Revisiting 49ers’ top NFL Draft needs after free agency

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers didn’t make a ton of splash signings in NFL free agency, but their biggest needs in the 2023 NFL Draft have definitely changed.

It’s been a little while since we looked at the San Francisco 49ers’ top needs in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Safe to say, the landscape and context for what the Niners need have changed a lot since then, too.

General manager John Lynch made only one blockbuster pickup in NFL free agency, landing former Philadephia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, which did solve a pressing need and added to the pass rush behind All-Pro EDGE Nick Bosa.

However, the bulk of other free-agent moves by Lynch focused more on ancillary needs and depth rather than superstar talent. When combined with the players whom San Francisco lost in free agency, it’s not hard to rethink what the red and gold’s top needs will be when the 2023 draft kicks off later this month.

Let’s explore the five biggest priorities the 49ers must address with their 11 picks.

49ers NFL Draft priority No. 5: Interior offensive line

The Niners’ retainment of center Jake Brendel was massive, but he’s a stopgap option anyway. It appears as if third-year pro Aaron Banks has locked down the left guard position, but second-year pro Spencer Burford may have right guard all to himself with the versatile Daniel Brunskill departing via NFL free agency for the Tennessee Titans.

Speaking of versatility, San Francisco onboarded former New York Giants interior lineman Jon Feliciano, who could occupy a Brunskill-like role.

Still, it’d be wise to find both depth and long-term starting options for the interior.

49ers NFL Draft priority No. 4: Tight end

In most years, going after a tight end in the NFL Draft would be a lesser priority for the 49ers.

However, the 2023 class is awfully deep at this position, and head coach Kyle Shanahan has unsuccessfully looked for a quality No. 2 option to pair with the All-Pro, George Kittle.

Speaking of Kittle, his notable injury history mandates a move by the Niners here.

Unless they’re comfortable with Ross Dwelley or Charlie Woerner as fallback options.

49ers NFL Draft priority No. 3: Edge rusher

Bosa led the NFL with 19.5 sacks last season. No other player on San Francisco’s roster had more than five.

After losing defensive ends Charles Omenihu and Samson Ebukam in NFL free agency, the 49ers either have to hope second-year pro Drake Jackson makes a massive leap from an up-and-down rookie campaign, or they can hope for castoff players like Austin Bryant or Clelin Ferrell to turn their floundering careers around with the Niners.

There aren’t too many good-quality edge rushers who’d likely be available to San Francisco late on day two or early on day three of the draft, though.

49ers NFL Draft priority No. 2: Cornerback

Charvarius Ward enters his second season with the 49ers as their No. 1 cornerback, and the free-agent pickup of former Atlanta Falcons defensive back Isaiah Oliver helps alleviate needs at nickel cornerback, too.

That said, there’s a void at the No. 2 boundary spot behind Ward.

The Niners had Emmanuel Moseley in this role a year ago prior to him suffering a torn ACL in Week 5, which led to fellow corner Deommodore Lenoir assuming the job and (mostly) handling it well.

Read More: 2023 mock NFL Draft roundup: Who Niners take in Round 3

Lenoir might not be a top-quality starting option, though, so tapping into what’s shaping up to be a good cornerback class would be a wise move for San Francisco.

49ers NFL Draft priority No. 1: Right tackle

Mike McGlinchey is off to the Denver Broncos, leaving a gaping hole at right tackle that only seems to be filled by the 49ers’ fourth-year backup, Colton McKivitz.

Perhaps that approach works, as the Niners have had success promoting from within when it comes to O-linemen.

But, particularly in pass protection, McKivitz could easily be the liability when tasked with facing off against opponents’ best pass-rushers.

The 2023 draft isn’t exactly loaded with tackles, but there should be a few likable options available in the middle rounds. Plus, with no clear candidate to either back up or compete with McKivitz, having another body on the roster should be high atop San Francisco’s wish list.

The 2023 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 27.

Next. 2023 mock NFL Draft after free agency fallout. dark