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San Francisco 49ers General Manager John Lynch is preparing for the #2 slot at the NFL draft, but what are the 49ers looking for? What can be gleamed from Lynch’s moves to date?
Free Agent Frenzy
What is clear is that the 49ers believe they are closer to competing at the sharp end of the NFL, as opposed to what their 2018 regular season record of 4-12 suggests. The 49ers made a few big free agency splashes by adding LB Kwon Alexander, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Jordan Matthews, and CB Jason Verrett. However, the biggest move for Lynch included a trade for pass rusher Dee Ford at the expense of a 2020 second-round pick.
An aspect that goes unnoticed includes the fact that San Francisco prevented a lot fo their key assets from hitting the open market. The 49ers picked up the 2019 options on DE Arik Armstead and FB Kyle Juzczyk, franchise tagged K Robbie Gould, picked up all their exclusive rights free agents, and re-signed G Mike Person, S Jimmie Ward and RB Raheem Mostert.
The front office has learned some painful lessons as of late when it comes to the NFL Draft. In 2017, the 49ers added DE Solomon Thomas, LB Reuben Foster and CB Ahkello Witherspoon. However, Foster was cut after a catalogue of off-field issues.
As for Thomas and Witherspoon, they have endured mixed fortunes. To their defense, both talents saw strides of improvement towards the end of the 2018 season.
The 2018 class proved more successful with OT Mike McGlinchey, WR Dante Pettis, and LB Fred Warner. Further down the draft board, San Francisco in 2017 with TE George Kittle as a fifth-round selection. In terms of prospects drafted between #95-240, 12 players remain on the roster.
Based on the two previous drafts, the 49ers place a priority on athleticism. Head coach Kyle Shanahan prefers receivers who can separate from coverage, rather than larger, contested catch receivers.
Going off of trends, Lynch doesn’t mind trading on draft day. San Francisco traded down in order to gain more picks in 2017, and used their capital to move up and Foster, Pettis and Warner. Based on a lack of picks going into the 2019 NFL Draft, it’s unlikely that the 49ers will gamble with a trade.
So after a full mock draft here’s a flavour of what the 49ers could do.
Round 1 (2nd overall): Josh Allen, Edge, Kentucky
If the Arizona Cardinals fall in love with QB Kyler Murray and Edge Nick Bosa falls to #2, it’s a no-brainer that San Francisco will take Bosa. However, if Bosa goes with the #1 pick, the front office will be forced to pick between Edge Josh Allen and DT Quinnen Williams. While Williams has more potential, Allen solves a larger need at the edge position.
Round 2 (36th overall): AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss
The 49ers need to add some dynamism to their receiving corps. The slot position was weak in 2018, as Trent Taylor struggled with injuries. An addition such as AJ Brown gives San Francisco an option alongside Kittle down the field.
Round 3 (67th overall): Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia
San Francisco needs to improve on their pass coverage, particularly at safety where Adrian Colbert endured a nightmare sophomore season. Although the 49ers re-signed Ward, they are in need of quality defenders.
Round 4 (104th overall): Joe Jackson, DL, Florida
There is never such thing as too many defensive linemen, and Jackson would be a welcome addition. The Florida product has size and strength, and his production in college was excellent. With Armstead and Ronald Blair on a contract year, Jackson has the opportunity to secure himself a starting position after the upcoming season.
Round 6 (176th overall): Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida
In the sixth round, teams have to compromise on their ideal checklist for a player. Vosean Joseph is capable of making big plays, but he’s inconsistent. In such a late round, the 49ers may be able to afford a gamble on him.
Round 6 (212th overall): Blessaun Austin, CB, Rutgers
The 49ers have a lot of questions at cornerback, and adding another to the mix increases their chances of finding a solution. Blessaun Austin has speed, athleticism and strong coverage skills. Despite a smaller frame, he may be able to find himself in competition for a spot on the roster.
Picture credits: Aseaodblue, NBC