2024 mock NFL Draft: 49ers trade up for plug-and-play starter

The 49ers don't need any starters via the 2024 NFL Draft, but they could certainly use some plug-and-play upgrades.

That's what the Niners seek in our latest seven-round mock.

Alabama offensive tackle J.C. Latham (65)
Alabama offensive tackle J.C. Latham (65) / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

In Niner Noise's latest mock NFL Draft, the 49ers trade up from No. 31 overall to find an immediate-impact player in Round 1.

There are plenty of arguments for (and against) the San Francisco 49ers trading up from No. 31 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Those in favor would suggest the Niners don't have too many openings on their 53-man regular-season roster this season, being a Super Bowl contender and all, meaning there aren't spots for all 10 projected prospects who'll be picked later this April. One very good prospect could be all that's needed to get San Francisco over the hump in securing a sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Those against may suggest the 49ers need to address both depth and long-term replacements, seeing there are likely to be some significant roster changes over the next few years.

Currently, the Niners hold the 31st overall pick in this year's draft, the first of those 10 selections general manager John Lynch has at his disposal.

While it's entirely possible Lynch stays put, it's feasible he trades up.

So, seeing that mock drafts are all about exploring possibilities, let's mock out all seven rounds for San Francisco, starting off with a Round 1 trade-up to land a plug-and-play starter.

Note: Niner Noise used Pro Football Focus' mock draft simulator for this projection

49ers kick off 2024 NFL Draft with a trade

Arguably the 49ers' biggest need is their offensive line, specifically the right side. While this year's draft is chock full of prospects who could potentially be long-term starters, there aren't as many who should be viewed as plug-and-play options.

In short, most need to be groomed for at least a season.

That's why it makes some sense for the Niners to move up from No. 31 overall in a mocked deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who hold the No. 20 overall pick:

49ers-Steelers trade

Per the simulator, Pittsburgh accepts this trade, which includes San Francisco's first-, third- and a fourth-round compensatory selection to move up 11 spots.

The 49ers are now officially on the clock.

49ers mock 2024 NFL Draft after trade-up with Steelers

Offensive Tackle. J.C. Latham. JC Latham. . player. J.C. Latham. 20. . Scouting Report. 829

Right tackle J.C. Latham is arguably the last of the plug-and-play starting options at his position in Round 1, and his greatest strengths are precisely what the Niners need.

A mauler in the run game, Latham also uses his great 6-foot-6 frame to negate pass-rushers. He'd be an immediate upgrade over the incumbent right tackle, Colton McKivitz.

Considering so much of San Francisco's offensive woes last season stemmed from a weak right side of the O-line, getting a long-term starter to protect quarterback Brock Purdy's front side would be a wise investment that should pay off for years.

https://www.nfl.com/prospects/khyree-jackson/32004a41-4331-4848-dc4f-18631782e5ff. . Scouting Report. Khyree Jackson. 63. 515. Cornerback. player. Khyree Jackson. Khyree Jackson

Perhaps the second biggest need for the 49ers is a cornerback, particularly with Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir and Isaac Yiadom all pegged for free agency in 2025.

Oregon's Khyree Jackson is enticing. At 6-foot-4 and 194 pounds, he has ideal size for the boundary and good speed to mesh with a zone-style coverage system.

Jackson might not be the most experienced cornerback available on day two of the draft, but the Niners can afford to take their time with his development, hoping he turns into an eventual long-term starter after likely losing at least two of the aforementioned three pending free agents.

Scouting Report. 124. . . player. 843. Cole Bishop. Safety. Cole Bishop. Cole Bishop

With the pick San Francisco acquired from the Dallas Cowboys in last year's trade of quarterback Trey Lance, Lynch addresses another need for the secondary by grabbing Utah safety Cole Bishop.

Bishop, 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds, loves to be around the ball and is ideally built for zone coverage. A bit overaggressive at times, he's nevertheless a sure tackler and capable of making the big play.

Long term, the 49ers may seek to move on from All-Pro strong safety Talanoa Hufanga, who is coming off a torn ACL suffered last year and is a free agent in 2025.

Chau Smith-Wade. Chau Smith-Wade. . player. Scouting Report. . Cornerback. Chau Smith-Wade. 135. 522

In addition to landing a boundary corner, the Niners would be smart to look for a nickel cornerback to potentially replace Lenoir.

At 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, Washington State's Chau Smith-Wade has the prototypical build and hails from the pass-happy Pac-12 conference.

Drawing comparisons to NFL cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., Smith-Wade also wouldn't have to be pressed into service right away but could be the eventual long-term solution to cover the slot.

Tight End. Jaheim Bell. Jaheim Bell. Scouting Report. . . Jaheim Bell. 176. player. 435

Another year, another attempt to find a suitable backup (and potentially a long-term replacement) for All-Pro tight end George Kittle.

San Francisco inked veteran backup Eric Saubert already, but the depth behind him is less than impressive with unproven second-year pros, Cameron Latu and Brayden Willis.

Florida State's Jaheim Bell is fairly inconsistent as a blocker, but he's a good route-runner who can generate yards after the catch. Right away, he could compete with both Latu and Willis, potentially pushing at least one of them off the 49ers' regular-season roster.

211. Scouting Report. Center. . player. Tanor Bortolini. Tanor Bortolini. 493. Tanor Bortolini.

Wisconsin center Tanor Bortolini is someone who's popped up on Niner Noise mock drafts and sleeper lists already.

A potential day-three draft gem, Bortolini could serve as an immediate interior reserve for San Francisco's O-line while being groomed into a long-term replacement (and potential upgrade) over the incumbent starter at center, Jake Brendel.

Scouting Report. David White Jr.. player. David White Jr.. . David White Jr.. 215. Wide Receiver. 2472.

The 49ers have No. 3 wide receiver Jauan Jennings back on a one-year restricted free-agent tender, but it might be tough for the Niners to keep him if he opts for a substantial deal on the open market in 2025.

Small-school prospect David White Jr. is a plausible replacement late on day three of the draft, boasting a solid 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame that could help replace Jennings' run-blocking abilities on the perimeter.

Running Back. . 251. Jaden Shirden. Jaden Shirden. 2402. Jaden Shirden. Scouting Report. . player

San Francisco could afford to infuse some depth behind All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, especially with No. 2 tailback Elijah Mitchell boasting a notable injury history.

Another small-school prospect, running back Jaden Shirden had great production at the collegiate level and is a strong outside-zone kind of rusher who makes up for his relative lack of size (5-foot-8 and 187 pounds) with a quick first step and an ability to be a pass-catching safety valve out of the backfield.

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