With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. Next up is the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers have made it to the NFC Championship game in each of the last three seasons but haven’t been able to get over the hump to win their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history. San Francisco enters the draft with 11 selections to utilize to fill in some holes in their depth and prepare for the future.
Cornerback: Behind Tramaine Brock, the 49ers have four cornerbacks that are scheduled to be free agents after next season. Even if Chris Cook, Eric Wright or another option steps up to earn the starting job opposite Brock, it’s likely just a short-term solution. Add in Chris Culliver’s arrest for hit-and-run that could affect his availability and it’s clear the 49ers need to add to the position.
San Francisco’s starting secondary for Super Bowl XLVII consisted of Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. All four players have moved on and the 49ers have to make sure to upgrade their talent in the back-end of their defense.
Wide Receiver: The 49ers ranked 30th in the league last season in passing as injuries to Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham significantly stunted the offense. While Crabtree is back to full health, the receiving options for Colin Kaepernick are still limited behind Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. Behind Crabtree, Boldin and Brandon Lloyd, no other receiver on the roster has had more than 21 catches in a season in their career. With Crabtree, Lloyd, Jon Baldwin and Kasim Osgood all set to be free agents after this season, the 49ers are in serious need of long-term solutions at the position.
Center: Jonathan Goodwin started every game of the last three seasons at center for the 49ers. With Goodwin no longer on the roster, San Francisco has to find a replacement. Daniel Kilgore was given a contract extension this offseason and is likely first in line at the job. But guards Mike Iupati and Adam Snyder are set to be free agents after next season as well. With Kilgore’s ability to also play guard, the 49ers could add competition at center and provide depth at guard should Iupati and Snyder depart next offseason.
Linebacker: With Aldon Smith continuing to have off-field problems and NaVorro Bowman coming off an ACL tear, the 49ers likely will have to add depth at linebacker in the draft. While San Francisco elected to pick up Smith’s 2015 option, it’s currently guaranteed for injury only and the team could still elect to move on should he have continued offseason issues.
An insurance policy at inside linebacker could also be an option in order to hold the 49ers over until Bowman can get back onto the field.
Quarterback: Neither of the 49ers top two quarterbacks are under contract beyond next season. While Colin Kaepernick certainly appears to be the 49ers’ signal caller for the foreseeable future, he is seeking a massive contract extension. In addition, backup Blaine Gabbert has struggled in three seasons in the league with Jacksonville before being traded to the 49ers this offseason.
The 49ers should look to secure a more long-term backup option behind Kaepernick and have a potential fall back option should negotiations with Kaepernick prove problematic.