49ers NFL Draft 2021 primer: Picks, stories to watch and more

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
2 of 4
Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) and head coach Kyle Shanahan Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers needs in the 2021 NFL Draft

The Niners were able to retain a good chunk of their talent in free agency earlier this offseason while also adding some impact players to fill major voids, such as signing veteran center Alex Mack while also adding EDGE Samson Ebukam along with defensive linemen Arden Key, Maurice Hurst and Zach Kerr.

That said, there are still some notable voids left to be filled, and depth is always going to be a question mark.


Kyle Shanahan’s recent comments about quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo being on the roster after the NFL Draft were provocative, to say the least, and San Francisco wouldn’t have traded up to No. 3 overall if it wasn’t planning on moving on from Jimmy G anyway.

Garoppolo is still under contract for the next two seasons, so the 49ers are still in a position where they could start him in 2021 while waiting for a rookie quarterback to develop.

Nevertheless, Shanahan made it clear Garoppolo’s injury history the last three years was a prime reason why the Niners want a future franchise signal-caller who can stay on the field.


San Francisco re-signed corners Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams, Dontae Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley during the offseason. Of those three, only Moseley is inked into 2022.

Defensive backs can take time to develop at the pro level, so doing some long-term stockpiling now makes a lot of sense.

Unlike last year’s class, which was pretty deep at cornerback, there’s a significant drop in talent from the first two or three rounds, so look for the 49ers to address this early.


Despite signing Ebukam, the Niners will want to find an additional outside pass-rusher to support EDGE Nick Bosa and to potentially make up for the likely early absence of fellow EDGE Dee Ford, who is still recovering from last year’s back injury.

Nearly all of the EDGEs in this class have major question marks, so any selection San Francisco makes here could be a major hit or miss.

Wide Receiver

The 49ers are set with their top two wide receivers, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, but there’s a void in the slot and at the No. 3 spot on the depth chart after losing Kendrick Bourne in free agency.

The Niners shouldn’t be content with rostered wideouts like Mohamed Sanu, River Cracraft, Richie James and Trent Sherfield, among others, so finding someone who can develop as a legitimate No. 3 option should be a serious focus.

Good thing this year’s draft has plenty of receiving talent over all three days.


Safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward will start in 2021, but both have lengthy injury histories. And Tartt is back on a one-year deal anyway, meaning some long-term options wouldn’t be a bad idea.

San Francisco has to guard against injuries here while also planning for the future. There are a number of quality defensive backs who could potentially serve as safeties at the pro level. But in general, the natural safety class this year is notably thin.

Lesser Needs

None of the 49ers running backs currently on the roster are signed beyond 2021, so it wouldn’t be a shock at all to see Shanahan target someone who could be a long-term fit, potentially a day-two or day-three selection.

The Niners also have been searching for a quality No. 2 tight end to support George Kittle for a number of years now, and one could easily see them do so again on day three.

Yet that’ll only be a small storyline for fans to watch on draft day.