The 2013 NFL season ended about four quarters and one confetti shower earlier than the San Francisco 49ers had hoped. While the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos square off in Super Bowl XLVIII, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke will be mapping out the path to next year's championship game.
For a team with several expensive contracts to dole out, any significant improvements will most likely have to come through the draft. Luckily for the 49ers, they happen to possess 13 draft picks in 2014.
With six projected picks in the first three rounds, the 49ers will also have plenty of room to target quality players through draft-day trades. Much like in 2013, Baalke could net both immediate contributors and future projects with this abundance of selections.
The 49ers are obviously built to win now, but salary-cap restrictions could force them to move on at several key positions. Based on 2013 performance and upcoming moves, five particular areas stand out as positions of need for the future of this franchise.
It's clear that the 49ers want to get back and finish the job in 2014, and smart picks in these areas can help get them there.