The 2022 NFL Draft is homing into view, as select teams eye a chance to change the course of their roster For others, this is a chance to replenish from a position of strength. The San Francisco 49ers fit into the second category, with a strong roster and coming off two NFC Championship appearances across the last three seasons. The decision to draft Trey Lance last season remains the major topic of discussion for fans and how he performs, if given the opportunity, will play a role in whether San Francisco can be considered contenders in 2022.
Trading up for Lance a year ago means the 49ers are without a first round pick for the first time since 1996. However, they have a healthy total of nine draft picks, including three on Day Two. Here is a look at how the 2022 draft class might be formed at the end of the month in Las Vegas:
Pick No. 61: EDGE Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma
While the 49ers have clear needs going into the draft, they don’t have a desperate need to fill them with their first pick and can select the best player available. This draft runs deep at the EDGE position, making it likely an immediate contributor can be found to replace Dee Ford and bookend with Nick Bosa. Nik Bonitto managed eight sacks and 11 QB hits last season with Oklahoma, achieving an impressive pass rush win rate of 27.8%. Bonitto wins with speed and should make a smooth transition to the NFL and post a strong rookie campaign.
Pick No. 93: IOL Cole Strange, Chattanooga
The interior offensive line appears to be the 49ers biggest weakness entering the draft, with the team needing to replace Laken Tomlinson at left guard and seeking an upgrade from Daniel Brunskill on the right side. Cole Strange looks to be a great fit to replace Tomlinson. He had a stellar senior year at the collegiate level and boasts exceptional explosiveness for an interior lineman. Strange boasted a run block rating of 86.4 according to PFF and excels in a zone scheme, making him a nice fit for the Shanahan offense.
Pick No. 105: CB Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska
A major lesson the 49ers learned in 2021 was to have depth at the cornerback position. Early season injuries to starters in Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley were a major factor in San Francisco dropping to a 3-5 start to the 2021 season. Making Charvarius Ward their premium free agency signing provided a significant upgrade to the roster, but depth will be key over a long season and adding at least one player in the middle rounds is a must. Cam Taylor-Britt has been a three-year starter for Nebraska and shown both high athleticism and play-making skills. He will need some refinement and coaching, but could be a useful depth player during his rookie season.
Pick No. 134: OL Zach Tom, Wake Forest
The 49ers lack depth at the tackle position and while veteran C Alex Mack is expected to return, a long-term replacement needs to be found. Drafting Zach Tom could a possible solution at both positions. Tom is the most athletic interior lineman in this class and has shown the football intelligence to play the center position in the long run. In the meantime, he would provide a swing tackle option in his rookie season.
Pick No. 172: RB Pierre Strong Jr, South Dakota State
San Francisco has a habit of picking up productive running backs in the late rounds and will likely go back to that well, having seen Raheem Mostert walk in free agency. Pierre Strong posted an eye-catching 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at this year’s NFL Combine. Strong rushed for 1,694 yards last season, including 30 rushes of over 15 yards. He has also impressed as a pass-catcher and would provide a dynamic new option in the backfield.
Pick No. 187: S Tycen Anderson, Toledo
The 49ers let veteran slot corner K’Waun Williams leave in free agency and have yet to re-sign S Jaquiski Tartt. It leaves Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans rebuilding coverage in the middle of the field, which could make Tycen Anderson an intriguing late round addition. Anderson frequently played in the slot last season as well as box safety. He comes with a strong special teams track record and would contribute there from Week 1.
Pick No. 220: WR Danny Gray, SMU
At the back-end of the draft, the 49ers have found success in recent years by drafting players with high athleticism and molding them into their offense. Danny Gray could be a late round bargain in that regard, having shown exemplary speed and an ability to run tidy routes to gain separation. He will need to improve his strength to match NFL cornerbacks, but would be a project player who could fit with the more vertical Trey Lance-lead offense.
Pick No. 221: OT Logan Bruss, Wisconsin
An under-the-radar prospect, Logan Bruss impressed in his senior season at Wisconsin, never giving up a sack from right tackle. He could become an early starter at right guard or and could be an option at right tackle to replace Mike McGlinchey, who is returning from injury and is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Pick No. 262: DT Kalia Davis, UCF
The 49ers have the ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ pick during the 2022 Draft. Taking solid players in low value positions is a sound strategy in the seventh round and a run-stuffing nose tackle such as Davis fits the bill. San Francisco lost DJ Jones in free agency and Kalia Davis could be a useful addition in compensating for Jones’ departure. Davis has only played five games across the last two seasons, but has proved to be an excellent run-stopper and has shown potential as an interior rusher.