3 questions facing the 49ers heading into the scouting combine
Thanks a lot, Jimmy.
At one point last season, it seemed like the 49ers would have their pick of top players in the draft.
An elite pass rusher? N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb was realistic. A shut-down cornerback? Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick made sense. A road-grading guard or a once-in-a-decade running back? Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley were in range.
The team’s late-season surge under quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, however, means those players probably are out of reach and the 49ers – and their fans – must recalibrate. Here are the most plausible fits for San Francisco, which either will have the ninth or 10th pick in the draft’s opening round:
LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech – Edmunds would give the 49ers versatility on defense. He’s big and powerful enough to hold the point of attack and to rush the passer from the team’s strong-side linebacker position. He may be even better suited for inside linebacker, which could become an area of need for San Francisco if Reuben Foster continues to be problematic.
CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State – Cornerback Marshon Lattimore turned out to be an excellent first-round pick last year for the New Orleans Saints. His one-time Ohio State teammate is thought to be nearly as good. Ward, however, is listed at 5-10. The 49ers, who like their cornerbacks to be at least 6 feet tall, will be very interested in his official measurement this week.
OL Connor Williams, Texas – The 49ers don’t have a need at offensive tackle now, but they could in coming years. Given the fact that tackles are hard to find in free agency, general manager John Lynch and Co. might be wise to cross off this big-ticket item in the draft. The beauty of picking Williams is that he’s a very strong run blocker and might be able to bide his time at guard until there’s an opening at tackle.
DE Harold Landry, Boston College – The prototype for the 49ers’ “Leo” position is an athletic and explosive pass rusher capable of beating left tackles to the quarterback. Landry seemed to fit that billing perfectly in 2016, when he registered 16 1/2 sacks and showed the type of bend and flexibility common to the NFL’s best sack masters. His numbers fell off last year, however, and there’s some question about whether Landry is big enough to be an every-down defensive end. His weigh-in also will be closely watched.
DE Marcus Davenport, UT-San Antonio – At 6-6, he’s certainly the most physically imposing of the defensive-end prospects the 49ers could take in the first round and he offers the highest upside. He’s also a gamble. His 8 1/2 sacks last year were nice, but shouldn’t a potential first-round pick have more against the likes of Texas State, North Texas and Rice? Davenport will require plenty of study between now and April.
CB Josh Jackson, Iowa – He has the size that Ward lacks, as well as elite ball skills. Jackson led the nation last year with eight interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. The worry is that he’s not nearly as athletic as Ward and isn’t fast enough to keep pace with top receivers. The draft is deep at cornerback. What the 49ers do at the position in April will have everything to do with whom they add in March during free agency.