With the draft just hours away, the NFL rumor mill is swirling and the San Francisco 49ers are at the center of it. With 13 selections and very few holes on the roster, the 49ers are in prime position to move up in the first round to get a player they covet. The team is in need of defensive line depth and a safety but general manager Trent Baalke has never been one to draft on “need” alone.
If they do trade up, the 49ers have been linked to Florida State defensive end Cornellius “Tank” Carradine and Missouri defensive end Sheldon Richardson. Both players would be good selections but both project to play on the outside in San Francisco’s base 3-4. The 49ers already have starters at that position in Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. While Carradine, Richardson or another end would pay dividends right away in terms of depth, would it make sense for the 49ers to move up that far to select a player who won’t even start for another year or two?
The draft is deep at the 49er’s “need” positions of defensive line and safety which could mean, if they do trade up, they have another type of player in mind all together. West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin could be a possibility and has the potential to make a DeSean Jackson type impact in the passing game while also handling punt return duties. They could go for Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert as well. The NFL is all about matchups and Eifert would give Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman another versatile tight end to move around in their offense and help in the red zone. Another option is Utah Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Lotulelei would project as a NT and give the 49ers an anchor in the middle of the defense for years to come. His selection would let the team use newly acquired Glenn Dorsey as more of a rotational back up rather than nose tackle, a position he has never played before. Even with safety being deep, they could have eyes for Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro is the top rated safety in the draft and is ready to step in and start right away. Free safety is the only position in which the 49ers don’t have an undisputed starter.
Whether they stand pat or trade up in tonight’s first round, you never know who’s name the tight lipped 49er’s are going hand in as their selection. We can speculate all we want but the only thing that’s for sure about the 49er’s draft plan is nothings for sure.