2016 NFL Draft: 5 Best Options for San Francisco 49ers in Round 1
By Jerod Brown
Jaylon Smith- Inside Linebacker- Notre Dame
Patrick Willis became the face of the 49ers defense the moment he was selected in the 2007 NFL Draft. Since being drafted, Willis routinely ranked towards the top of the league in tackles and was the standard for inside linebackers in the NFL. Before injuries slowed Willis down, 49er fans were accustomed to seeing the linebacker all over the field.
NaVorro Bowman earned All-Pro honors in his first season back from a gruesome injury but would benefit greatly from a young linebacker by his side. Similar to how Willis mentored Bowman in his early seasons, Bowman could be the mentor to an incoming rookie.
The only inside linebacker worth drafting at number seven overall is Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith.
Smith suffered an injury similar to Bowman’s, although not quite as brutal, and will begin rehabbing to prepare for next season. Most expect Smith to declare for the NFL Draft prior to the January 18 deadline.
Despite his injury, the 49ers should consider taking the linebacker with their first pick.
Before his injury, Smith showed impressive skills as a linebacker that works as quick laterally as he does coming downhill. In a division with superior speed in the slot from receivers like Seattle’s Tyler Lockett and Arizona’s John Brown, a thumper in the middle with range is invaluable.
The 49ers know intimately how a team can benefit from a true 3-down linebacker. Smith fits that mold and will offer an immediate upgrade over both Gerald Hodges and Michael Wilhoite.
If the 49ers aren’t interested in a signal-caller, Smith should be the pick at number seven.
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