Followed by an edge rusher
We’re a few days away from the NFL Draft. This is one of the most exciting weekends the league presents. Despite what we think, teams draft for need. Nobody trades up for the “best player available.”
In the San Francisco 49ers case, they’ve set themselves up to select the best player available with each pick after No. 3. I side with the group that believes they should draft a pass rusher in the second round.
With that said, some of the cornerback talent in the top of the draft could get pushed down. If that’s the case, and one of the impact corners fall, I’d be all for the Niners not only drafting a cornerback with their second overall pick but moving up to select one.
Football Outsiders went through each team to determine their biggest need, a quiet need, and one position that’s not a need. For the 49ers, secondary was at the top of the list:
Biggest need: Secondary
49ers general manager John Lynch seems to have deliberately assembled a defensive backfield of talented but fragile players. It seems that every prominent member of the San Francisco secondary has a troubling history of injuries. Top cornerback Jason Verrett missed three games last year after hitting the field only six times from 2016 to 2019. K’Waun Williams missed eight games last year, and Emmanuel Moseley missed four; neither has ever started more than 11 games in a season.
At safety, Jimmie Ward has missed five games the past two years and 21 games in the three years before that, while Jaquiski Tartt missed nine games last year, 28 games in the past four. Most of the top depth players — Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Dontae Johnson, Tavon Wilson — are journeymen who have struggled to stick with the same team, let alone get on the field. It would be nice to have one defensive back who could be counted on to survive through 17 games.
Prospects who might fit: Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky; Eric Stokes, Georgia
San Francisco did an excellent job this offseason of bringing back talent and adding depth, but it’s time to invest early in a defensive back. Most of the re-signed players are on a one-year contract.
Part of the reason I’d be tempted to trade Jimmy Garoppolo is that I’d use that Day 2 pick you receive back and flip that into a cornerback. A “galaxy brain” idea would be to package picks and move back into the first round. That would require moving on from Jimmy on Thursday, and there are a lot of moving parts for that to happen.
As far as the prospects fit, Joseph would be a great addition to the Niners secondary. He’s fast, aggressive, a willing tackler, and plays with the type of confidence you love to see at the position. Stokes can run, but he’s a bit stiff, and his technique leaves a lot to be desired.
The 49ers’ “quiet” need was an edge rusher, per Football Outsiders. Their prospect fits were Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Pittsburgh’s Rashad Weaver. I’d much rather prefer Paye in the second round as opposed to where he was initially projected, which was in the early teens of the draft. I’d take Jaelan Phillps and Joe Tryon over Paye and do so comfortably.
Paye is the type of athlete you want Kris Kocurek to get his hands on, though. As for Weaver, his playstyle is the spitting image of Arik Armstead’s, so it’s easy to see why San Francisco would select him.
The “not a need” section for the 49ers was a running back. You won’t get much of an argument from me, considering the positional value. The 49ers’ top two runners were undrafted free agents. If there was a player who I thought could help, like UNC’s Michael Carter, then I’d pull the trigger.
A running back who is familiar with pass protection and understands the nuances of the position could go a long way in helping your rookie quarterback. The Niners need a third-down back.
The pushback I’d give would be they also need a runner they can rely on, which is why if Alabama’s Najee Harris was sitting there and I had an extra Day 2 pick after the trade…