The San Francisco 49ers own the seventh overall selection in the NFL Draft, which kicks off later this month. With so many needs on the team, it is tough to say for sure what position the 49ers will address with their top choice. Whatever happens with the six selections ahead of San Francisco, there will be great talent available when they are finally on the clock on April 28.
Our site writers were asked the following question to determine who they would like to see in red and gold during the 2016 season: "Who is your 49ers draft crush for the first round?" The following are the responses. We'll start with two players that each got two writers to select them. The rest are in the order that they were received.
Brandon Graham: DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon
It was clear that Trent Baalke was selecting Arik Armstead based on NFL potential, not college production, when he was taken with the 17th overall pick last year. DeForest Buckner, Armstead's former teammate at Oregon, doesn't need nearly the projection as his numbers and film suggest pro-ready from day one.
PFF is obsessed with the guy and at 6'7 and 290 lbs, his size is second to none in this defensive line draft class. He should be an instant starter and create a formidable bookend tandem with Armstead. I see his immediate value though in an ability to disrupt lanes and clog up holes, opening up space for Aaron Lynch to wreck havoc, much like Justin Smith used to do for Aldon Smith.
He is the surest bet on the defensive side and will make players around him better.
Follow Brandon Graham on Twitter @brando_graham.
A.J. Bolino: DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon
It is tempting to go with Goff here...or perhaps Treadwell. Both are impact players, and both would improve the 49ers right away. But neither is the best player in the draft. That distinction falls to a 4-tech DE out of Oregon.
Buckner is an immediate impact player. He's strong enough to command a double team on every snap. He's quick enough off the snap to defeat sound pass blockers. He's athletic enough to move sideline to sideline. But perhaps most importantly...he's productive. In his last 2 collegiate seasons, he's notched 163 tackles. He also notched 10.5 sacks in his senior season. That is not a misprint. It's not a typo.
He's the most complete front 7 defender in this draft class...and if he's there at #7, the decision to take him is a no-brainer. His addition to the 49er front 7 will make the unit better immediately, and his reunion with Arik Armstead would give the 49ers a DL tandem the likes of which we haven't seen since Dana Stubblefield and Bryant Young.
Follow A.J. Bolino on Twitter @USMCLegbreaker.
Zain Naqvi: QB Jared Goff, California
I'll start with the intangibles first; local kid, been a 49ers fan his whole life, won't have to move to a new city and he's exactly the type of splash this team needs to make to show that they actually CARE about improving, instead of just maintaining this status quo of being awful every year. He'll be comfortable here because he's from here. There are enough adjustments that a rookie QB has to go through, but moving to a new city and state won't be one of them for Goff and that can't be ignored.
Goff is a better fit than Wentz because of those intangibles, but also because he has seen a program go from the worst in the conference in his freshman year (1-11) to winning a Bowl game this last year. He understands what it takes to turn things around. He has the statistics to back it up as well. He did play in a QB friendly system at Cal, but he would be playing in another QB-friendly system under Chip Kelly, He has a quick release and he can make the deep throws. He's also elusive enough to avoid the rush but above all, he's decisive with the ball. He puts conviction behind throws and plays with a bit of fearlessness.
Follow Zain Naqvi on Twitter @zain49ers.
Aaron Erickson: QB Jared Goff, California
I don't expect the 49ers to compete for a championship this year. They lost so much talent last season that it will take a few drafts to get it back. Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Anthony Davis, and Mike Iupati were all 1st round picks, and they deserved to be. Frank Gore was arguably the most dependable back in football, and Vernon Davis was once the most dangerous tight end in the game. That star talent needs to be replaced by top-end players. Baalke can get lucky with a couple of later picks (like Navorro Bowman and Aaron Lynch), but it is terribly unlikely that the roster can be replenished in one draft.
With that in mind, my draft crush is Jared Goff. He doesn't have to be ready in 2016, because the team is unlikely to be a winner in 2016. The biggest knock on him is his weight, but he stated at the Scouting Combine that he was recently diagnosed with a metabolic condition that impacts his ability to digest proteins, and that the issue was dealt with, allowing him to gain muscle more easily. At the Combine, he was already up to 215 pounds. The next knock on Goff is that he isn't as athletic as Carson Wentz. Goff ran 0.05 seconds slower in the 40 yard dash, and he jumped 2 inches shorter in the broad jump and vertical jump. He's one inch shorter than Wentz. He also withstood 81 sacks and many more hits without missing a game over 3 seasons, while Wentz missed 8 games in his two seasons as a starter.
Goff has exceled at refining skills that seem to be common among the more successful quarterbacks in the NFL. He escapes pressure without fleeing the pocket, he reads coverage quickly, and he locates passes to give his receivers leverage on the ball against their closest defenders. He is athletic enough to win outside of the pocket, but he is skilled enough to thrive inside of it. He is consistently competitive on third down, identifying a receiver at appropriate depth to convert the first down and delivering an accurate throw. He might not be ready to start in 2016, but he should be the unquestioned starter in 2017, when the 49ers can field a roster that would support him.
Follow Aaron Erickson on Twitter @EricksonAaron44.
David Bonilla: LB Myles Jack, UCLA
For myself, the biggest concern about Jack was his return from injury. I didn't feel that it was worth the risk of using the seventh overall pick to select a player coming off of injury. Why would you select a player that high if there was any question whether or not you would have to limit his offseason or even his NFL season? I didn't even feel that he would be ready for a pro day, but he was and his draft stock remained high. While I would not have minded the 49ers taking an injured Jack lower in the first round, now the question is whether or not he will be there at seven. He likely won't make it past the Jacksonville Jaguars at five.
