — cornerback and safety — and would give the team the ability to plug him in at either depending upon how things shake out in training camp.
–Rob Rang: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama. Fitzpatrick possesses an ideal blend of instincts, athleticism and size, which helped him line up wherever head coach Nick Saban most needed him on a game by game basis at Alabama. Few will appreciate that versatility more than former Tampa Bay Pro Bowl safety (and current 49ers general manager) John Lynch. Pairing Fitzpatrick with Richard Sherman and suddenly it may be San Francisco that boasts the most formidable secondary in the NFC West.
–Dane Brugler: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. With 2017 first rounder Roquan Smith’s future very much up in the air, linebacker becomes even more of a need for San Francisco and there could be two logical options available for the 49ers at this pick.
FANS ON THE CLOCK, ON THE RECORD
OK, it’s your turn. Tell us in the comments section who you would pick and why. Check out top 1,000 players rated by NFLDraftScout.com, including combine and pro day workouts, biographies, scouting reports.