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49ers Draft: 3 realistic targets at every defensive position

Rohan Chakravarthi
Apr 26, 2023 at 5:20 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers are in a unique position heading into the 2023 NFL Draft, as they don't have many glaring "needs" with essentially every position having starter in place, which is great since they don't select until the end of the third round.

However, in a class of prospects that are seen as weaker at the top, but deeper in the middle of the draft, the 49ers are still in a position to draft several impact players all over the board, especially at positions they've done significant work on, such as the defensive line and tight end.

Who are three realistic prospects at every position on defense for the 49ers?

RELATED 49ers Draft: 3 realistic targets at every offensive position

Defensive Line

YaYa Diaby

Diaby starts off the list after an extremely impressive combine, running a 4.51 40-yard dash, amongst other numbers, to complement his 6'3, 263-pound frame.

Diaby has the quickness, but also the power in his pass-rushing approach, which could be utilized well in a pass-rushing role alongside second-year edge Drake Jackson.

The 49ers currently have three edge rushers that I believe are locks for the 53-man roster: Nick Bosa, Drake Jackson, and Clelin Ferrell, meaning extra depth could be valuable for training camp and the future.

Diaby has met with the 49ers on a Top-30 visit already, indicating the team's interest in the Louisville pass rusher who is expected to go in the third or fourth round.

Viliami Fehoko

A Bay Area native, Fehoko could be a 49ers target on Day 3 as a player to fill their edge rusher depth, although he provides a different archetype than Diaby.

At 6'4, 276 pounds, Fehoko plays with good strength and is known for his spin move, which could serve well in a rotational pass-rushing role, where the 49ers have developed players well.

The bigger frame also indicates that he could serve as an interior pass rusher in certain packages, with his short-area quickness potentially serving well in that role.

K.J. Henry

A Clemson starter in 2022, Henry is a consistent player, both in the run game and as a pass-rusher, with his athleticism serving his 6'4, 251-pound frame well.

While on the older side, Henry is a solid prospect that has room to grow with pass-rushing moves to complement that athleticism, and would be a good target for the 49ers on Day 3, who can use him in their aggressive fronts.


Dorian Williams

Standing at 6'1, 228 pounds, Dorian Williams is a great athlete for the position, who fits the 49ers well as an undersized linebacker with great sideline-to-sideline speed.

While Williams likely goes on the earlier end of Day 3, he would be a good replacement for the recently departed Azeez Al-Shaair, and is a good tackler, despite his smaller size.

Williams's athleticism also makes him a capable special-teams player, where 49ers linebackers, such as Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles have found a role.

Marte Mapu

Like Williams, Mapu is an undersized linebacker that has the build of a safety, which the 49ers have targeted for their scheme at the position.

Mapu isn't the best athlete, but is a willing defender against the run who doesn't mind enforcing his will against opposing rushers.

He's also got a knack for the football with six interceptions over his final two seasons, which led him to a Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year award in 2022.

Mapu may need to add more size at the next level, but he's another safety-turned-linebacker that would be a good fit for the 49ers.

Mohamoud Diabate

Diabate has a knack for making plays, racking up 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2022, and is a solid tackler at 6'3, 229 pounds.

If the 49ers want to target linebacker at the end of the draft, Diabate fits the mold as a seventh-round option with upside, both as a pass-rusher and a linebacker that can be a situational player.

For what it's worth, San Francisco did conduct a visit with Diabate earlier in the draft process.


Rezjohn Wright

At 6'2, 193 pounds with solid athleticism, Rezjohn Wright is a solid "project" cornerback for the 49ers that plays with good physicality and solid footwork in man-coverage.

With a fairly deep cornerback class, Wright could slide to the end of the third round, where the 49ers select, and would add to the depth at the position, as San Francisco still needs at least another body in the room.

Wright probably has to improve as a run-defender, which San Francisco prioritizes out of their cornerbacks, but his traits and man-coverage abilities are intriguing enough to warrant a late Day 2 or early Day 3 selection.

Darius Rush

Rush has a similar build to Wright, matched with great athleticism, as he ran a 4.36 40-yard dash, including a 1.51 10-yard split.

Traits-wise, Rush fits what the 49ers desire: big, long, and fast, but comes with needed technical improvements, which he can develop while behind San Francisco's current starters.

Rush is another candidate who could be available at the end of the third round, and would be a nice developmental candidate at the position for the future.

Darrell Luter Jr.

Luter, standing at 6'0, 190-pounds, is another fairly athletic corner that fits the mold of the 49ers' desired traits, having run a 4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

Luter also possesses solid hip movement to match his long arms, which help him at the catch point, and is one of the more underrated corners in the class that could potentially be had with a Day 3 pick.

With good value in the cornerback class, the 49ers should look to add depth at the position, with all three serving as viable options to fulfill that goal.


Ji'Ayir Brown

Brown is a versatile defensive back that was highly productive at Penn State, who serves as a good fit for the 49ers, who play a good amount of single-high and Cover 3 looks.

Brown tested similarly to current 49er Talanoa Hufanga with a slower 40 time, but a solid 1.56 10-yard split, which will suit him well within the 49ers defense.

Brown fits well in the run game and is willing to be a hard-hitter with good instincts, which make him a good target at the end of the third round for the 49ers.

Quan Martin

Another versatile defensive back, Quan Martin is reminiscent of Jimmie Ward, having experience in the slot and in the deep end.

Martin is a smaller safety at 5'11, 200 pounds, but has great athleticism and solid coverage ability, while playing bigger than his size.

The 49ers are looking for playmakers in the secondary, and Martin fits the role well, making him another target at the end of the third round.

Jay Ward

Another versatile option, Ward has the athleticism of a safety, but the build and coverage ability of a nickel corner.

Despite standing at 6'1, 190 pounds, Ward fits well in the run game and isn't afraid to be a hard-hitter, and is a good player in run support with his instincts and angles.

Ward's a later-round option that has potential to be a starter, but also a solid special-teamer, as he develops behind Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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