49ers' Team Needs to Fill in 2021 NFL DraftMarch 29, 2021
49ers' Team Needs to Fill in 2021 NFL Draft
The 2021 NFL draft is now only a month away, and it's imperative that the San Francisco 49ers get their draft board set.
San Francisco isn't quite on the clock, but after the team traded for the No. 3 pick in the draft, the 49ers had better have a good idea of who they're targeting at the top of Round 1.
San Francisco reportedly sent the 12th overall pick along with first- and third-round picks next year and a first-rounder in 2023 to the Miami Dolphins for the selection. There's no way they make that sort of deal without having a target in mind.
While we can't possibly know exactly what San Francisco's draft board looks like, we can evaluate its biggest needs heading into April.
According to ESPN's Jordan Schultz, the New England Patriots aren't in pursuit of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
"Cap space isn't there and obviously Cam Newton will return. Additionally, the draft is flush with QBs. No Jimmy GQ reunion for the Pats in foreseeable future," Schultz tweeted.
However, this doesn't mean that Garoppolo is long for San Francisco. It's highly unlikely that the 49ers would give up such a haul for the No. 3 pick if they weren't looking at a quarterback. Whether they believe BYU's Zach Wilson will fall to No. 3, are content to take a signal-caller like Ohio State's Justin Fields or are looking to make another play for the No. 2 pick remains to be seen.
The trade is a clear sign that San Francisco no longer views Garoppolo as a long-term answer—perhaps because he has missed 23 games over the last three seasons. And if Garoppolo isn't the long-term answer, quarterback is definitely a need.
With the Jacksonville Jaguars likely to take Clemson's Trevor Lawrence at No. 1, Wilson becomes the most likely target. However, there's a chance that the New York Jets take Wilson at No. 2, so San Francisco must be comfortable with at least three of this year's quarterback prospects.
We're unlikely to know who is the third signal-caller on San Francisco's board before draft weekend. However, if the 49ers take any position other than quarterback with the third pick, it'll be arguably the biggest surprise of the offseason.
The 49ers wouldn't trade three first-round picks for a cornerback. However, this is a position that could be targeted in Round 2. San Francisco didn't include any Day 2 selections in the trade with Miami, so cornerbacks like Florida State's Asante Samuel Jr. and Washington's Elijah Molden could be on the table.
While San Francisco did re-sign cornerbacks Emmanuel Mosley, K'Waun Williams and Jason Verrett, this should still be viewed as a position of need. Richard Sherman remains a free agent, and Verrett has a significant injury history.
While Verrett was on the field for 13 games in 2020, he missed a combined 58 games over the previous four seasons. At the very least, it would be wise to draft a cornerback who can provide San Francisco with injury insurance.
If the 49ers are only looking for depth at cornerback, they won't necessarily have to draft one as high as Round 2. However, it would behoove San Francisco to target a corner in the middle rounds rather than taking a late-round flier on a player who might be called upon as a rookie.
The 49ers traded away star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner last offseason. While rookie first-round pick Javon Kinlaw did show some flashes of potential, he wasn't the dominant game-wrecker that Buckner has been as a pro.
With Buckner gone and edge-rusher Nick Bosa sidelined for most of 2020, the 49ers pass rush suffered. As a team, San Francisco produced just 30 sacks on the season. While Bosa should be back to 100 percent, San Francisco could use depth along the defensive line—both along the interior and on the edge.
While he never quite lived up to his billing as the No. 3 pick in the 2017 draft, defensive end Solomon Thomas departed in free agency. The 49ers added linebacker Samson Ebukam to help aid the edge-rushing rotation, but there's still work do to along the front.
If the 49ers don't go with a cornerback in Round 2, it could be wise to target an edge defender like Texas' Joseph Ossai or a defensive tackle such as Washington's Levi Onwuzurike.
San Francisco's defense wasn't bad by any stretch in 2020. It ranked fourth against the pass and seventh against the run. Still, the 49ers weren't able to lean on the defense quite like they did during their Super Bowl season of 2019. Reloading the defensive front could help change that.
Tight end isn't a major need for the 49ers. They do have a Pro Bowl pass-catcher in George Kittle, after all. However, it wouldn't hurt to add another potent receiving tight end both for depth and for injury-insurance purposes.
Kittle missed eight games this past season with knee and foot injuries.
San Francisco does have depth tight ends in Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner, but neither is a particularly dynamic receiver. This may be why San Francisco has "consistently" been in contact with Miami prospect Brevin Jordan—according to Justin Melo of The Draft Network.
Adding a receiving tight end like Jordan or Penn State's Pat Freiermuth could help give the 49ers one of the most dynamic receiving corps in the NFC. They recently brought back Mohamed Sanu, who will partner with Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
Drafting a tight end could be viewed as a luxury for the 49ers, but it would go a long way toward setting up their next quarterback for success.