The San Francisco 49ers' disappointing end to the 2013 season is all but forgotten. Sunday's Super Bowl was hard to watch for both 49ers players and fans, but like the rest of the 29 teams watching at home, help is on the way.
Free agency is over a month and half away, while the NFL draft doesn't start till May, but who cares, right? If you're not in the Super Bowl, the offseason unfortunately starts early.
As stacked as this 49ers team seems, there are some potential holes that need to be prioritized if they hope to return to the Super Bowl next February. This includes in-house free agents like Anquan Boldin and Donte Whitner.
Before the festivities of Sunday's Super Bowl, why not make a wish list for the 49ers? Some names might not be realistic, but that would defeat the purpose of a wish list, right?
Let's explore the 49ers' free-agent and draft wish list.
Darqueze Dennard—Michigan State
Justin Gilbert—Oklahoma State
We start this wish list with some impressive names at cornerback. Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert are both projected to go in the first round, but how high?
Both players could end up going anywhere in the top 15, or free fall to the mid-20s. The draft is unpredictable, especially early in the process.
In terms of scheme, Dennard is the better fit for the 49ers. Gilbert has all the athleticism in the world, but he seems more suited to play in a zone scheme.
Dennard is likely the most physical defensive back coming out of the draft. He's best-suited as a press-man corner, though he has the speed to be effective in zone schemes.
In addition, Dennard is an excellent run defender and a solid open-field tackler. If he drops in the draft, the 49ers could make a move up to draft the Michigan State product.
If the 49ers decide to stay put or opt to go another direction with their first-round pick, Marcus Roberson is a player who should be on Trent Baalke's radar.
Like Dennard, Roberson prides himself on his physicality. Roberson has the footwork, speed and versatility to be a dominant corner in the NFL.
Dennard is the better prospect, but in my opinion, Roberson has the bigger upside. For such a physical player, his length is actually his best physical trait.
Roberson reminds me a lot of a young Darrelle Revis. In defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's defense, Roberson could be a force if developed properly.
The 49ers could be saying goodbye to both Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. Brown will be testing free agency, while Rogers could be a cap casualty.
Can the 49ers afford Brent Grimes or Aqib Talib? Not likely, but crazier things have happened.
Both players accepted one-year deals in the hopes of securing a long-term contract this offseason. What if this occurs again?
Again, it's unlikely, but you never know in the NFL.
Chris Cook could be a nice risk-reward addition to the 49ers secondary. His off-the-field issues are concerning, but he has the physical tools in man coverage that could help this 49ers secondary.
Eric Wright is a candidate to return to the 49ers. He doesn't have a ton of game tape with the 49ers, but in limited action, Wright looked good in the red and gold.
Timmy Jernigan—Florida State
Stephon Tuitt—Notre Dame
The 49ers will certainly be entreating the idea of moving up in the 2014 NFL draft. With 13 potential picks, the 49ers will have more than enough resources to move up and grab an impact player.
In two of the last three drafts under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have went for defense in the first round. Could this occur once again?
While I would prioritize upgrading the secondary or the receiving corps, you can never have enough defensive linemen in the NFL. With those three prospects above, I wouldn't blame general manager Trent Baalke for drafting a lineman early in the draft.
The 49ers would have to move up in the first round to select Jernigan, but he has Sheldon Richardson written all over him.
At 6'6'', 312 pounds, Stephon Tuitt looks like a dream prospect. His versatility in both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes could make him a monster in an aggressive defense. He reminds me a lot of Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals.
Like Tuitt, Hageman has great size at 6'6'', and his positional versatility as a 3-technique or at nose. Though, I feel Hageman is best-suited inside, where he can use his strength and burst to push the pocket up the middle.
If the 49ers decide to take advantage of the free-agent market, they'll find little to grab. Look for veteran options like Idonije, if they come cheap.
In all likelihood, the 49ers will have to wait for other teams to make veteran cuts for the list above to grow.
The 49ers are saving their cap space to re-sign core players. Idonije, at the right price, could be a nice addition to this front seven.
He was never much of a pass-rusher in his career, but his ability to stop the run is still intact.
Logan Thomas—Virginia Tech
My love for Zach Mettenberger has been noted in the past, so I thought we should give some shine to two other solid prospects in Logan Thomas and Brett Smith.
Now, both Smith and Thomas have differing styles. If you want a more developed passer, Smith is your man.
Despite his short frame at 6'2'', Smith is a very developed pocket passer. Smith can make all the pre-snap reads and has the ability to quickly go through his progressions.
Smith has a gunslinger's mentality at times, but his accuracy is actually a plus heading into the upcoming draft.
Thomas won't win coaches' and scouts' hearts with his pocket play, but many believe his upside alone would be worth the risk. Thomas is strictly an athlete at this point, not a quarterback.
