The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of holes to fill. A lot. John Lynch made some incremental moves to improve what was one of the most talent-bereft rosters in the NFL in free agency. However, Lynch did not get anything that would tip the 49ers’ hand for their multiple draft picks. The 49ers have ten picks in this draft. While former 49ers GM Trent Baalke’s MO would be to move around with these picks, the 49ers have so many holes I would expect most of these end up being used by the team. The 49ers have the following picks:
1.02 (second overall)
2.02 (34 overall)
3.02 (66 overall)
4.02 (109 overall)
4.37 (143 overall – compensatory pick)
5.02 (146 overall)
5.17 (161 overall – from Washington)
6.14 (198 overall – from Baltimore)
6.18 (202 overall – from Denver)
7.01 (219 overall – from Cleveland)
While I fully expect John Lynch to trade back from second overall to get more draft capital, for this exercise we will assume the 49ers keep all their picks. What will they do with them?
1.02 – Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
There are four names timed to the 49ers at #2 overall: Soloman, Myles Garrett, Mitch(ell) Trubisky and Malik Hooker. In a perfect world, the Browns overdraft Trubisky at #1 overall and Garrett falls to the 49ers. More likely they take Thomas to shore up their new 4-3 front. Hooker may be superfluous at this stage, given the 49ers already have several safeties on the roster. This will make three-straight first round Pac-12 defensive linemen for the 49ers. The 49ers taking Trubisky at two is closing the door on Kirk Cousins in 2018, and I don’t think they’re ready to do that.
2.02 – T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
The Niners go back-to-back defensive picks, getting much-needed edge rusher help in the form of J.J. Watt’s baby brother. The 49ers need pass-rush help, and ideally, Takkarist McKinley or Tim Williams would be here, but Watt will be the only one of the three still on the board. He has great genes but is injury-prone in his time in Wisconsin. It’s a bit of a reach, but the Niners desperately need an upright edge player like Watt. In a perfect world they trade back to the 6-8 range, pick up another pick and get Reuben Foster in the first instead, but this is where draft slots play out for the Niners.
3.02 – Adoree’ Jackson, CB/WR/PR/KR, CB, USC
Jackson makes it the third straight drafted defensive San Francisco 49er. The Niners attacked offense in free agency, so it makes sense they fill in defensively here. Jackson is a bit small for the NFL as an outside CB but has the skills to make it in the slot. The Niners have a need there with Ward moving to safety, and Jaquiski Tartt having questionable coverage skills. The Niners also get their return man, as well.
4.02 – Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
A low-ceiling pocket passer, Kaaya was a three-year starter in Miami. He provides the 49ers with a potential QB of the future behind Brian Hoyer if Kirk Cousins falls through in 2018. Kaaya is a safe pocket passer who doesn’t do anything flashy and has a limited ceiling. Sound familiar? He’s basically Kirk Cousins already. Mike Shanahan turned Kirk Cousins into something, and he may see a baby-Cousins in Kaaya. The 49ers could snag him as a potential starter or an identical-styled backup to cousins.
4.37 – Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
The 49ers have a questionable running back depth chart, and given Carlos Hyde’s injury history, they need to shore up that position. Perine’s style is similar to Hyde’s, so he should step right in if/when Hyde goes down.
5.02 – Javarius Leamon, OT, South Carolina State
Leamon is very raw, but he has tons of potential. The 49ers do not have much in the way of a swing tackle, but Leamon could fit the bill. The 49ers could bring in Leamon to build him up to be the heir to Joe Staley at LT.
5.17 – Josh Carraway, DE, TCU
More edge rush help and defensive depth. The main knock on Carraway is that he may not have a love for the game. That was true for Aaron Lynch, as well, who the San Francisco 49ers were able to coach up to usability. He is defensive depth with upside. He’s athletic and speedy but is likely better suited as a pass rush OLB rather than a strong DE.
6.14 – Aaron Jones, RB, Texas-El Paso
Jones is a small-school athlete who helped his draft stock at the combine. He had the second-highest SPARQ score among running backs. He’s a speedy change of pace back for the 49ers. UTEP split him out wide at times, speaking to his catching skills. He’s better off going around defenders than through them. Think a low-rent Tevin Coleman.
6.18 – Freddie Stevenson, FB, Florida State
John Lynch made it clear the San Francisco 49ers would be making fullbacks great again. He gave Kyle Juszczyk a massive contract this free agency period, and he secures a backup here. Stevenson is the ideal backup FB because he can serve as a special teams ace or practice squad player unless the 49ers need him.
7.01 – Brendan Langley, DB, Lamar
Another small school athlete uncovered by his SPARQ score, the 49ers snag another defensive back with upside. He is a former wide receiver, so his ball tracking is exceptional. He’s no guarantee to make the roster, but that’s the life of a seventh-round pick. He needs some seasoning, so he could be practice squad fodder.
Noticeably missing from this draft is wide receivers. The San Francisco 49ers have a ton of players that Mike Shanahan and John Lynch need to sort through. They also have a massive amount of defensive backs to sort through but need a good slot guy, so Jackson makes it. They spent a bunch on offense (and are held hostage by Kirk Cousins) so they lean on defense in this draft. GM John Lynch has a lot of work to do, and this year’s draft will be huge to rebuild the 49ers’ defense. The San Francisco 49ers don’t have plans to be great anytime in the near future, so depth and upside is the name of the game, not splashiness.