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Tommy Gilligan/Mark J. Rebilas/Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports


Mock Draft Roundup: 49ers could be eyeing defense in Round 1

Justin Wong
Mar 24, 2021 at 1:52 PM1


The 2021 NFL Draft is a three-day event from April 29th to May 1st that will be hosted in Cleveland, Ohio. A select number of draft prospects will be invited to Cleveland to walk across the stage and shake hands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL Draft will also feature draft prospects participating remotely across the country.

Below is a mock draft roundup with five weeks remaining until the actual NFL Draft. Each week, I'll pull up five recent mock drafts from outlets and will give an analysis on the pick along with my personal take.

Matt Barrows, The Athletic
Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

With tackle Rashawn Slater and quarterback Mac Jones still on the board, this seemed like a good spot for the 49ers to trade back and perhaps take Paye later in the round. There were no takers in this exercise, however. After the 49ers signed Samson Ebukam in free agency, the need for a speed rusher — like Azeez Ojulari — is lessened. Paye is a bigger, stronger prospect who can rush from inside on obvious passing downs. He also could fill in if Nick Bosa (knee) is not quite 100 percent early in the season.

Kwity Paye has been getting a ton of hype in recent weeks as the top defensive lineman in the draft. If the 49ers do opt for a pass rusher, I'll be intrigued if Paye is the pick. He's a big end who would feature in the 49ers' defensive scheme similar to Arik Armstead. Having said that, are the 49ers set on getting another "tweener"? Along with Armstead, the 49ers picked Solomon Thomas with the third overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft with hopes of getting a Michael Bennett-like prospect who could rush from the inside on passing downs. Paye certainly has the ceiling to reach that status but the 49ers have also missed in recent years. Thomas tore his ACL last season and signed a one-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders last week.

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

I'm still not sold on Jimmy Garoppolo as coach Kyle Shanahan's top quarterback going forward, but do the 49ers want to give up the draft capital to trade up to get one of the top four guys? This is a team already without its own third-round pick because of the trade to acquire Trent Williams last year. (It does have a third-round compensatory pick, however.) My feeling is that San Francisco could instead stay put in Round 1 and address its biggest hole with one of the top cornerbacks. Farley is one of the best pure cover corners in this class. Here's a "wow" stat, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: In 2019 (remember, he opted out of the 2020 season) Farley allowed a completion percentage of 24.4% when he was the targeted defender in coverage, which ranked No. 1 in the FBS. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Farley is having surgery on his back Tuesday, but as of now, I don't think the injury will affect his draft stock."

A highly-touted NFL prospect with injury concerns—this might be the perfect pick for the 49ers! All jokes aside, I am curious to see how his recent surgery will impact Caleb Farley's draft stock.


Between Farley and Patrick Surtain II, there seem to be conflicting opinions on who is the top cornerback in the draft class. Farley would be a welcomed addition to a revamped secondary and certainly fills a need. 49ers general manager John Lynch has never drafted a cornerback this high in the NFL Draft, which makes me wonder if the team will actually pull the trigger on Farley. Farley is a former high school quarterback with fewer overall reps at the position relative to Surtain II, but has a high ceiling at the NFL level.

Bucky Brooks, NFL Network
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

The likely departure of Richard Sherman could prompt John Lynch to prioritize finding a premier cover corner over draft weekend.

Patrick Surtain II is essentially cornerback 1A or 1B depending on how you view fellow draft prospect, Farley. Perhaps Farley's surgery changes the decision-making for NFL scouts on who is the top cornerback. Surtain II is the son of three-time Pro Bowler, Patrick Surtain, known primarily for his strong play with the Miami Dolphins. Surtain II is an instinctual, long cornerback who could fit in the Richard Sherman mold. It goes back to the question of whether Lynch is willing to finally nab a cornerback in the first round.

Michael Renner, Pro Football Focus
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State University

The 49ers give up a future first and some change to get their guy. The pick not only represents a possible upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo, but it also clears $23.6 million in cap space from Jimmy G's contract that the 49ers could use after the Trent Williams deal

The 49ers "give up a future first and some change" in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons "to get their guy" with the 4th overall pick. It's a bold move that clearly indicates a shift in the mindset of the 49ers franchise by moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo.


If 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan feels that Justin Fields is his franchise quarterback, the 49ers have a roster in win-now mode that would presumably not be in a position to draft this high again. Ohio State quarterbacks haven't had a good track record at the NFL level in recent years but Fields compares well to Dak Prescott as a dual-threat quarterback.

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

This is the first time in a long time we've had Zach Wilson falling out of the No. 2 pick, but he doesn't stay on the board long; the 49ers trade up from No. 12 to get Wilson, who had an outstanding 2020 campaign and improved his draft stock from second-tier draft prospect to top-10 pick.

In this scenario, the 49ers trade their first and second-round picks (No. 12, No. 43) to the Philadelphia Eagles and select a savvy quarterback prospect with the 6th overall pick. If Zach Wilson were to somehow fall out of the top 5, I would anticipate the 49ers to compete with several other teams to get into this spot. Wilson is a trending quarterback prospect because of his explosiveness in making plays inside or outside the pocket. Wilson even went so far as to say the 49ers are a good fit for him. I'm sure 49er fans would be gushing over this scenario and would tout Wilson as the second coming of former BYU quarterback, Steve Young.
  • Justin Wong
  • Written by:
    Justin Wong has been writing for the 49ers Webzone since 2017 while also running an NFC West blog and podcast called Just The West. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to @JustTheWest on Twitter.
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.


1 Comment

  • H.Street
    The Niners will select Zack Wilson with the no. 3 pick. Trevor Lawrence to Jacksonville and the Jets will surprise and select Josh Fields at no. 2 leaving Wilson available to the 49ers. The 49ers wanted Wilson and when they learned that the Jets would take Fields, they made the trade to move into the no. 3 slot. They would not have traded for the no. 3 pick if they thought the Jets would take Wilson at no. 2. Fields is the better QB so the Jets are doing the right thing by taking Fields over Wilson. Again Shanahan would not have traded into no. 3 if he thought the Jets would take Wilson. Everything else is just a smoke screen. The Niners want and get Zack Wilson - let's hope it's the right choice. Time will tell...
    Apr 14, 2021 at 11:27 PM
    0

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