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The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of needs as the team rebuilds its talent-depleted roster. You could rattle off any number of positions as needs and not be incorrect. Andy Benoit of TheMMQB listed quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, and defensive back as the team's biggest needs heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, which kicks off later this month. It's tough to argue that he is incorrect. Those positions are needs. Are they the team's biggest needs? That part is debatable.
Because the team has so many needs, head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch can afford to look at the best player available at each spot in the upcoming draft. The only exception might be the quarterback position. Being the most important position on any NFL roster, quarterbacks are often taken higher than the player's actual value. Of course, there are exceptions. Tom Brady is in the discussion as the greatest to ever play the position and he wasn't taken until the sixth round. You need a quality signal caller to lead your offense if you are aiming for a championship. There are rare exceptions to that as well. Just ask Trent Dilfer to show you his Super Bowl ring.
The 49ers could go in nearly any direction with the number two overall selection. Benoit listed defensive back as one of the team's biggest needs. That is disappointing because, over the past three drafts, the 49ers have selected eight defensive backs. Former general manager Trent Baalke selected three cornerbacks in each of the 2016 and 2014 drafts alone. They've had a lot of misses at the position and Benoit feels that the 49ers, outside of Tramaine Brock, only have "a lot of maybe's" to show for it.
Outside of Tramaine Brock, #49ers have a lot of maybe's at CB. They'll jump if a good-value one falls to them in draft.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) April 5, 2017
The Brock statement may have some fans scratching their heads. Many would be fine seeing Brock off the roster. However, in 2016, he was the team's top graded defensive back (not just cornerback) according to Pro Football Focus. "Even though he allowed six touchdowns on the year, Tramaine Brock was still the best defensive back for the 49ers' defense," wrote Matt Claassen of Pro Football Focus back in January. "Opposing quarterbacks completed 50 percent of their passes into Brock's coverage, the second-lowest rate allowed by a cornerback with at least 500 snaps played."
"They'll jump if a good-value [cornerback] falls to them in (the) draft," Benoit also stated. Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore visited with the 49ers on Wednesday. He is considered by many to be the top cornerback available in the draft. He is also the only cornerback who has reportedly visited with the team or met with them in any capacity. So, if the 49ers do plan to select a cornerback during day one or day two, they are not showing their cards just yet.
The 49ers could trade down in the first round. There was a rumor that the Carolina Panthers were interested in acquiring the 49ers' first-round selection in return for their number eight overall and one or more other selections. Of course, nothing is in the works right now and trades typically do not occur until closer to the draft. Should the 49ers select at the number eight spot instead, it is highly unlikely that Lattimore would still be available. No NFL.com mock draft has the cornerback lasting beyond the fifth selection – where the Tennessee Titans pick.
Under that scenario, someone like linebacker Reuben Foster could still be in play. No mock draft on NFL.com has him being selected before the ninth spot – where the Cincinnati Bengals pick. A few mock drafts, including one by Luke Easterling of Draft Wire, actually have the 49ers trading down with Carolina and still selecting Foster. The linebacker visited with the 49ers on March 17.
If the 49ers go with the best player available throughout the draft, no selection should surprise anyone. It was a tactic that Trent Baalke used year after year but really only works when your roster is either stacked with or completely devoid of talent. His failure wasn't just his drafting of players coming off of injuries, but his refusal to draft players that fit his coach's system. Even with Chip Kelly as his head coach, Baalke continued to draft Baalke-type players giving Kelly very little to work with.
Unlike the previous regimes, Lynch and Shanahan seem to be in sync and that harmonious relationship should give the team and its fans hope for the future. Lynch knows what type of players Shanahan needs for his system. The two have been studying film at length together – when Lynch is not on the road scouting quarterbacks at college pro days. Their selections in a few weeks will be very telling of what they are building for years to come because, unlike many of the free agents who have been signed, this rookie class will not consist of placeholders. It will be the future.
What do you feel are the 49ers biggest needs heading into the draft? Leave a comment and let us know.