It would be a pipe dream to suggest San Francisco has few needs in this year's draft.
Like it or not, the 49ers need to address the 2014 NFL draft very seriously. There are a number of reasons why.
First, we can look at the obvious needs.
To do this, we shall use NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah's description of San Francisco's needs. He has the 49ers targeting the wide receiver, center and D-line positions. We can also plug in a few additional ones as well.
It is beyond a doubt at this point that the 49ers will try to grab a talented wide receiver, or two, in the draft. We can assume this given the fact that incumbent No. 1 and 2 receivers Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin may not be in San Francisco for the long run.
The 33-year-old Boldin has two years left on his current deal, but there is always the age factor. Crabtree is signed through 2014 and may be tough for the 49ers to re-sign.
Behind them, San Francisco has its hopes pinned on one-year veteran Quinton Patton, offseason acquisition Brandon Lloyd and a number of depth receivers who will likely not make significant impact in the upcoming season.
Stack that upon the 49ers' 30th-ranked pass offense in 2013 and one can see the need for an explosive wideout who can not only impact the offense immediately but carry his skills over for a long period of time when Crabtree and Boldin may no longer don red-and-gold uniforms.
Fortunately, this draft class is deep when it comes to wide receivers.
The depth, described in detail by Mike Mayock to media reporters (h/t Taylor Price of 49ers.com), is something that plays into the 49ers' hands.
Should they sit tight at No. 30 in Round 1, they'll have a number of plausible options. Or, we could see San Francisco execute some sort of trade up to put it in a better position to grab a receiver who may not drop to No. 30.
We also cannot rule out the possibility of the 49ers grabbing receivers in Rounds 2 or 3, given the established depth and number of picks in their arsenal.
Not on Jeremiah's list of 49ers needs is a position that cannot be overlooked: cornerback.
Without taking anything away from San Francisco's vaunted defense, the defensive backfield should be considered one of the team's weak spots heading into 2014.
During the offseason, the 49ers parted ways with veteran cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. They are also counting on corner Chris Culliver, who spent all of 2013 on injured reserve, to compete for a starting job alongside Tramaine Brock.
San Francisco added former Minnesota Vikings corner Chris Cook during the offseason, but the need for some added power in the secondary still remains.
Just like the wide receiver position, the cornerback prospects in this class are also very deep, as described by Dan Kadar of SB Nation. This gives the 49ers plenty of flexibility when it comes to selecting a cornerback of the future. Still, we should expect the team to address this need within the first two rounds of the draft.
San Francisco's need to draft a center may be one of the lower priorities on draft day.
After all but parting ways with veteran Jonathan Goodwin during the offseason, the 49ers extended backup O-lineman Daniel Kilgore's contract, essentially guaranteeing he will be the front-runner for the starting job.
But as Jeremiah described in his article, Kilgore could benefit from some competition. It would not be surprising to see San Francisco tab a center in the mid to late rounds of the draft.
Even though his contract extension last year almost guarantees he'll retire a 49er, Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Smith is not getting any younger.
On the opposite end, 29-year-old Ray McDonald has two years left on his current deal.
We can't forget to overlook the eventual debut of San Francisco's 2013 second-round selection of Tank Carradine—who missed his rookie season while being on injured reserve—but we also cannot determine his impact until he actually takes the field.
At defensive tackle, the 49ers will again count upon Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams for the upcoming season. Dorsey's current contract expires after 2014, and Williams' deal does so the following year.
2013 draftee Quinton Dial is also in the mix for playing time.
As it stands, San Francisco would be OK with its returning defensive line. Yet as we all know, injuries and the rigors of a 16-game schedule can take their toll. Additional depth, especially as elements of this unit age, is a worthwhile need here.
At the start of the offseason, it would have been reasonable to assume the 49ers would consider adding an inside linebacker with a late-round pick to compete for the starting job at the beginning of the 2014 season.
With All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman possibly missing up to half the season as he recovers from his knee injury suffered in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers will be looking to fill his void—a daunting task, to put things lightly.
Backup linebacker Michael Wilhoite did this job in Patrick Willis' stead last season and should be expected to hold that spot for Bowman in 2014. But if the 49ers find themselves to pick up a worthwhile mid-round inside linebacker, it might be an acquisition worth making.
As far as the outside is concerned, the need has been more recently established.
The recent off-the-field issues surrounding linebacker and sack specialist Aldon Smith have forced San Francisco's hand.
Recently, Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News reported the 49ers are seriously considering not playing Smith in 2014. This also may affect San Francisco's decision on whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option in 2015.
What happens there is anyone's guess at this point and is perhaps best suited for another discussion. Yet it could have significant influence on whether or not the 49ers seek to replace Smith on the outside via the draft.
It is also reasonable to assume San Francisco utilizes more of one-year veteran Corey Lemonier in a pass-rushing role for the 2014 season.
It isn't exactly a serious need with quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert holding the No. 1 and 2 slots on the depth chart, respectively.
It also may not even be a target for the 49ers in the draft. After all, the team could wind up grabbing someone as an undrafted free agent, thus saving any late-round pick as trade bait.
Or, the 49ers can count on current No. 3 quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson in this role.
But it is not too far-fetched to suggest the 49ers take a flier on a quarterback in the late rounds if a player is to their liking. Still, it does not seem a high priority at this point.
The Possibility of Trading Up
As we mentioned on the previous slide, San Francisco's 11 picks give the front office plenty of options when it comes to being aggressive on the trade front.
There has already been plenty of speculation regarding whether or not the 49ers will pursue this option during the draft. Perhaps they do it once in the first round. Perhaps they do it multiple times throughout the draft.
It is even possible to see San Francisco trade back or out of rounds in an attempt to stockpile picks for 2015 when the prospect pool may not be as deep.
Determining exactly what it takes to execute a trade-up is difficult. Perhaps the best tool is Walter Football's draft value chart, which assigns point values to each pick in the draft. Of course, transactions can be made outside of these values and are complicated by the additions of players to "sweeten the deal."
Still, this chart gives us a good estimate at what the 49ers—or any NFL team, for that matter—would be willing to do.
As far as the trade-up possibility is concerned, all we can do is speculate. Fortunately, the current situation gives us plenty to speculate about.
This beats the alternative.