2017 NFL Draft: A Way-Too-Early Look at the San Francisco 49ers Plans
By Peter Panacy
49ers 2017 Draft Needs
Unlike the draft order, determining San Francisco’s needs in 2017 may actually be a bit easier. We can base our information on what the team’s shortcomings were last season as well as positions that were addressed during the offseason, either by the draft or free agency.
Free agency may solve many of the 49ers’ needs next season — they should have a ton of cap space — but general manager Trent Baalke prefers the draft route over lucrative free-agent deals.
So what will the team needs be just less than a year from now? Let’s take an early look.
Maybe the Colin Kaepernick vs. Blaine Gabbert situation will be ironed out by this point. Kaepernick is under contract, although Gabbert will be a free agent. Can head coach Chip Kelly revive either QB’s careers? Maybe. Maybe not.
And unless rookie draftee Jeff Driskel appears to be the second coming of Tom Brady — a late-round selection who, at the time, had little praise — this need will probably be atop the Niners’ list.
San Francisco reinforced its defensive line in 2016, which is a very good thing. Now, the team will need to add the parts which benefit from a strong defensive front. With veteran outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks aging, the 49ers will want to get some pass-rushers and edge players to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
And teams can never have too many pass-rushers.
Baalke passed on drafting an inside linebacker to complement perennial All-Pro NaVorro Bowman, which means fans will see more of incumbents Michael Wilhoite and Gerald Hodges in 2016.
With teams utilizing more sub packages today, having two inside linebackers might be less of a necessity than before. But that doesn’t mean the Niners won’t want to upgrade what was generally considered a big weakness last year.
By electing not to re-sign veteran Anquan Boldin, the 49ers are allowing a young crop of wide receivers to develop together. That’s a good thing, but only if a few players stand out.
San Francisco hasn’t developed its own bona fide wide receiver for some time now, so maybe 2017 is the year where Baalke takes a shot at a big-play wideout.
Veteran left tackle Joe Staley is on the wrong side of 30 years old, and it would be nice to know the 49ers had someone slated to take over for him sooner rather than later. Fortunately, the 49ers added two offensive tackles via the 2016 draft — Fahn Cooper and John Theus — so their respective performances may determine how much of a priority this becomes.
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