The 49ers have a quite predicament at the inside linebacker position because of NaVorro Bowman’s late-season ACL tear.
San Francisco, which runs a 3-4 defense, necessitates two stout inside backers to patrol the middle. The team already has two of the best in the league, but it may be without Bowman for a good chunk of the 2014 season, if not the whole year (playoffs pending). The 49ers have depth with Michael Wilhoite, but they could make a concerted effort to upgrade the position given the situation.
The problem is, when adding a new body to the position, they need somebody that is good enough to compete and potentially start for what could turn out to be a double-digit amount of games. However, they don’t want to draft a player too high, because once Bowman returns, that player is going right back to the bench.
If Wilhoite isn’t the guy to start (although he probably is), the 49ers need to put some serious thought into this pick, covering all their bases.
UCLA Bruin Jordan Zumwalt stands out as one of the ideal candidates to be selected by San Francisco. The lanky 6’4”, 235-pounder is projected as a third- or fourth-round pick, which wouldn’t be viewed as an overspend if the team were to select him, especially if the club can get him as late as Round 4. Moreover, his versatility and tenacity will make it so he always has a spot on this team.
While slow in the 40-yard dash and sluggish when changing direction, Zumwalt finds the football.
Zumwalt has an old-school style, and he’s a maniac on the field, bringing a high motor and thirst for contact. He played both outside and inside linebacker for the Bruins, exhibiting an ability to rush the quarterback and drop back in coverage from different spots behind the line.
If the 49ers can get him in the groove of their system, he can contribute right away next to Patrick Willis. And when Bowman returns, he can be both a backup inside and outside linebacker while also contributing as a gunner on special teams. That way, the draft pick doesn’t go to waste.