It’s safe to say the 49ers will not use their first-round pick on a quarterback.
The team on Thursday locked up Jimmy Garoppolo with a five-year deal worth a reported $137.5 million. That means the 49ers can focus on other needs in the NFL draft, which kicks off April 26 at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
With plenty of time to pass now that the season is over, here’s a look at what some analysts are saying about the team’s draft prospects.
Note: San Francisco will either select ninth or 10th, depending on a coin flip scheduled to take place during the scouting combine. The 49ers and Raiders, who tied at 6-10, will then alternate between the ninth and 10th spots for each of the other six rounds.
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Updated Jan. 18 (Kiper) and Feb. 6 (McShay)
Both of ESPN’s top NFL draft analysts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, have the 49ers taking Denzel Ward, a cornerback from Ohio State. According to NFL.com, he has “supreme athletic ability” and allowed just a 32 percent completion rate over the last two seasons, but his size (5-foot-10, 191 pounds) and strength are question marks.
With the 49ers locking up Garoppolo, “the 49ers can look to the defensive side of the ball and grab the best man-to-man cover corner in this draft,” McShay writes. “Ward lacks ideal starting experience at Ohio State but was exceptional this season and quickly rose up my board.”
Kiper also believes the 49ers can use the secondary help. “They really need a top-tier cornerback. Ward is the top corner in this class – if you consider (Alabama’s Minkah) Fitzpatrick to be a safety. ... Ward flashed in 2016 and had a tremendous junior season.”
Updated Feb. 6
NFL draft analyst Chad Reuter has the 49ers taking Tremaine Edmunds, a linebacker from Virginia Tech. NFL.com’s report says he “combines length with rare reactive athleticism and agility to access and tackle opportunities from unconventional angles” but adds that his “instincts are average” and “can be a step slow to diagnose.”
“Edmunds is athletic enough to handle coverage duties and rush the passer,” Reuter writes.
Updated Feb. 5
The first analyst to have the 49ers looking at offensive help, Chris Trapasso has Penn State running back Saquon Barkley heading to San Francisco. NFL.com praises his footwork, vision and character but questions his north-south running ability, saying he sometimes “gets too cute with stutter-steps and jukes.”
“A few teams ... will consider Barkley in the early stages of the draft because he’s a special talent,” Trapasso writes. “But the insane depth of his running back class pushes him to No. 9 overall and a perfect situation with Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco.”
Updated Feb. 5
Draft analyst Matt Miller joins NFL.com in tabbing Edmunds for the 49ers.
“The 49ers have invested several first-round picks in recent years on defenders – you have to go back to A.J. Jenkins in 2012 for the last time the Niners used their first first-rounder on offense – but the talent and potential of Edmunds is too good to pass up. Especially when he’s such a natural fit for the defense.”
Updated Feb. 6
With just the second offensive pick in this roundup, Nate Davis has guard Quenton Nelson heading to San Francisco. NFL.com says he’s “extremely aggressive at point of attack and isn’t happy until he is imposing his will” but he’ll sometimes drop his head and has some injury concerns.
“His only sin seems to be the fact he doesn’t play a premium position, at least in the context of draft value,” Davis writes. “But based on merit, it could be argued Nelson is a top-five pick.”
Updated Feb. 8
Draft analyst Eddie Brown is the third to tab Edmunds for the 49ers.
“The Butkus Award finalist – the nation’s top linebacker – anchored one of the best defenses in college football (first in shutouts and third in scoring defense),” Brown writes. “His size, speed and athleticism are off the charts. Edmunds would pair nicely with Reuben Foster.”