San Francisco 49ers

49ers mailbag: Linebacker questions dominate in run-up to the draft

@ThatOsCruz Matt, if the 49ers were to draft Roquan Smith and keep Foster, what would the future hold for Malcolm Smith?

ANSW: The future is inherently murky — especially with Reuben Foster — but if the 49ers had some modicum of confidence that Foster would be on the field in coming years, I'm sure they would consider releasing Malcolm Smith and his hefty salary before next season. In that scenario, Foster probably would be the "Mike" linebacker and Roquan Smith the "Will," although both could play either.

@gamerollerb Assuming it drags on forever like most legal cases, what will the plan be for Reuben come training camp and regular season?

ANSW: I don't know. It will be something to ask John Lynch later this week. But if the case progressed as scheduled — that is, no major delays — the jury selection would start right when the 49ers are beginning training camp in late July. That is, it could be wrapped up by the start of the regular season. I would assume his defense team — which would be the source of the delays — would want to move as quickly as possible for that reason.

@GeorgeMatthew2 What LBs not named Roquan and Tremaine do you think we’d be targeting in the later rounds?

ANSW: If the 49ers passed on both Smith and Edmunds, the guys in the later rounds who would make sense from a scheme-fit standpoint are Jerome Baker from Ohio State (with whom the 49ers have visited), Darius Leonard from South Carolina State and Joel Iyiegbuniwe from Western Kentucky. (I'm personally opposed to Iyiegbuniwe because I don't want to have to spell his name on deadline. Jusczcyk is hard enough.)

@roberob916 Pretty obvious your draft crush is Edmunds. If chosen, do you envision the team utilizing him like Aldon Smith year one 3rd down specialist, or will he be an every down guy?

ANSW: How dare you presume to know what I'm thinking? There are depths — layers upon layers upon layers — to draft crush that you couldn't fathom. It's like an M.C. Escher drawing inside my skull. To answer your question, if he were the first-round pick, the 49ers would use him as an every-down guy, either at middle linebacker or at strong-side linebacker. He's played a lot more of the former than the latter, so strong side would be a bit of a projection. He's definitely not a pass rusher at this point in his career.

@SpokaneNiner25 I see EDGE rusher as the most crucial piece the Niners must address in the upcoming draft. Which position group do you believe is the most crucial to address and what would be the impact of not addressing that position?

ANSW: The 49ers tried, via free agency, to make sure they had no glaring needs. But the players they added at pass rusher (Jeremiah Attaochu), guard (Jonathan Cooper) and inside linebacker (Korey Toomer) are not can't-miss prospects. Which is to say, they could stand to add an early-round pick at any of those spots as well as cornerback where depth always is an issue.

@mxrizlswag The 49ers have been linked to most major trade candidates this off-season. What's your take on how many of them they were actually a part of?

ANSW: I think it was a matter of doing their due diligence. When a very good receiver like Odell Beckham Jr. become available, you are compelled to look into it. The 49ers did. How deeply? That's what we don't know.

@bathebay Is the LB room built on an ancient burial ground? Aldon went Aldon. Willis retired early. Bowman had career changing injuries. Borland retired after 1 year. Malcolm Smith had a season ending injury in preseason. Reuben is Reuben.

ANSW: I've always thought that a tiki doll was a poor choice for décor in that room. Wow, that's an excellent observation. Aldon Smith was more of a defensive lineman — Vic Fangio oversaw the outside linebackers — but there has been very little longevity there. Something to think about with Roquan Smith, who has had *some* shoulder issues heretofore.

@ceez2408 Matt, what are your thoughts on my sleeper Houston’s Mathew Adams?

ANSW: Guys named Matthew typically don't fare well in the NFL. Your guy, however, seems to fit what the 49ers are looking for at the position — a fast guy who can tackle.

@Tnniner Am I crazy or does Trent Brown actually look slimmer?

ANSW: I, too, have been paying close attention to his social media postings. You're not crazy. Maybe he's not slimmer than he was a year ago, but he's definitely not heavier. That's a good sign for someone who is A.) rehabbing and B.) trying to prove he warrants a big, new contract.