Football

49ers mock drafts: A favorite prospect emerges at No. 9 before decision day

Roquan Smith: Could 49ers take this Georgia linebacker first in NFL Draft at No. 9?

The NFL draft kicks off on April 26, 2018, and the San Francisco 49ers have the ninth pick in the first round. This is one in a series on who the team may select.
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The NFL draft kicks off on April 26, 2018, and the San Francisco 49ers have the ninth pick in the first round. This is one in a series on who the team may select.

"With the ninth pick in the 2018 NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers select" ... a defensive player?

Commissioner Roger Goodell has named someone from that side of the ball as the team's top pick for the last five years, and there's a good chance that streak will continue Thursday.

The 2018 NFL draft kicks off just after 5 p.m. at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium. In all, 32 former college football players will be handed an NFL jersey with the No. 1 on it.

The 49ers went 6-10 last season, but ended strong by winning six of their final seven games. Who will be asked to help build on that momentum? Here's a final sampling from some NFL writers and draft analysts, with several of them liking one player in particular:

The Sacramento Bee

Updated April 25

Matt Barrows, The Bee's 49ers writer, has the team taking Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. NFL.com’s draft profile says Edmunds “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.”

"Without Reuben Foster, Edmunds plays middle linebacker. With Reuben Foster, he plays strong-side linebacker," Barrows wrote. "Either way, he has great value. The team's last five top picks have all been defensive players."

The NFL draft kicks off on April 26, 2018, and the San Francisco 49ers have the ninth pick in the first round. This is one in a series on whom the team may select.

ESPN (Insider)

Updated April 20

ESPN's well-known duo of Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have put out a joint mock, alternating picks over three rounds.

Kiper makes the pick for the 49ers. He has San Francisco selecting Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. According to his NFL.com draft profile, Ward 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.

"Love Ward's fit in San Francisco, and this would be a dream pick for general manager John Lynch," Kiper wrote. "How important was that coin flip with Oakland at the combine?"

NFL.com

Updated April 25

NFL.com has multiple analysts offering mocks and analysis. For these purposes, we'll focus on the most recent mocks, done by Rhett Lewis. Follow the link above for more from NFL.com.

Lewis agrees with Barrows on the 49ers taking Edmunds.

"I thought hard about (Alabama defensive back) Minkah Fitzpatrick, especially considering John Lynch's background, but settled on Mr. Prototype when I took into consideration the 49ers' success in the earlier part of this decade with premier off-ball linebackers like Patrick Willis," Lewis wrote. "I'm projecting Tremaine Edmunds over Roquan Smith here because of the higher presence of pass-rush potential with the 19-year-old former Hokie."

The NFL draft kicks off on April 26, 2018, and the San Francisco 49ers have the ninth pick in the first round. This is one in a series on whom the team may select.

CBS Sports

Updated April 24

CBS Sports has multiple analysts offering mocks and analysis. For these purposes, we'll focus on the most recent mock, done by Will Brinson. Follow the link above for more from CBS.

Brinson puts the 49ers on Roquan Smith, a linebacker from Georgia. According to NFL.com, he has “elite athletic ability” while playing with discipline, but “will need more schooling on hand work when taking on blocks.”

"The 49ers could end up losing Reuben Foster, depending on how his legal case plays out, and if that happens they'll need more linebacker help," Brinson wrote.

USA Today

Updated April 25

Draft analyst Nate Davis is back with his first full mock in three weeks. Like Brinson, he has the 49ers taking Smith.

"San Francisco had a need at linebacker before Reuben Foster's troubles surfaced," Davis wrote. "Smith is both a galvanizing leader, accomplished blitzer and, most important from a schematic standpoint, a dead-eye tackler who can roam the large areas this defense would require him to patrol."

U-T San Diego

Updated April 25

Draft expert Eddie Brown is going the distance, mocking out all seven rounds of the draft. In his latest post, he has San Francisco selecting Harold Landry, an outside linebacker from Boston College. Landry's draft profile on NFL.com says he "flies out of the gates with no false steps" and "uses athletic ability to ramp up a secondary rush and scoop up scrambling quarterbacks," but he "hasn't shown consistent ability to convert his edge speed into power" and he's "lacking consistent grit at point of attack."

"Landry played defensive end for the Eagles, but is athletic enough to stand up and play outside linebacker in the NFL – critics will certainly hush after his combine performance," Brown wrote. "He’s capable of being an elite pass rusher and effective run defender, but will likely be had at a discount on draft day."

Walter Football

Updated April 25

Analyst Walter Cherepinsky has actively switched his pick for San Francisco in his mock, which is updated more often than others. In the version updated Wednesday, he puts the 49ers on Smith.

"The 49ers' pick may come down to two players: Minkah Fitzpatrick and Roquan Smith. I noted that I was going to slot Fitzpatrick here prior to Monday, but I think Smith might make the most sense," Cherepinsky wrote. "Given what's happening with Reuben Foster, the 49ers must find an alternative at linebacker, as they'll be incredibly weak at the position, assuming Foster can't play."

The Ringer

Updated April 25

Draft analyst Danny Kelly gives his final look at how he thinks Thursday's first round will shake out. He's the fourth analyst to have the 49ers drafting Smith.

"This would be a dream pick for 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who knows firsthand what a rangy, physical coverage backer can do for a defense from his experience coaching Bobby Wagner in Seattle," Kelly wrote. "Smith is undersized at 6-foot-1 and 236 pounds, but he’s got sideline-to-sideline speed to chase down runs to the outside and cover running backs and tight ends over the middle of the field. He’d bring the versatility to play either in the middle or on the weak side."

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