49ers biggest need in 2022 NFL Draft after opening free agency wave

Arnold Ebiketie #17 of the Penn State Nittany Lions hand fights with Raiqwon O'Neal #71 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Arnold Ebiketie #17 of the Penn State Nittany Lions hand fights with Raiqwon O'Neal #71 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The 49ers’ top offseason need changed once John Lynch made his top moves in free agency, which creates a new top need for the 2022 NFL Draft.

So much for the San Francisco 49ers needing to do all they can to land a cornerback this offseason.

That was easily the top need for general manager John Lynch heading into 2022, pointed out because of the deficiencies at the position a year ago and magnified by the fact the team was poised to lose corners like K’Waun Williams, Dontae Johnson and Josh Norman to NFL free agency.

The Niners solved that No. 1 pressing need by inking former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward to a lucrative three-year deal worth up to $42 million, all but ensuring he’ll be the No. 1 option at the position heading into the upcoming year.

General manager John Lynch could still look to add more cornerbacks as the offseason draws on, including potentially targeting another option in the NFL Draft.

Without a first-round pick because of last year’s trade-up for quarterback Trey Lance, though, it might be of greater interest for Lynch to simply go with a “best player available” strategy by the time San Francisco’s number is called for the first time.

However, that doesn’t mean Lynch won’t prioritize.

With Ward helping cross off cornerback as the 49ers’ top offseason need, what should be the Niners’ next biggest need as they prepare for this year’s NFL Draft?

49ers new biggest need for 2022 NFL Draft

San Francisco still has plenty of issues to address between now and training camp. The offensive line is questionably worse after the free-agent departure of left guard Laken Tomlinson, while wide receiver depth isn’t particularly great.

However, the 49ers have to take advantage of one great opportunity.

Yes, it might be frustrating to see the Niners use another top pick on a defensive lineman, but that’s precisely what Lynch’s main priority should be in the draft.

This, for


three reasons.

For starters, losing nose tackle D.J. Jones in free agency creates a void that’ll be tough to fill, even though San Francisco can hope third-year pro Javon Kinlaw can emerge as a viable replacement.

Beyond that, though, the 49ers are still hoping to get that second complementary pass-rusher to pair with EDGE Nick Bosa, a hope that’s disappeared with the ongoing injuries suffered by pass-rusher Dee Ford, even though Ford will still be around in 2022.

The Niners got by with rotational pass-rushers a year ago, players like Arden Key and Jordan Willis, who also tested free agency.

What’s needed, though, is another top name.

Read More: 3 scenarios where Niners trade up in 2022 NFL Draft

That third reason is simply because of the depth of class in the 2022 draft. While there are only a handful of clear-cut studs in the pass-rush department, the 2022 class of pass-rushers is still awfully deep. San Francisco could easily get its hands on Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie, South Carolina’s Kingsley Enagbare or Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto.

Perhaps others.

Lynch and the 49ers have long made their D-line a priority almost on a yearly basis. And while this caused some neglect elsewhere on the roster in previous years, there’s still a pressing need for the team to address.

Given the depth in the pass-rush department, it sure seems likely the Niners take advantage of it this April.

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