After one regular season of work and two bouts of free agency, the 49ers have risen from the bottom of the cellar to contender hopefuls in the NFC West. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have not only put this team back into contention, but due to their young stable of players, they should be contenders for a number of years.

Nonetheless, despite their aggressive tactics there's still a lot of work to be done. Just two short months ago the 49ers inked quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a five-year extension. That was by far their biggest off-season move, but what area will they look to improve upon next? While it's important to give your quarterback valuable weapons to work with, it's even more key to find players who can protect him. Shoring up the offensive front is crucial moving forward. If you can't protect your quarterback, you have no business putting him on the field. Especially after you've committed to giving him an annual salary of $27.5 million to lead your brigade. Moving forward, here's what the San Francisco 49ers could do to improve their current roster.

LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Round 1, Pick 9 overall

What the 49ers could do and what they should do are probably not the same thing. What they could do is trade back to acquire more picks. However, that's a better strategy suited for a team whose rebuild isn't quite off the ground. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo taking snaps under center, that's no longer the case. This team is in a position to compete now. The better option would be to trade up. With the playoffs within their grasp, it's time to make a big splash. Especially when your next pick isn't until later on in the second round.

If John Lynch decides to stay put at number 9, then linebacker Tremaine Edmunds would be a slam dunk. He's an impact guy who could make a difference right away. In two full seasons at Virginia Tech, Edmunds totaled 30 tackles for loss and notched 10 quarterback sacks. In college, he was a feared presence over the middle. Even more important, at just 19 years of age, he's sure to get better as time goes on. With Rueben Foster's current availability in question, Edmunds can be the savior that San Francisco will need for at least six games.

While considering that this pick could be better spent on the coveted edge contributor, let's not forget that the team has lost the likes of Patrick Willis, NaVarro Bowman, and Ahmad Brooks in just three short years. The linebacker position is no longer the strongest unit on the field. However, If Edmunds is drafted and Reuben Foster can stay out of trouble, there's no doubt that these two could form one of the scariest linebacker duos in the league.

G/C Billy Price, Ohio State University

Round 2, Pick 59 overall

Strong, versatile, and explosive, Billy Price can play all over the interior front. At 6' 4" and 305 pounds, he's big enough to gain control of his adversary and athletic enough to play in Shanahan's system. He can work to gain the upper hand whether he has space or he's crowded in the box. Although the 49ers just signed their center of the future in Weston Richburg, an injured player can bring question marks. Price can step in and play like an All-Pro should Richburg go down. In 2014, he spent time at both guard positions for the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. By drafting Price, the guard position will once again have stability for the unforeseen future.

EDGE Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

Round 3, Pick 70 overall

There are two things in the sport of football that matter the most. Protecting your quarterback, and getting to the other team's quarterback. Look no further than Georgia edge defender Lorenzo Carter. He's tall, has long arms, and uses his hands well by deflecting. He works tirelessly with second and third efforts if his first attempt is unsuccessful. Carter has experience in coverage and always works towards creating the fumble. At the combine, he posted the longest broad jump in history for an edge defender at 10-feet-10 inches. He's a high character guy with a positive voice. In the locker room, he'll be the second coming of Anthony Dixon. In short, he'll fit right in with the current players on the roster.

RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State

Round 3, Pick 74 overall

Kyle Shanahan runs a fast offense, Rashad Penny just runs fast. After posting a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the combine, he's off to the races. With the recent signing of running back Jerick McKinnon fans will finally get to see just how explosive the Shanahan offense can be on the ground. McKinnon figures to be the premier back in San Francisco, but as history has shown, Shanahan will most likely run with a platoon out of the backfield. In 2017 alone, Penny rushed for 2,248 yards with an impressive 7.8 yards-per-carry. He led all FBS running backs in yards while scoring 10 more total rushing touchdowns than the 49ers did collectively. He's an instant upgrade to the position, and tremendous value if he's available this late.

WR Auden Tate, FSU

Round 4, Pick 128 overall

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports


The 49ers have put together a very productive stable of receivers. Although many say that the position is missing a true number one, let's not forget about the return of wideout Pierre Garçon. The 49ers placed Garçon on injured reserve November 4 with Garoppolo being acquired just days earlier on October 30. So to say that Garçon can't be a number one with the right quarterback is an unfair assessment. However, regardless of how many productive wideouts you have, there's nothing wrong with adding a red zone threat. At 6' 5" and 225 pounds, FSU wideout Auden Tate certainly has the measurables. He is a sure-handed receiver that boxes out the defender and catches the ball away from his body.

In two years with the Seminoles, Tate hauled in 65 receptions, 16 of those went for the touchdown. Tate may not catch 100 balls a season or acquire 1,500 yards in 16 games, but he will get open in the end zone. That's exactly what the 49ers need to make a deep playoff run.

DT Hercules Mata'afa, Washington State University

Round 5, Pick 143 overall

With their sixth pick in the draft the 49ers select, you guessed it, another edge defender. Mata'afa is an intriguing prospect. He often lines up as a defensive tackle and overpowers guards that outweigh him by at least 50 pounds. At the NFL level, he appears to be more suited as an outside linebacker. Though most of his pressure comes from up the middle, he can bend the edge with tireless effort. He has an endless motor and great lateral quickness. Mata'afa tackles with anger and will outwork everyone on the field at the pro level. He racked up an impressive 45.5 tackles-for-loss in 34 games while posting 21 career sacks and forcing three fumbles. His success at the collegiate level is even more impressive when you factor in that he's playing at the wrong position entirely. Mata'afa brings heart, skill, and leadership every time he takes the field. He may be a project at the next level, but it's a project that should bring a hefty reward.

CB Tavares McFadden, FSU

Round 6, Pick 184 overall

McFadden is a talented defensive back. Unfortunately, his junior season was overshadowed by a very impressive sophomore year. In 2016, he intercepted the opposing quarterback eight times, two of which came from the hands of former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. McFadden has got the measurables, he's got the skill, and he could benefit greatly from the tutelage of cornerback Richard Sherman.

S Trayvon Henderson, Hawaii

Round 7, Pick 223 overall

Henderson was not invited to the combine, but he made the most of his week at the Senior Bowl. His size and weight make him the ideal safety. He's played well all over the secondary and has experience as a single high safety, which is a key position in Robert Saleh's defense. Henderson started 38 games, was named the defensive captain in his senior season, and has special teams experience. He brings value in the seventh round. Could lightning strike twice for John Lynch with the possibility of a safety in the seventh round again? Only time will tell.

OT Greg Senat, Wagner

Round 7, Pick 240 overall

Senat is big, strong, and moves surprisingly well given his frame. He's been described as a fire hydrant that moves and was thought to be the best lineman at the East-West Shrine Game, per sources. It's never a bad thing to have another lineman on the roster, especially if he is the proper fit. At the very least, he could be a special teams contributor.