San Francisco 49ers

49ers’ biggest needs entering 2017 NFL Draft

The 49ers could use help at every spot on the roster, from quarterback to return man. Some positions like wide receiver and inside linebacker were addressed in free agency and don’t need quite as much help as they did at season’s end. Here are San Francisco’s top five needs heading into the draft.

1. Pass rusher – The team’s top two pass rushers a year ago, Ahmad Brooks and DeForest Buckner, finished with a modest six sacks apiece. Buckner likely will play defensive tackle this year while Brooks is earmarked as the strong-side outside linebacker. The 49ers need an athletic pass rusher at right defensive end, the so-called “Leo” or “Elephant” end. They are looking at possibly using Arik Armstead in the role, an interesting option since Armstead is far bigger than the traditional players in that role.

Fits: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M; Derek Barnett, Tennessee; Charles Harris, Missouri; Jordan Willis, Kansas State; Tim Williams, Alabama.

2. Free safety – The defense can afford to be more aggressive if it has a rangy safety patrolling the back half of the field and discouraging quarterbacks from throwing down the middle. Jimmie Ward, a cornerback last year, is a possibility, but he’s been injury prone since entering the NFL in 2014. The 49ers will need to find a good free safety whether Ward switches positions or not.

Fits: Malik Hooker, Ohio State; Jamal Adams, LSU; Budda Baker, Washington; Desmond King, Iowa.

3. Quarterback – The 49ers currently have two passers, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, on the roster and will take four into training camp. No matter whether the team plans to move aggressively for Kirk Cousins in 2018 or not, they could stand to have a young quarterback in the stable.

Fits: Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina; Deshaun Watson, Clemson; DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame; Davis Webb, Cal; Nathan Peterman, Pitt.

4. Cornerback – When last season ended, this seemed like the only key position that didn’t need a lot of help. But with Tramaine Brock’s ouster and the 49ers at least exploring the idea of moving Ward to safety, the team may be without its 2016 starters. Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson and Will Redmond are possibilities, but San Francisco seems ready to take advantage of a deep class of press corners.

Fits: Kevin King, Washington; Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado; Rasul Douglas, West Virginia; Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado.

5A. Running back – The 49ers re-signed DuJuan Harris and brought in free agent Tim Hightower. But how much of an upgrade is this over the past two seasons when the 49ers ran into trouble when starter Carlos Hyde got hurt? Look for the 49ers to take advantage of one of the deepest drafts at running back in recent memory.

Fits: Leonard Fournette, LSU; Christian McCaffrey, Stanford; Dalvin Cook, Florida State; Alvin Kamara, Tennessee; Marlon Mack, South Florida.

5B. Guard – The 49ers addressed the depth here when they traded for Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah, who also can play guard. But they’ve visited with a number of guard prospects and clearly are interested in upgrading the position. Coach Kyle Shanahan wants guards with quick feet for his zone-blocking scheme.

Fits: Dion Dawkins, Temple; Dan Feeney, Indiana; David Sharpe, Florida; Nico Siragusa, San Diego State.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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