The 2020 campaign is now in the rearview mirror, and it was a busy one for the 49ers training staff. Key players such as George Kittle, Raheem Mostert and Solomon Thomas were out for an extended period last season, but the 49ers were still playing competitive football week in and week out. The Niners have negotiations that need attention, as many of their players are due for new deals. It will be intriguing to see how the 49ers value free agents and the draft versus resigning players already on the roster.
The 49ers' injury-riddled season had to be frustrating for many reasons, but it was made worse because of the close games they were involved in. Their worst loss by score differential? A loss against NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers by 17 points. It has to be difficult not to ask "what could have been" if you are a 49ers supporter.
As former defensive coordinator Robert Salah moves on to be the Jets head coach, there is familiarity with newly hired defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans. Ryans was coaching the inside linebackers with the organization in 2020 while previously working as the quality control coach in 2019. The defense that Saleh ran may stay in place, which means the 49ers can stick to the same draft philosophy. So far, this regime has drafted prospects like Javon Kinlaw, Nick Bosa, and Fred Warner, who have heavily contributed to the defense's success.
Particular areas of need for the 49ers are defensive back, defensive line, linebacker, and interior offensive line. This mock draft assumes Jimmy Garappolo is not traded and Trent Williams re-signs with the 49ers, which all reports indicate. The Niners roster is not a miracle fix and they could add some pieces at areas of need to sure up the roster and contend in the postseason. Their draft strategy should be selecting the best player available unless there is a perfect match.
Round 1, Pick 12: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
The 49ers need to bolster the offensive line's interior due to possible departures. With the addition of Slater, they could move him inside to play guard next to Trent Williams. Slater's frame is an issue when it comes to keeping him on the outside, but he has the raw strength to do well on the interior of an NFL offensive line. Slater could thrive in head coach Kyle Shanahan's zone-run concepts.
Round 2, Pick 43: Richie Grant, S, UCF
If Grant does fall to 43, it would be a massive addition to the 49ers' defense. The 49ers have a handful of potential free-agent defensive backs, so adding a young talented safety is undoubtedly a need in this draft cycle. Grant can cover large areas of the field quickly and can wrap up and make a tackle in the open field. He had 72 tackles last season and was one of the top safeties at this year's Senior Bowl.
Round 4, Pick 108: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
When it comes to the best player available, Stokes would be an ideal pick here. As mentioned above, the 49ers are certainly looking to add some secondary pieces in this draft cycle, and Stokes could be a suitable replacement for veteran cornerback Richard Sherman if he and the team decide to move on. Stokes had four interceptions this past season at Georgia.
Round 5, Pick 139: Trevon Grimes, WR, Florida
Florida was loaded with talent at the receiver and tight end positions last season. Wide receiver Trevon Grimes had a solid season in that high-powered Gators offense, raking in nine touchdown catches. Grimes could be a nice compliment to 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who also plays physically. There is some concern about Grimes' speed and how it will translate to the NFL, but he's proven to be a red-zone threat for the Gators.
Round 5, Pick: 156: Benjamin St-Juste, CB, Minnesota
It would be a wise decision to stack up on a couple of cornerbacks in the draft if you're San Francisco, who are expecting to lose multiple defensive backs to free agency. St-Juste was a standout at the Senior Bowl this year, showing tremendous coverage ability. With the uncertainty on what Demeco Ryans will change with the 49ers scheme, St-Juste is a safe bet to fit in with whatever the 49ers do schematically.
Round 6, Pick 170: Cameron Sample, DL, Tulane
The 49ers could use a boost at every spot of the defensive line. Adding Sample would provide balance due to his ability to play all three areas on the defensive front. Sample had 52 total tackles in 2020, along with five sacks. The Tulane defensive lineman was a standout in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, showing off his lower body strength. His hips always stay square and he plays low to the ground. His hands also allow him to be a decisive pass-rusher, in addition to possessing an ideal bend for an interior defensive lineman.
Round 7, Pick 194: Michael Menet, IOL, Penn State
There's no question that Penn State had a rough 2020 season. The Nittany Lions finished with a 4-5 record in Big Ten play. However, one of their bright spots was Michael Menet, a center that could also play guard in the NFL. Menet may be considered slow for an offense like Shanahan's, but scouts can not underestimate his capability to move defenders in the run game. The 49ers will need interior offensive line help with some players at that position set to leave in free agency.
Round 7, Pick 204: Malcolm Koonce, DE, Buffalo
This could end up being a solid value pick for the 49ers while addressing a need. Koonce can rush the passer with a combo of power and speed while proving himself in the run game as a steady tackler. The 49ers could use some depth outside after Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas both tore their ACLs in week 2 of the 2020 season.
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