We know long arms and frayed ACLs were what the 49ers’ previous general manager, Trent Baalke, looked for at the scouting combine. The key characteristics sought by the team’s new leadership group, led by general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, are unknown as they make their first trip to Indianapolis together this week.
What is obvious, however, is the 49ers need help at several positions, and this year’s draft is thought to be one of the deepest in recent memory, especially at pass rusher, cornerback, safety, running back and tight end. One spot where there are no obvious stars, however, is quarterback, the 49ers’ top need.
Here are the team’s top five priorities and the players who could fill them. Players were selected based on how they fit the 49ers’ system and needs:
The three highest-rated quarterbacks plan to perform just about every drill in Indianapolis. Perhaps that should be expected when there is no clear-cut front-runner and there is plenty to gain from showing off your skills. The most seasoned of the group, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, was the star of the national championship game but must explain to NFL evaluators why he threw 17 interceptions in 2016 despite his experience under center. (Competitor Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina, for example, threw only six.) Cleveland, which has the No. 1 overall pick, and the 49ers, who own the No. 2 choice, need a quarterback. Few, however, feel there is one worthy of a top-10 selection. Will that change between now and April 27?
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
2. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
3. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
4. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
5. Davis Webb, Cal
Baalke miscalculated badly when he drafted A.J. Jenkins in the first round in 2012 and shied away from the position in subsequent drafts. Consequently, the 49ers had arguably the NFL’s lousiest receiving corps last season. Baalke’s successors must bring more firepower, or no quarterback will flourish. The top two prospects, Clemson’s Mike Williams and Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, have NFL-ready physiques but need fast 40-yard dashes to propel themselves into the draft’s top 10. The 49ers also could – and should – address this position in free agency.
1. Mike Williams, Clemson
2. Corey Davis, Western Michigan
3. John Ross, Washington
4. JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
5. Chad Hansen, Cal
The 49ers’ best pass-rushing outside linebacker last season, Ahmad Brooks, had six sacks. The rest of the players at the position combined for 4 1/2 sacks. The team simply needs to bring more pressure from the edge, and it has 10 picks in a draft teeming with potential sack artists. If the Browns grab the top prospect, Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, with the top pick, the 49ers might have to decide whether Alabama’s Tim Williams or Tennessee’s Derek Barnett is worthy of pick No. 2. Missouri’s Charles Harris might have the quickest first step of the bunch and would be a nice fit for the 49ers’ new “Leo” pass-rush position. He’s unlikely to be available in Round 2, however.
1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
2. Tim Williams, Alabama
3. Derek Barnett, Tennessee
4. Charles Harris, Missouri
5. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
The 49ers have just one inside linebacker signed for next season with more than five career starts, and that player, NaVorro Bowman, is coming off an Achilles’ tear that cost him most of the 2016 season. The team must reload at the position regardless of whether Bowman returns to full strength. The top prospect, Alabama’s Reuben Foster, is a possibility with the second overall pick. If the 49ers wait until the second round, Temple’s Haason Reddick still might be available.
1. Reuben Foster, Alabama
2. Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
3. Haason Reddick, Temple
4. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
5. T.J. Watt, Wisconsin (strong-side linebacker)
Shanahan’s running backs combined for 93 catches and 946 receiving yards last year in Atlanta. Carlos Hyde made some strides in that area last year for San Francisco (27 catches for 163 yards) but could use a supporting cast member. The following players might not be worth the second overall pick, but they would be a good complement to Hyde.
1. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
2. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
3. Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
4. Jeremy McNichols, Boise State
5. Marlon Mack, South Florida
On-field workout schedule
Friday: Running backs, offensive linemen and kickers
Saturday: Quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends
Sunday: Linebackers and defensive linemen
Monday: Defensive backs