The San Francisco 49ers added depth on Wednesday by signing veteran running back Wayne Gallman defensive end Arden Key, which should have a ripple effect on how the front office approaches the 2021 NFL Draft next week.
Both players have intriguing backstories as they gear up to play in the Bay Area.
Gallman backed up the likes of Saquon Barkley with the New York Giants, so his best football could be ahead in San Francisco’s tailback-friendly scheme.
Once upon a time, Key had 12 sacks at LSU as a sophomore. After a fall in the NFL Draft, and a shortage of opportunities and talent around him with the Las Vegas Raiders, maybe a change of scenery is what Key needs to unlock his potential.
San Francisco 49ers draft changes positional focus
Well, everyone knows this year’s 49ers draft class will start with and be defined by whichever quarterback general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan decide on with the No. 3 overall pick.
As for the rest of the draft, well, there are eight more selections at the 49ers’ disposal. They have a long wait between second- and third-round selections, with those picks being at 43rd and 102nd overall respectively.
Gallman provides a potential contender to start in the backfield or at least be a serviceable No. 2. Key is someone who could thrive as a situational pass-rusher if he’s given the chance to play with the talented Niners defensive line.
Before, you could argue someone from Gallman’s alma mater, Clemson running back Travis Etienne, could’ve been a second-round target for the 49ers. Maybe an edge defender who wasn’t expected to pop right away would’ve been the choice at No. 42 if not for Key signing.
Best 49ers draft targets for Day 2
It wouldn’t be a shock to see at least one more trade up from San Francisco brass. By filling out more of the roster with veteran depth via acquiring Gallman and Key, the 49ers can afford to be a little more aggressive outside of the first round.
Projecting such trades is a little pedantic, though, so let’s just focus on the players San Francisco could have on Day 2 based on who’s available in The Draft Network’s mock simulator, current needs, value and how prominently they can contribute.
Whether it’s Garoppolo or a rookie under center in 2021, Shanahan’s run-first system needs another athletic mover on the interior of the offensive line.
Rapid riser Quinn Meinerz of Wisconsin-Whitewater would make sense here, as would Illinois’ Kendrick Green, who should go higher than many big boards have him because of his size and movement skills. Green could even slide to the late third round, where the Niners could draft him at No. 102.
With that last Day 2 selection, San Francisco should really consider either a bigger, versatile defensive lineman, another chess piece to add to the secondary, or take a flier on another wide receiver.
If the 49ers want to be more patient with this pick, someone like Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo, who tore his Achilles in January, is an ideal redshirt year candidate who could wreak havoc in the defensive trenches alongside Nick Bosa and Javon Kinlaw in 2022, playing primarily on the outside and flexing inside on designated passing downs.
With uncertainty at the future of the safety position, TCU safety Ar’Darius Washington, whose all-around skill set brings to mind someone like Tyrann Mathieu, is a great value play if he’s still on the board, even if he lacks ideal size.
Finally, for sleeper, late Day 2 targets, Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette is a lean, mean, long speed separating machine. Smith-Marsette is a true deep threat who could be an absolute steal, per ESPN expert Louis Riddick, and would work well as a complement to the more thickly-built Niners incumbents in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.