Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports



During free agency nearly every impact player the 49ers signed was on the offensive side of the ball. They totally overhauled (at least for the time being) the quarterback position. They added receivers, a fullback, running back depth, a blocking tight end and traded for a veteran offensive lineman. The only defensive player they signed who isn't expected to be a depth/special teams guy was Malcolm Smith. The draft is the perfect opportunity to address the team's needs on the defense.

This draft is very deep...

Matt Miller

Stacking the board from top to bottom for the '17 class was no easy task. There is a record-breaking amount of first-round talent on my board. Outside of Round 1, it was easy to imagine 60 of the top players landing in the top 40. If you can't find starters in Round 4 of this class, you're doing it wrong.

And in particular it is loaded from top to bottom with stellar defensive players.

Mike Mayock

I think it's one of the best defensive drafts I've seen...

The 49ers rebuilt their offense during the pre-draft phase of the offseason. They've now put themselves in a position to construct a young defensive foundation for Robert Saleh's new scheme through the draft. The following selections were based on Matt Miller's Bleacher Report big board.

1st Round (2nd Overall)

S Malik Hooker


As many experts have mentioned, it would be the best case scenario for the 49ers to trade slightly back into the first round and acquire a couple of extra picks. This draft is deep enough that having a high quantity of lower picks wouldn't necessarily result in a huge drop off in quality. For that exact reason, it might prove too difficult for the Niners to find a trade partner willing to part with multiple picks to move into the second overall spot.

If that turns out to be the case, then Hooker would be the ideal scheme and talent pick at number two. He would fit in Saleh's cover 3 scheme like a glove, playing the single high, Earl Thomas role. Prevailing wisdom suggests safeties shouldn't be selected in the top five. However, in the new 49ers defense, the safety playing the center field role takes on an exaggerated importance. When Thomas went down late in the 2016 season, the Seattle pass defense fell off a cliff.

fieldgulls.com

As evidenced by Seattle's defensive collapse late last season without Thomas, the role of the free safety in Carroll's defense is without a doubt the most important piece. With the strong safety playing as an eighth defender in the box on most downs, the free safety is responsible for playing essentially the role of both safeties ... or as half the deep defenders in quarters coverage.

The Ringer

The Niners are making the switch to the Seahawks-style 4–3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, a former Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley assistant, and the linchpin of that system is a free safety who can shut down the entire middle of the field on his own. (Look at Seattle's stats last year with Earl Thomas and without him.)...Hooker is like Garrett in reverse: He'll give San Francisco the opportunity to play eight in the box and stop the run without sacrificing the ability to cover on the back end.

2nd Round (34th overall)

CB Kevin King


The Niners get another perfect scheme fit, their version of Richard Sherman in Kevin King. King's measurables are completely off the charts. He's very tall (6'3), very fast (4.43 40 time at the combine), has tremendous change of direction (6.56 three cone drill, best of any combine participant) and can jump out of the stadium (39.5 vertical, 2nd best of any combine participant). King excelled at safety, in the slot and finally on the outside in his career at Washington, proving his on-field athleticism and versatility. He didn't allow a touchdown in 2016. Pair King with second-year corner Rashard Robinson and you have two very young, tall corners who are perfect for Saleh's defense. Oh, and they would be signed to very cap-friendly deals through 2019. If he's available at 34, this is an absolute no-brainer pick.

Bleacher Report

A three-year starter, Kevin King has excellent size, length and speed. He's an ideal fit in a press scheme like Seattle's or Jacksonville's where he can get physical at the line of scrimmage and use his size to bully receivers.

cbssports.com

With all due respect to Marcus Peters (No. 18 overall in 2015 by Kansas City), Sidney Jones IV and Budda Baker, the most versatile defender in Washington's talent-laden secondary the past few years was King, who reigned regardless of whether he was asked to line up at safety or cornerback.

3rd Round (66th Overall)

Edge Rusher Tim Williams


The 49ers wait until round three to snag their LEO/Elephant pass rush specialist. Williams is a first-round talent who plummets in the draft due to character concerns.

Lance Zierlein

This one has become unanimous with NFL teams I've spoken to. Williams has first-round talent, but won't hear his name called in the first round and might not hear it called until Round Three.

The 49ers took a chance with Aaron Lynch a few drafts ago and they should try and replicate that with Williams. His ceiling may be as a pass rush specialist and that would work just fine for the 49ers. Per pro football focus, Williams averaged a QB pressure every 4.9 pass attempts in 2016. He can be plugged into the lineup in pass rushing situations and let loose to go after the quarterback. To continue the theme, Williams has been compared to former Seahawk Bruce Irvin and in many ways is a virtual clone of Irvin. Coming out of college Irvin was listed as 6'3, 245 lbs, Williams is 6'3, 244. Irvin also brought baggage through character issues with him to the 2012 draft. And like Irvin, Williams will be able to line up at the LEO position in his rookie year and focus on rushing the passer.

nfl.com

Sources tell us..."He's like the Predator. When he's allowed to do just one thing -- get the quarterback -- he is really good at it.

Bleacher Report

Williams has the natural twitch and explosion to be a 10-sack guy in the NFL.

The 2017 draft will be the first under the new regime led by John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. San Francisco has the second overall pick in each round, the highest the franchise has picked in the last 12 drafts. This is a pivotal draft in solidifying a foundation for the future of the new look 49ers. They (hopefully) won't be drafting quite this high for a long while and Lynch, Shanahan and the rest of the front office need to take full advantage of this rare and vital opportunity.