The San Francisco 49ers currently hold an NFL-high 15 selections in the upcoming draft in April. While they have added plenty of missing pieces through free agency and trades, there are still some holes they need to fill on offense and defense.
The NFL draft presents a great opportunity for the 49ers to upgrade at important positions with players who can contribute right away and who will, hopefully, be at their position for seasons to come. It is very unlikely the 49ers will use all 15 selections on players because they will not have enough room on their roster. What will likely happen is general manager Trent Baalke will trade some draft picks, possibly even trading up in the first round.
For the Niners to draft a player in the first round who can start right away, they will have to move up to draft the best player available at cornerback, safety or wide receiver. All three positions are areas the 49ers should focus their attention on in the first round. But what do you think the 49ers should do with their first round draft pick? Trade up? Hold onto pick No. 31? Answer below in the poll.
Here are some options available for the 49ers in the first round either to trade up or to stay put at their current selection:
In the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons, wide receiver Julio Jones torched the 49ers’ secondary for seven passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. The secondary shut down Jones in the second half, but it was clear the 49ers defense needs a bigger cornerback to be able to compete with receivers of Jones’ stature.
Arguably, Alabama’s Dee Milliner is the best available cornerback in the draft. But the 49ers would have to trade up to into the top-ten of the first round to ensure he is available when they select. With a lot of teams targeting cornerbacks, Milliner will likely be gone by pick No. 5.
The next best option is big bodied Florida State cornerback Xavier Miller, who at 6-1, 210 pounds, is the ideal size the secondary needs to stop receivers like Julio Jones. In order to get their hands on Miller, the 49ers would need to trade up into the top-15 picks of the draft.
Should the 49ers stay at pick No. 31 there could be plenty of good options still available in Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State), Jordan Poyer (Oregon State) and Desmond Trufant (Washington).
With former safety Dashon Goldson taking his services to Tampa Bay, the 49ers are in need of a starting safety. San Francisco signed free agent Craig Dahl but they will likely use one of their picks in the first or second round to select another potential starter.
Former Texas Longhorn Kenny Vaccaro would fill a need at free safety with a player who can not only make good tackles in the open field, but is also able to effectively cover a receiver one-on-one. Vaccaro is at the top of many NFL pundits draft boards as the best safety available, so the 49ers would need to trade up somewhere between picks No. 20-25 in order to draft him. I prefer this option as opposed to trading up higher in the draft for a cornerback. The Niners would not have to give up a lot to trade up to picks No. 20-25.
Other safeties who are similar to Vaccaro include Phillip Thomas (Fresno State), Matt Elam (Florida), Eric Reid (LSU) and Duke Williams (Nevada). All of these players will likely still be available when the 49ers pick at No. 31, which means they would not have to trade up to get help at safety.
Speedy wide receiver:
Would Trent Baalke select a wide receiver in the first round two drafts in a row? After A.J. Jenkins’ bust of a rookie season, he had zero receptions, I doubt the 49ers will select a wide receiver in the first round. Still, the 49ers need a fast receiver to line up with Michael Crabtree and newly acquired Anquan Boldin. Jenkins could be that receiver, but after last season I am not holding my breath that he will contribute.
A speedy receiver would allow the offense to stretch the defense, something the team lacked last season. One good option, and someone who the 49ers will be hosting for a workout, is Cal receiver Tavon Austin. He is an explosive receiver and showed in college he has the speed to beat double coverage. But in order to selection Austin the 49ers would need to move up at least into the top-20 picks of the draft.
Other options in the first round for fast receivers include Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee), DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson) and Keenan Allen (Cal).
It should be noted that the 49ers have the 31st pick in the first round and the 2nd pick in the second round (34th overall).