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SANTA CLARA, California – Aside from a trade, the San Francisco 49ers will not make a first-round pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night (20.00 ET; ABC, ESPN, ESPN app) for the first time since 1996.
Unlike last year, when they traded up to overall No. 3 to select quarterback Trey Lance, the Niners have been happy to stay under the radar. But just because San Francisco does not have a first-round pick does not mean there are no opportunities to improve the range in this draft, and the Deebo Samuel trade request has also caused a lot of drama in 49ers country.
The 49ers are entering the three-day event with nine selections, including three on Friday. And while there is at least one obvious scenario where the Niners could end up getting involved in Thursday’s festivities, they seem completely happy with where most of their choices are currently failing.
“We do not have a first-round pick – we are not used to that – but I think when people ask me for the signature on this draft, it’s the depth of it, so it’s a good year,” 49ers general. said manager John Lynch.
The Deebo situation
As the draft approaches, nothing that the 49ers can do will overshadow the question of what happens to the recipient who has requested a trade. The Niners are not particularly interested in meeting that request. Could that change? Of course, but only if they get an offer that is too good to turn down.
The first night of the draft is a logical benchmark to work from, as any trade involving Samuel will almost certainly include at least one first-round pick. Again, the Niners’ clear preference is to keep Samuel.
“He’s one of the best offensive weapons in the NFL,” said ESPN senior NFL draft analyst Todd McShay. “He’s the 49ers franchise.”
If the Niners were to swallow hard and prey on Samuel, they would have to quickly shift their attention to the best prospects. That does not mean they have to draft a receiver – Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and USC’s Drake London are considered the best in class – but someone like Arkansas’ Treylon Burks could be an exciting option later in the first round.
Other mid-to-late first-round options on other needs are Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, Boston College guard Zion Johnson, Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., Georgia safety Lewis Cine and Minnesota pass-rusher Boye Mafe.
names to know
The 49ers’ offseason went about as they expected. They lost guard Laken Tomlinson and defensive tackle DJ Jones while making a splash at cornerback with Charvarius Ward. The Niners lost some depth elsewhere and made a concerted effort to strengthen their special team.
They go into this draft with need, but no one who is so overwhelming must work out these positions. They have little room when it comes to their earliest picks (Nos. 61, 93 and 105 overall) and the best available players. The priorities – if need and value match – should be the inside of the offensive line, edge rusher, nickel cornerback, safety and receiver.
“The great thing about the 49ers is that all of their weak points on the depth chart align well with the strengths of this year’s draft class,” said Jordan Reid, an analyst for the ESPN NFL Draft.
On the offensive line, Tomlinson’s departure, the flimsy status of center Alex Mack (who could retire) and the upcoming free agent of guard Daniel Brunskill leave questions on all three inside spots. Aaron Banks, a second-round pick in 2021, is a rational, if not proven, replacement for Tomlinson, while Brunskill can return on the right guard or move to the center if Mack decides to walk away. Previous fifth-round picks, Jaylon Moore and Colton McKivitz, could also be in the mix. Either way, the Niners need more competition and have the right tackle, Mike McGlinchey, entering the final year of his rookie deal.
Reid believes the interior of the offensive line has “some bright spots early on, and it continues into day 2.” Among the centers that Reid believes fit the Niners are Nebraska’s Cam Jurgens and Memphis’ Dylan Parham, both of whom are expected to go on Day 2. A later option could be Arizona State’s Dohnovan West. By the guard, UCLA’s Sean Rhyan and Wake Forests’ Zach Tom are among the possible fits.
If the Niners continue their method of loading defensive line, they could dive into an edge rusher class, which Reid said is “by far the strongest position group this year.” San Francisco has plenty of depth, but a long-term addition to Nick Bosa would be appealing. Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto, Western Kentucky’s DeAngelo Malone and Cincinnati’s Myjai Sanders are among the day 2 options.
Others who could be a match, according to Reid: Baylor defensive back Jalen Pitre (second round), Houston cornerback Marcus Jones (fourth round), Maryland safety Nick Cross (second or third round), Illinois safety Kerby Joseph (third or fourth round)), Coastal Carolina tight end Isaiah Likely (third or fourth round) and San Diego State tight end Daniel Bellinger (fourth or fifth round). Other exciting players that the 49ers have shown interest in before the draft are Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker, SMU receiver Danny Gray, Tennessee wideout Velus Jones and Alabama running back Brian Robinson.
Almost every year, a player expected to go early in the draft falls on the second day (or later). This year, a player who could fit that bill, without his own fault, is Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo. Reid expected Ojabo to be a top-15 pick before incurring a torn Achilles during his pro day in March.
Last year, San Francisco placed emphasis on durability in the draft, so this would be a big turn against it. But it’s fair to wonder if Ojabo’s upward and light fit, as the weak end opposite Bosa, might be too enticing for the Niners if he were to slip.
“I still expect him to be a top-50 pick,” Reid said. “Because of the position he plays, I still expect him to be a hot item on Day 2 of the draft.”