2016 NFL Draft: Breaking Down San Francisco 49ers’ Biggest Needs
By Peter Panacy
Be it on the outside or up the middle, the 49ers need some help at linebacker. Let’s start at the inside position.
Pro Bowler NaVorro Bowman will be just fine in 2016. But it’s clear fellow linebacker Michael Wilhoite isn’t cut out to be in a starting role, and signs don’t point to ILB Gerald Hodges occupying that spot either.
San Francisco’s interior defense was dominant when Bowman and retired linebacker Patrick Willis were patrolling that portion of the field. This isn’t to say the Niners will ever be able to find a player anywhere close to Willis’ mold, but netting some sort of defensive contributor for this void should be a necessity.
Perhaps Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III would be a nice pickup. Or maybe it’s Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith.
It’s anyone’s guess at this point. But that doesn’t make it any less of a priority.
On the outside, San Francisco will be looking to pair a linebacker alongside pass-rushing force Aaron Lynch. 31-year-old veteran linebacker Ahmad Brooks has seen his role decrease since being a Pro Bowler in 2013 and, given his $9.605 million cap hit next season, could be in line for a release.
The 49ers have two backups on the outside: Eli Harold and Corey Lemonier. The latter has been a disappointment since being selected in 2013, and the book is still out on Harold.
Needless to say, San Francisco will want to address some additional pass-rushing help from this position at the best opportunity.
Next: Wide Receiver