The San Francisco 49ers addressed their No. 1 need this offseason by getting cornerback Richard Sherman to agree to sign a three-year deal in free agency that will make him the face of what is otherwise a young defense.
If having Sherman on an island means being able to rotate bigger numbers to the other side of the field, then maybe finding a suitable sidekick isn’t as important as once thought. Ahkello Witherspoon and K’Waun Williams are the leading candidates to man the other corner at this point.
A cornerback projected to be better than Witherspoon and Williams surely will be available to the 49ers in the first round. Maybe even in the second. They’ll have to consider this guy.
At the same time, a hard-hitting safety to replace Eric Reid and an edge-rushing defensive end to complement three recent first-round picks are two more things that remain on the 49ers’ deep wish list. A safety net at linebacker should Reuben Foster’s problems be bigger than the 49ers currently believe would be a nice addition as well.
Offensively, two new offensive linemen (Jonathan Cooper and Weston Richburg) and a running back (Jerick McKinnon) who is deemed to be a better fit to the Kyle Shanahan offense than Carlos Hyde have plugged big holes. But, surely, a top-flight wideout and/or tight end would help.
Here is a closer look at where the 49ers are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.
2017 finish: 4th NFC West (6-10)
TOTAL OFFENSE: 349.3 (12th)
RUSHING: 104.0 (21st)
PASSING: 245.3 (9th)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 351.6 (24th)
RUSHING: 116.3 (22nd)
PASSING: 235.3 (22nd)
- Wide receiver: Much as Richard Sherman is expected to make life easier for whoever the 49ers decide to line up at the opposite corner, imagine what, say, Odell Beckham Jr. would mean to move-the-chains types Pierre Garcon and speedy Marquise Goodwin. It’s no surprise that the 49ers have been linked to a draft-day trade for Beckham because this year’s prospects aren’t remotely comparable.
- Defensive end: You simply cannot have enough edge rushers and corners. The 49ers acquired one of the latter in free agency, giving them less of a need there. But even though they have used first-round picks on defensive linemen the last three seasons, none has made 49ers fans forget the glory days of Charles Haley. Exhausting a fourth straight first-round pick on a defensive lineman is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean the need doesn’t still exist.
- Strong safety: Safeties and cornerbacks are the players most commonly linked to the 49ers in the draft because they are likely to be among the best athletes available at No. 9, and the 49ers have needs at both positions. Finding a replacement for Eric Reid is probably a slightly higher priority because the 49ers use their strong safety like a fourth linebacker, a position at which they could use a safety net in case Reuben Foster has more problems.
KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)
–MLB Brock Coyle: Potential UFA; $8.4M/3 yrs, $4.1M guaranteed ($1.1M injury only at signing, $2.1M SB).
–QB Jimmy Garoppolo: Potential UFA: $137.5M/5 yrs, $41.7M fully guaranteed/$35M SB/$32.4M injury only at signing.
–T Garry Gilliam: Potential UFA; $7.75m/2 YRS, $3.65M guaranteed/$650K RB.
–DE Cassius Marsh: Potential UFA; $7.7M/2 yrs, $3.1M guaranteed.
–DE Jerry Attaochu: UFA Chargers; $3M/1 yr, $2.5M fully guaranteed/$1.5M SB.
–G Jonathan Cooper: UFA Cowboys; $4.95M/1 yr, $4M guaranteed/$2M SB.
–P Jeff Locke: FA; $790K/1 yr.
–RB Jerick McKinnon: UFA Vikings; $30M/4 yrs, $18M guaranteed ($6.3M injury only at signing, $2M SB).
–C Weston Richburg: UFA Giants; $47.5M/5 yrs, $28.5M guaranteed ($12M injury only at signing, $9.3M SB/$4.2M RB).
–ILB Korey Toomer: UFA Chargers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–DE Tank Carradine: UFA Raiders; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–G Brandon Fusco: UFA Falcons; $12.75M/3 yrs, $5.5M guaranteed ($1M injury only at signing, $2.25M SB.
–CB Leon Hall: UFA Raiders; $1.005M/1 yr, $45K SB.
–RB Carlos Hyde: UFA Browns; $15.25M/3 yrs, $7M guaranteed ($2M injury only at signing, $3.5M SB).
–C/G Daniel Kilgore: Traded Dolphins; had been signed as potential UFA: $11.78M/3 yrs, $4.825M fully guaranteed.
–DE Aaron Lynch: UFA Bears; $4M/1 yr, $1.25M SB.
–TE Logan Paulsen: UFA Falcons; $1.005M/1 yr, $200K guaranteed/$90K SB.
*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 9 overall)
Rob Rang (April 5 mock draft):
–Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama. Fitzpatrick possesses an ideal blend of instincts, athleticism and size, which helped him line up wherever Nick Saban most needed him on a game by game basis at Alabama. Few will appreciate that versatility more than former Tampa Bay Pro Bowl safety (and current 49ers GM) John Lynch. Pairing Fitzpatrick with Richard Sherman … suddenly, San Francisco might boast the most formidable secondary in the NFC West.
Dane Brugler (April 6 mock draft):
–Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. A twitchy cover man, Ward would be an ideal fit in the nickel for the 49ers, giving him an opportunity to learn behind Richard Sherman. Ward isn’t the biggest, but it is tough to find flaws in his game.
Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?
Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see full mocks and ratings at NFLDraftScout.com.