The 49ers don’t necessarily need quantity in the 2022 NFL Draft, rather quality, and their moves in NFL free agency may see a trade-up from late in Round 2.
The San Francisco 49ers are probably done with their splash signings in NFL free agency, and the second- and third-wave moves are most likely going to be supplementary in nature, the smaller one- or two-year deals for role players and depth pieces.
There’s one big transaction Niners general manager John Lynch could engineer, of course, eventually moving quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo when the time is right. But after not having found a suitor on what otherwise was a wild quarterbacking market this offseason, San Francisco seems content to sit tight and wait for the Garoppolo market to pick back up again.
Doing so would free up a lot of money, $25.5 million to be accurate. Yet there’s also a chance Garoppolo is used as a trade chip once the 2022 NFL Draft rolls around this April.
A Super Bowl-contending 49ers team is still relatively loaded, and the draft won’t be so much about finding a ton of new faces, especially with six selections on day three. Instead, Lynch might be coerced into finding a handful of high-quality players, which might mean trading up from the Niners’ top pick, currently, No. 61 overall.
Here are five prospects in 2022 San Francisco may consider trading up for from their top pick at the very end of Round 2.
49ers trade-up draft target No. 5: OL Zion Johnson, Boston College
After they lost Pro Bowl left guard Laken Tomlinson in free agency, and with uncertainty whether or not their second-round pick from a year ago, Aaron Banks, can go from a rookie disappointment into a bona fide starter, the 49ers should strongly think about using their first pick to address the offensive line.
On top of that, right tackle Mike McGlinchey is working his way back from a midseason quad tear suffered last year, and it wouldn’t hurt to upgrade right guard over Daniel Brunskill, too.
Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson has played tackle at the collegiate level, which is a bonus, although the 6-foot-3, 312-pounder projects to be an interior lineman at the pro level.
Johnson certainly doesn’t seem poised to slip to the end of Round 2, probably someone who’d fall no later than the first half of the round. And if he’s someone the Niners have eyes on, it’ll likely take a couple of those day-three picks at least to move up to a safe spot from No. 61 to grab him.
Investing in the trenches is never a bad idea, though.