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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


49ers have one last shot at the No. 1 pick in the draft

Dec 29, 2016 at 8:24 AM


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On Saturday, the San Francisco 49ers were in a position to take over the top spot in the 2017 NFL Draft following the Cleveland Browns upsetting the San Diego Chargers for their first win of the season. That lasted about three hours. When the 49ers left the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum following their own upset win over the Rams, they did so back in the draft position that they started the day in. Once again, they were slated to have the second overall selection in the draft. The 49ers win was big for the players, but it may have been a missed opportunity for the franchise.

As far as the draft goes, Saturday was the 49ers' best shot to move up into the number one slot. However, it was not their last. When they kick off against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium on New Year's Day, the 49ers (or the fans) will already know if they have a shot at the top pick. To get there, the 49ers will need to lose to the Seahawks, who have won six straight against San Francisco, and have the Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. The former does not sound out of the realm of possibility. While the latter seems a bit more unrealistic, 49ers fans hoping for a draft miracle got some good news this week.

The Steelers have already wrapped up the number three seed in the AFC. With their playoff position secured, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that he will rest certain starters for the team's relatively meaningless finale against the Browns.

"There are several guys that I will look hard at preserving and protecting as we get into the playoff round with the understanding that we are the three seed," Tomlin said on Tuesday.

That list of players doesn't just include Ben Roethlisberger, but it also includes players like Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Maurkice Pouncey.



"If I get the opportunity to deem those guys inactive, then I will," Tomlin continued.

While that increases the Browns' slim hopes of getting a second win of the season, it guarantees nothing. The Browns-Steelers matchup will be ending just before the 49ers and Seahawks kick off.

Browns head coach Hue Jackson says that the team is concerned with winning, not draft picks. "We are trying to win a game," Jackson said. "That talk, we don't even get into. Like I said before, these guys have worked so hard that every chance you go out there, you are trying to win. All of that will take care of itself on how it all unfolds. First pick, second pick, third pick, there are good players every year. We are going to be at the top of the draft regardless of how we finish."

Meanwhile, the Seahawks are going to attack the 49ers in what has turned into a very meaningful game for Seattle. The Falcons currently have a first-round bye in their grasp and a victory on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints would guarantee them the spot. Of course, a loss and a Seattle victory would give the Seahawks the coveted week off.

A Browns win and a 49ers loss would guarantee the top pick for San Francisco. The two clubs would end the season with the same record, but a weaker strength of schedule would break the tie in favor of the 49ers.

RELATED Torrey Smith: "We don't care about a draft pick"

As much as some fans might want them to, the 49ers won't be playing to lose either. This week, WR Torrey Smith, who is on injured reserve, reminded fans that the players don't play to lose nor do they care about draft positioning.

"What happens with the draft has absolutely nothing to do with us," Smith said on KNBR 680 on Wednesday. "I understand, from a fan's perspective, why you want, obviously, to have a higher draft pick. But to us, we don't go out there, we don't prepare all week to lose. We're in there 50-some hours a week. You think we want to go out there and lose? We don't care about a draft pick."

Now, who will be making the decision on who to select with that top pick, should the 49ers actually get it, is another story.



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