5 early contenders for SF 49ers first pick in 2021 NFL Draft

Patrick Surtain II #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Patrick Surtain II #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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Kwity Paye, Michigan Wolverines
Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Kwity Paye (19) Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports /

SF 49ers Contender No. 4: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan

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The Niners can’t go with another defensive lineman again in the NFL Draft, right? Not after using a top pick on defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw after grabbing linemen like Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead in previous years.

Well, don’t put that past San Francisco.

One of John Lynch’s primary methods towards building the current roster was to get strong in the trenches, and that approach mostly worked. Yet the SF 49ers could have a shortage of pass-rushing help in 2021, thanks largely to injuries suffered by Bosa and fellow EDGE Dee Ford, the latter in serious doubt whether he’ll be available to start the upcoming season.

So, while a quarterback could be a flashy pick to address long-term needs there and upgrade the offense, a clear dark-horse candidate is one of the better edge rushers in this year’s class, which is considered awfully thin at the position anyway.

Michigan’s Kwity Paye never put together the impressive stat sheet one might hope for from a top-end pass-rusher, accumulating just 11.5 sacks over his four-year collegiate career. But the 6-foot-4, 272-pound defender has all the physical traits to be a sheer wrecking ball along the defensive front, provided he receives adequate coaching from someone like defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.

Such a move might frustrate Niners fans initially. But if Paye reaches a high ceiling, pairing him with a player of Bosa’s ilk would be downright scary for opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks.