2017 Linebacker Predictions for the 49ers
Here’s an easy one to start — NaVorro Bowman will return and be at, or near, 100 percent to start the season.
Malcolm Smith will earn a starting job too. Based off what we discussed previously, his coverage problems makes him a better fit staying off tight ends on the weak side.
Still, reinforcements are needed and especially at the SAM and LEO linebacker spots.
Myles Garrett isn’t going to fall to San Francisco, barring the Cleveland Browns doing something crazy. So look for general manager to add pass-rushing depth in Rounds 2 through 4. This would fill the void behind Aaron Lynch and possibly add someone to replace the underachieving 2014 standout.
More from Niner Noise
- 49ers 2023 NFL Draft tracker: Pick-by-pick news and analysis
- Predicting 49ers NFL Draft picks by looking at final mocks
- DraftKings NFL Draft Promo – Win $150 Guaranteed on Any $5 Bet
- 2023 NFL Draft: EDGE Byron Young could be impact player for 49ers
- 5 low-key NFL Draft options for 49ers who are flying under the radar
But a gut feeling still links the 49ers to Reuben Foster in Round 1.
Even if San Francisco can’t trade down from No. 2 overall, Foster isn’t that bad of a reach. Usually inside linebackers aren’t top-10 picks. But Foster is an exception, boasting the rare combination of run-stopping ability, coverage skills and sideline-to-sideline converging speed NFL teams rarely have.
- MIKE: NaVorro Bowman
- WILL: Malcolm Smith
- SAM: Reuben Foster (R)
- LEO: Aaron Lynch
- Reserves: Eli Harold, rookie, Brock Coyle, Dekoda Watson
You’ll notice neither Ahmad Brooks nor Tank Carradine make the cut. Brooks is aging and no longer an every-down player. Carradine has been a bust. It’s time to move on.
Maybe Armstrong stays, but who knows?
Instead, San Francisco goes with a rookie in a starting role (Foster) and a promising edge rusher to either back up, or take over, for Lynch at some point in the future.
Hopefully, these tweaks and upgrades help make the 49ers front seven as strong as it used to be in the days of Bowman and now-retired linebacker Patrick Willis.