- The biggest need, the hidden need and what else the 49ers should be looking for in the 2019 draft.
Two weeks ahead of the NFL draft, Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling are breaking down draft needs for all 32 teams. You can also see every team in a single post here.
Biggest Need: Edge Rusher
Before trading for Kansas City’s Dee Ford, edge-rusher was a humongous need. Now, it’s just simply a regular old “biggest” need. The Niners run a more diverse variation of a Seahawks-style, single-high zone scheme. As the game progresses, they settle deeper and deeper into that scheme, which means they become more and more dependent on their four-man rush. Inside, that rush is strong, with long-armed dynamo DeForest Buckner at one 3-technique spot and 2017 No. 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas at the other. (Though it’s time for Thomas to take that quantum leap...his first two seasons have been underwhelming.) Outside, in recent years, there’s been nothing. Ford, a limber multidirectional mover who plays with leverage and flexibility, changes that, but only on one side. Add a force on the other and this D can suddenly be great.
Hidden Need: Cornerback
Signing ex-Charger Jason Verrett for $3.6 million in 2019 was a great gamble. Verrett was a top-five corner in 2015 before losing essentially the next three seasons to major lower-body injuries. Ideally, he’ll beat out incumbent Jimmie Ward (who, versatile perhaps to the point of “positionless,” is also on a one-year deal) and Ahkello Witherspoon, who has been too vulnerable in one-on-one scenarios. That’s three players vying for the right corner spot, but come 2020, the Niners could well have zero players here. Plus, at left corner, Richard Sherman is coming off an outstanding season, but now 31 and with knee and Achilles problems on his record, it doesn’t hurt to find insurance behind him.
Also Looking For: Free Safety
2017 seventh-rounder Adrian Colbert has been up and down and 2018 fifth-rounder D.J. Reed is best suited for slot corner. A rangy safety can do wonders in a single-high coverage scheme.
Who They Can Get
Don't you dare trade out of this spot. If Kyler Murray is indeed the first pick (whether it's Arizona or not), Ohio State's Nick Bosa is an ideal pairing with Ford. If Bosa ends up going No. 1, the Niners get a nice consolation prize in Kentucky's Josh Allen—not ideal considering he and Ford are a little light setting the respective edges, but as the kids say, it's a pass-first league. Just as nice for the Niners, there's good depth at cornerback (especially the "Seattle-style" long corners DC Robert Saleh prefers), so they should be able to nab a decent one with the 36th pick. Temple's Rock Ya-Sin, Kentucky's Lonnie Johnson and Michigan State's Justin Layne fit the Cover 3 mold, while Florida's Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Delaware's Nasir Adderley and Alabama's Deionte Thompson will be on the board if they're looking for a centerfielder.
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