San Francisco 49ers: Full 7-Round Big Board for 2016 NFL Draft
With less than three months between now and draft day, it’s time to start thinking about the San Francisco 49ers’ potential additions in the 2016 NFL draft.
There’s still more than 80 days between now and the 2016 NFL Draft. That’s not only enough time to go around the world, it’s enough time for the draft board to radically change. At this point last year, Cameron Erving wasn’t considered a first-round pick; he ended up going 19th overall. Randy Gregory was considered a potential top-five pick; he fell all the way to the second round. There’s a lot that can change between now and draft day, and making a big board, especially for the later rounds, is very much an exercise in speculation.
Here, then, is exactly that exercise in speculation for the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers actually are in a fairly good situation, all things considered, in the draft. They have eight picks already confirmed—five of their own, plus one each from San Diego, Dallas and Denver on day three. They also are in position to get as many as four compensatory picks from the losses of Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox, Frank Gore and Dan Skuta last offseason, according to Over the Cap. That’s a ton of picks—more than any other team in the league, and a higher combined value, according to the trade value chart, than any team other than the Cleveland Browns.
They’ll need the picks, too, as they have a number of holes that need filling, be it in free agency or the draft.
Each slide in this slideshow will list ten players who could be on the board for each of the 49ers’ picks, discussing who the team should take and what their overall strategy should be in this year’s draft. Before heading to the individual picks, however, it’s worth taking an overall look at the team’s needs and basic strategy, and my assumptions going into making these early big boards.
The largest overall need is on the offensive line, where a new player could be used at every single position:
- Anthony Davis says he’s returning, but after willingly sitting out the entire 2015 season, he can’t be considered a definite starter at right tackle going forward.
- Jordan Devey was a disaster at right guard, and while Andrew Tiller looked significantly better, he shouldn’t be necessarily guaranteed a starting spot going forward.
- Marcus Martin has yet to develop at center, while Daniel Kilgore missed most of the year recovering from a serious leg fracture.
- Alex Boone is a free agent at left guard.
- The only sure starter is Joe Staley at left tackle, but even he will be 32 by the time the next season begins, so drafting someone to eventually replace him is not a bad idea.
The sheer number of needs means that offensive line should be the fallback position for every pick—if no player at a different position of need particularly stands out, then they should fall back on the best offensive lineman available on the board.
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That doesn’t mean that the line should necessarily be highest priority, however. There are four positions which, based on the team’s needs and the general talent level in each round this year, I feel the 49ers need to address in their first eight picks. In no particular order, they are:
- A quarterback who can run Chip Kelly’s offense. This can be a first-rounder to compete for a starting job eventually, or a later pick to groom while the team gives Colin Kaepernick one last chance, depending on Kelly’s particular preferences.
- A talented wide receiver to pair with Torrey Smith; this has been a pressing issue since 2014 and has not been dealt with.
- An edge rusher to pair with Aaron Lynch, to pump up San Francisco’s anemic pass rush.
- An inside linebacker to pair with NaVorro Bowman, as the team never really replaced the losses of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland.
If the first eight picks are, in any particular order, four offensive linemen and one each of those four positions, then the 49ers probably had a very solid draft, assuming there were no strange reaches involved.
There were a few other needs which I considered and will show up on the big boards, but ultimately feel are less pressing. If a talented player at one of these positions drops, it’s worth grabbing them over a third or fourth lineman, but they are very much secondary in nature:
- Ian Williams is a free agent, so if he leaves, the 49ers will need a nose tackle to replace him. Plan A, though, remains re-signing Williams, as they have plenty of cap space.
- The 49ers could use a shut-down cornerback; they have plenty of solid options as their second corner and as nickel and dime corners, but they could use a true number one corner, bumping everyone else down a slot where they can be more comfortable. Considering the other needs the team has, it’s probably not a good idea to use a high draft pick on the position; this might be better solved by going after someone like Josh Norman, Janoris Jenkins or Trumaine Johnson in free agency.
- Phil Dawson’s contract expires so the team will need a kicker. Generally speaking, it’s a horrible idea to spend a draft pick on a specialist; historically, half of the top kickers and punters in the league have been undrafted, and it’s a better strategy to try to find a diamond in the rough like Carl Nicks or Antonio Brown—or even a useful piece like Josh Morgan—than it is to waste a pick on a kicker. There are exceptions to every rule, and it looks like Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo might be worth such a pick this year, but the 49ers just have too many needs elsewhere.
Alright, with all that out of the way, let’s look at the draft boards!
Next: Round 1: A franchise quarterback?