Grading how well the 49ers did in the NFL Draft
The 49ers pre-draft meeting and workout list was full of quarterbacks, defensive backs and guards, none of which have been selected by San Francisco yet. Running back also remains untapped, and the draft is believed to be full of good runners in Rounds 3-5. With that in mind, here’s a new look at the team’s top position needs and the best fits who are still available.
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: Jordan Willis, Kansas State; Tim Williams, Alabama; Derek Rivers, Youngstown State; Tarell Basham, Ohio; Tyus Bowser, Houston.
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: Budda Baker, Washington; Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado; Desmond King, Iowa. (Awuzie and King were college cornerbacks that some see as NFL free safeties).
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: DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame; Davis Webb, Cal; Nathan Peterman, Pitt; Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee; Brad Kaaya, Miami; Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
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; Awuzie; Rasul Douglas, West Virginia; Teez Tabor, Florida; Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado; Sidney Jones, Washington.
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: Dalvin Cook, Florida State; Alvin Kamara, Tennessee; Marlon Mack, South Florida; Kareem Hunt, Toledo; Jeremy McNichols, Boise State.
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.