The 49ers Draft and the NFC Championship

Have the Niners done enough this off-season to return to the Super Bowl?
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With the off-season complete, the Niners schedule comes out Thursday, previewing how the battle for the NFC Championship could play out.

A final look at the 49ers draft may foreshadow who departs in 2025. Each pick could replace a free agent or a player the team chooses to trade or let go.

Deebo Samuel – Ricky Pearsall
Charvarius Ward – Renardo Green
Aaron Banks – Dominic Puni
Talanoa Hufanga – Malik Mustapha
Elijah Mitchell – Isaac Guerendo
Jauan Jennings - Jacob Cowing
Jon Feliciano – Jarrett Kingston
DeVondre Campbell – Tatum Bethune

This would be a significant loss in free agency, but the team would receive needed compensation picks in the draft. Next year the Niners receive their final 3rd round compensatory pick for DeMeco Ryans, and the rest of the comp picks would depend on free agency.

ESPN interviewed college coaches on the draft picks. An SEC defensive coordinator had this to say on Pearsall. "He's a solid receiver. We didn't have to game-plan for him. His routes at times were just OK. He would do a lot of dancing and get off target. Some of the throws that [Graham] Mertz missed ... were on lack of route detail by Pearsall. That one shocked me."

Have the Niners done enough to return to the Super Bowl?

Detroit - The Lions were up 17 at halftime of the NFC title game but couldn’t hold on, giving up 138 yards rushing to Christian McCaffrey and Brock Purdy, along with eight catches and 89 yards to Deebo Samuel and the big play richochet off DB Kimani Vidal to Brandon Aiyuk.

Detroit added nose tackle D.J. Reader in free agency and the two best run defending cornerbacks in the draft, who are also strong cover corners. The Niners are vulnerable to physical cover DBs and teams that can bring simulated pressure, now Detroit has both.

The Niners counter with added speed on offense, a more consistent pass rush from Leonard Floyd, and a deeper, more physical secondary.

Green Bay – The league’s youngest team added Xavier McKinney, the top safety in free agency. The Packers were 21st in interceptions last year, McKinney had three for the Giants, he upgrades Green Bay’s ball skills in the secondary. The Packers also added running back Josh Jacobs in free agency and drafted tackle/guard Jordan Morgan, blitzing linebacker Edgerrin Cooper, and safety Javon Bullard.

Green Bay’s main improvement will come from the internal growth of a young roster. While Cooper is a great blitzer he’s vulnerable in pass coverage, an ongoing Green Bay weakness at linebacker that the Niners can exploit.

Philadelphia – The Eagles primary upgrade was at coordinator, bringing in Kellen Moore and Vic Fangio. Philly’s primary move in free agency was to add Saquon Barkley behind a line that lost All-Pro Jason Kelce but is still one of the league’s best. Barkley should do well if he can stay healthy.

Philadelphia’s concern is if the Niners have figured out Jalen Hurts, flush him wide and he can only throw to the near sideline. On defense, Philadelphia added the draft’s best cover corner and playmaking safety, but they remain vulnerable at linebacker.

LA Rams – The Rams focused on the trenches, a heavy investment in the offensive line in free agency and defensive line in the draft. LA becomes a more balanced team on offense and that should make them a threat, the key for them is keeping Matthew Stafford healthy.

Defense was the focus of the draft, adding speed on the line with Florida State’s Jared Verse and Braden Fiske. Verse is a threat, Fiske we’ll see. He had the fast 40 at the Combine, but in games on a defensive line with Verse, Fiske only had a pass rush win rate of 8.9%.

Dallas – Jerry Jones said he was going all-in this year, but while fans took that to mean being aggressive in free agency and the draft, Jones meant all-in on Dak Prescott’s contract, giving him a do or die season where Dak can become an unrestricted free agent.

The draft added tackle Tyler Guyton, central casting in size, project in technique.

It seems the Cowboys are adrift, waiting for next season and a critical new hire at head coach.

Seattle – The Seahawks have made the change at head coach, changing the flavor from vanilla to rocky road. New coach Mike Macdonald orchestrated the simulated pressure at Baltimore that picked off the Niners five times at Christmas.

Seattle added the draft’s best defensive tackle and right guard. The defense should take a leap, the key is if the offense will do the same under new coordinator Ryan Grubb, making the crosstown jump from UW to the NFL.

Other teams to watch: Two great drafts the last two years from Arizona, Marvin Harrison Jr. will make Kyler Murray a better quarterback. Atlanta upgrades coaching and quarterback for an offense that neglected Bijan Robinson and Kyle Pitts.

Teams have closed the gap on the 49ers, this should be a more competitive NFC, but San Francisco still has the most talented roster. Detroit improved where it had to and remains the largest threat.

Tom Jensen