With the success of the dual-threat quarterbacks, some team will want to use Thomas's athleticism as a weapon from the pocket. Essentially, some team wants a Colin Kaepernick 2.0.
Why not the 49ers?
Thomas has the arm strength, speed and height—6'6''—to be a first-round pick, but the Virginia Tech product has too many holes in his game. For starters, his pocket awareness is terrible.
Not to mention his shoddy footwork and inaccuracy at times.
If the 49ers select Thomas in the draft, he will be a project. They'll still look to acquire a more stable backup quarterback in free agency if they go the Thomas route.
As stated above, regardless if the 49ers decide to draft a quarterback, Coach Harbaugh will be searching for a veteran signal-caller to back up Colin Kaepernick.
Colt McCoy, who served as Kaepernick's backup this season, will likely hit the road in the offseason. The team hasn't indicated if they want McCoy back, but based off a few of his preseason performances, I can't imagine why the 49ers would want him back.
Outside of Josh McCown, the free-agent list at quarterback is pretty thin.
Shaun Hill would be a good veteran pickup for the 49ers if he decides to play again. The former 49ers quarterback would be a great mentor for Kaepernick.
Rex Grossman is also another option, though I include him only because of his experience. This was quite a while ago, but Grossman actually has Super Bowl experience.
Adding Josh Freeman is unlikely, but you never know. Freeman might want a change of scenery from all the losing. In the meantime, he can develop under one of the best quarterback gurus in Harbaugh without the chaos that usually follows him.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix—Alabama
Will the 49ers re-sign Donte Whitner? If the 49ers don't bring back Whitner, the safety position will be a priority in the draft.
Regardless of how the Whitner situation works itself out, don't expect the 49ers to use a first-round pick on a safety. With two picks in the second and third round, the 49ers can find a productive player like Ed Reynolds or Craig Loston after the first round.
Reynolds is a intriguing prospect. At 6'2'', 205, Reynolds has excellent size and length for the position. He protects the deep ball consistently and has the necessary quickness to keep up with NFL tight ends.
Reynolds isn't much of a playmaker at the position, but his balance in key areas, especially against the run, is impressive for a young prospect.
Loston is another solid prospect for the 49ers to consider. Many are comparing him to 49ers safety Eric Reid and for good reason.
He has all the physical tools to be successful in coverage, but Loston's best skill is his ability to make open-field tackles. The amount of ground that can be covered with both Reid and Loston could rival the excellent safety tandem up north in Seattle.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be long gone before the 49ers select, but with the draft process, the unexpected can happen. Also, Dix grades out as an FS, which is the same position Reid plays
The safety position is interchangeable for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's defense, so it wouldn't be that much of an issue. Reid would have to transition to SS, but with such a successful rookie season at the free position, why change what works?
Again, the 49ers' aggressiveness at this position will depend on Whitner's decision in free agency. Can the 49ers re-sign Whitner at an affordable price?
As I stated before, the 49ers' cap space is being reserved for core pieces like Kaepernick. Whitner doesn't fit that category but his presence in the back end of this defense is still crucial for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Byrd is looking for a big payday, something the 49ers won't give him. However, if Byrd doesn't like the long-term offers on the table, he could accept a one-year deal in the hopes of entering free agency in 2015.
Dashon Goldson took a similar route. We all know how that ended up.
Pollard would be a nice addition if Whitner departs. Whitner was excellent in 2013, but if we look at his first two years with the 49ers, Pollard could give Fangio similar production at the safety position—not to mention Pollard's Super Bowl experience.
Mike Evans—Texas A&M
All three receivers above will likely go somewhere in the top 20 of the first round, but hey, this is a wish list, right?
In all seriousness, with 13 potential picks in the draft, the 49ers have the opportunity to select an impact receiver. It all depends on how far Baalke is willing to go.
The receivers above all give the 49ers something they don't really have at the position. Watkins obviously brings the speed and big-play ability the 49ers lack outside of tight end Vernon Davis.
Mike Evans gives the 49ers some much-needed size and physicality at the position. His catch radius and playmaking ability in the red zone would also help Kaepernick immensely.
Marqise Lee, like Watkins, gives the 49ers a big-time vertical threat to stretch defenses. Lee is also a very good route-runner, which should make him a perfect fit in the 49ers' West Coast scheme.
Again, this is a wish list, right?
The 49ers must re-sign Anquan Boldin. His presence this season was huge for the 49ers offense. I'm sure Baalke and Boldin will find common ground in getting a deal done.
James Jones and Eric Decker will be looking for a big payday. The 49ers are looking for value deals, so both guys would have to be dissatisfied with the market for something to come together.
Of the two, Jones would likely fit this category. His injuries in 2013 likely affected his market value, so don't expect a team to break the bank to sign the veteran receiver.