Now, I must admit that I am a bit bias toward Jack, having watched him during his entire career at UCLA. His college sample size is less than 30 games and it would have been nice to see his growth during his junior year, but he still exhibited the type of versatility during his time on the field that excites you at the possibility of having him on your defense. He can help against the run, in coverage, and could develop into a good pass rusher with the right coaching. He wasn't asked to do much of that at UCLA but has the physical tools and desire to work hard to accomplish whatever is asked of him. Plus, he is a "high-character" guy that makes it easy to be a fan of his at any level.
If you have the opportunity to draft a potentially faster NaVorro Bowman or Ray Lewis, then you take it. You don't want to be one of the teams kicking themselves years from now for passing on the guy. It's exciting to imagine a healthy Jack lined up back there with guys like Bowman, who has similar size, and know that you may be set for years to come. It's needless to say that his limitless potential has helped me look past my injury concerns.
Al Sacco: WR Laquon Treadwell, Mississippi
Let me start off by saying that I think the 49ers need to get with the times, and begin to understand they need playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. I like Carlos Hyde and Torrey Smith is good at what he does, but if you're an opposing defense, who else even remotely scares you on that roster? With that in mind, to me the thought of having someone like WR Laquon Treadwell could change the dynamic from day one.
Why do I like Treadwell? For one, he has the size (6'2, 221) Chip Kelly would be looking for in a wide out for his offense, and he's an ideal compliment to Smith on the opposite side. Treadwell has a knack for being able to catch anything in his vicinity, as he uses his frame well and excels at catching the ball in traffic. This makes him a nightmare matchup for corners in one-on-one, jump ball situations, and could be a redzone threat from the word go. I also like that he's well-rounded, and takes pride in his blocking. By all accounts Treadwell appears to be a great locker room guy, and you can't undervalue a potential star who's also a leader. I've head some comparisons to Dez Bryant being floated around, and while I don't think Treadwell's as dynamic a player, I can see similarities in their games.
Now, I know what you're thinking, "Al, what about his 40 time?" Sure he ran a 4.65, but I couldn't care less. He plays faster that that, and some guy named Jerry Rice ran a 4.59 (according to Bill Walsh). I care about the game tape, not the stopwatch.
The issue with Treadwell is that 7 is probably a little too high for him, and he'll surely be gone by the second round. The 49ers would probably have to trade back into the first round (probably in the top 15) to get him, which is a long shot. So unless the Goff's, Buckner's, Bosa's and Jack's of the world are off the board and the Niners decide to move down, I'm not sure my draft crush has a shot at red and gold.
Follow Al Sacco on Twitter @AlSacco49.
David Barclay: QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
I understand and empathize with 49ers' fans fear over "missing out" on another chance to draft another homegrown quarterback, but I worry Jared Goff's size might be something many are conveniently overlooking. We are all familiar with how big players are in this league now, and while Goff has demonstrated his quarterbacking abilities, I wonder what might happen when he starts getting hit – there are safeties in this league at his size, or larger.
For me, it's Carson Wentz.
His size and athleticism are unquestionable in my book. And more importantly, he looks the part, leaving you insecure about nothing with his six-foot-five, 237-pound frame. In addition to his build, Wentz has a strong arm, and completed "NFL throws," – defined as intermediate throws to the sideline – at a higher rate than Goff or Paxton Lynch, according to ESPN.
Several are going to point to the fact that Wentz faced less-competitive players at the FCS level. For those whom make the argument, I point you towards two other fairly successful quarterbacks: Steve McNair and Joe Flacco.
Follow David Barclay on Twitter @DJamesIII.
Alex Pedregon: LB Darron Lee, Ohio State
My crush isn't likely to be a 49er, but I do think he has the chance to develop into one of the top players to come out of this entire draft.
From everything I've seen and read, Ohio State LB Darron Lee has the opportunity to turn into a Patrick Willis clone, and that's saying something.
Not only is he the complete package in terms of speed, seek-and-destroy skills and coverage abilities, he's still learning the nuances of the position! A converted QB/S, he's only been playing linebacker for a few years and is already considered just a few notches below Myles Jack (minus the recent injury history, of course).
Many people are advocating and projecting a QB (me included in the last few mocks), and there's nothing wrong with that thinking at all. I just believe that when a team is years away from really competing for titles, the imperative is to collect as many impact players as possible. Outside of the familiar names of Ramsey, Bosa, Jack and Buckner, I'm convinced that Lee is the most likely of that next tier to develop into an impact player.
Benjamin Bradley: DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
My no holds barred draft crush? Goff? Wentz? Not quite. My vote goes to the man who was born to torment quarterbacks. In this corner – weighing in at 269 lbs. and standing 6'5" – the man built to bull rush, the edge rusher 49ers fans sorely need, the one and only: Joey Bosa.
Sigh. Dreamers can dream, can't they? The fact is that the 49ers pick at number seven, and therein lies the rub. Bosa will be long gone, and so the practical mind looks elsewhere.
As tempting as a quarterback might be, my heart has been aching for the Niners to add talent along the offensive line or bolster their front seven in the first round – leaving Chip to prove he's the quarterback whisper he's made up to be by drafting a talented young gun in rounds two or three. On the defensive side, obvious names like DeForest Buckner or Myles Jack make sense here (if they're still on the board), but I wouldn't put it past Trent to nab someone like defensive end Shaq Lawson or linebacker Darron Lee. On the offensive side, tackle Ronnie Stanley could add valuable talent to an embattled offensive line.