San Francisco 49ers draft picks are going to be very important this coming April with the team facing the real possibility of losing several key contributors in free agency.
Outside of a potential trade up for a quarterback to replace Jimmy Garoppolo, there’s needs all over the field for a team that’s one year removed from a shocking Super Bowl appearance.
On offense, San Francisco needs to find more talent along the interior of its offensive line. Defensively, the edge rush spot and cornerback are obvious needs.
Below, we look at what the 49ers should do in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
San Francisco 49ers draft picks: Best prospects to target in first three rounds
First round, 12th pick: Patrick Surtain Jr. (CB, Alabama), Christian Darrisaw (OT, Virginia Tech), Gregory Rousseau (EDGE, Miami), Samuel Cosmi (OL, Texas) \
Top 49ers cornerbacks Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon are all slated to become free agents in March. Sherman already noted that it’s unlikely he’ll return. Witherspoon fell out of favor last season and could follow Robert Saleh to the Jets. The moral of the story? Cornerback is a major need.
That’s where the 6-foot-1 Surtain comes into play. He’d be a perfect fit in new defensive coordinator’s DeMeco Ryans system. The former Alabama standout is seen as a true shutdown corner and Day 1 starter after dominating for the national champion Crimson Tide in 2020.
If the 49ers were to look at another position, the trenches make a ton of sense. Injury-plagued EDGE rusher Dee Ford is unlikely to be back next season. Reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa missed a majority of last season with a torn ACL. Rousseau could come in and be a Day 1 starter opposite Bosa after opting out of the 2020 season. The 265-pound defensive end recorded 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks for Miami in 2019.
Another option could be offensive line. Darrisaw translates into a franchise-level left tackle. That could loom large on the off-chance Trent Williams leaves in free agency. Even if he returns (a likelihood), the 49ers need an upgrade over Mike McGlinchey at right tackle. He could then move inside to guard. As for Cosmi, he translates into a plug-and-play guard who could move outside with some experience.
Second round, 43rd pick: Creed Humphrey (OL, Oklahoma), Asante Samuel Jr. (CB, Florida State), Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson), Amari Rodgers (WR, Clemson)
While Laken Tomlinson has performed well at left guard, the 49ers are in need of more help along the interior of the offensive line. Humphrey primarily played center with the Sooners, but translates better as a Day 1 left guard — opening up the possibility that Tomlinson moves to the right side.
As for the two Clemson skill-position players, each one would be a tremendous fit in Kyle Shanahan’s system. Etienne dominated with the Tigers over the course of his four-year career, recording 6,107 total yards at a clip of 7.8 yards per touch while grabbing 102 passes. That dual-threat ability has to be appealing to San Francisco, especially given the fact that both Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon are unlikely to be back next season.
Rodgers is also an interesting option in that San Francisco needs to find an upgrade in the slot. The team has two tremendous young receivers in that of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk set to shine moving forward. Adding the 5-foot-10 Rodgers to the mix would make this receiver group elite.
Third round, 96th pick: Jabril Cox (LB-S, LSU), Jordan Smith (EDGE, Alabama-Birmingham), Dyami Brown (WR, North Carolina)
First off, San Francisco already boasts one of the best young linebacker tandems in the NFL in that of All-Pro performer Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. Selecting Cox in Round 3 wouldn’t be for him to play linebacker. Rather, the versatile defender translates better being a strong safety in the NFL. For San Francisco, that’s no small thing with Jaquiski Tartt slated to hit free agency.
If the 49ers were to pass up on wide receiver or the edge position with their first-two picks, nabbing either Smith or Brown on Day 3 makes sense. The 255-pound Smith registered 23.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in two collegiate seasons. Meanwhile, Brown is a lesser version of Rodgers. The 6-foot-1 pass catcher tallied 55 receptions for a whopping 1,099 yards for North Carolina last season.
Ideal San Francisco 49ers mock draft
- First round: Patrick Surtain Jr, cornerback, Alabama
- Second round: Travis Etienne, running back, Clemson
- Third round: Jabril Cox, safety, LSU