Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential draft-day solutions.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
No. 1 Team Need: Cornerback
The 49ers lost Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver in free agency. They will count on improvement from second-year slot CB Jimmie Ward, and Tramaine Brock returning healthy on the perimeter. The other job is up for grabs between Chargers castoff Shareece Wright and 2014 fourth-round pick Dontae Johnson. Wright was one of the league's worst corners in San Diego, while Johnson was abused when forced to play significant snaps late in his rookie year. GM Trent Baalke prefers his cornerbacks to have plus size and long arms with the ability to play man coverage.
No. 2 Team Need: Inside linebacker
Patrick Willis and Chris Borland's surprise offseason retirements turned inside linebacker from a strength into a weakness. Navorro Bowman is expected to return healthy, but didn't play a snap last season due to a severe knee injury, and it's unclear if he'll be the same player he was before. Fellow projected starter Michael Wilhoite is a liability against the run. Although Vic Fangio is gone, the 49ers will keep the defensive scheme mostly intact under new DC Eric Mangini. In addition to plugging the run, 49ers inside linebackers have to be able to run and cover.
No. 3 Team Need: Defensive line
Wide receiver is another position the 49ers might attack early in the draft, while tight end and running back could afford upgrades. With "Cowboy" Justin Smith pondering retirement, however, defensive line stands out as a bigger need. Penciled-in starter Darnell Dockett didn't play football in 2014 due to a severe knee injury and turns 34 in May. Tank Carradine was a promising prospect coming out of Florida State two years ago, but couldn't beat out Tony Jerod-Eddie for snaps last season. Two-down nose tackle Ian Williams has been plagued by ankle injuries. The Niners need a big five-technique defensive end capable of tying up blockers so talented OLBs Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch can wreak havoc.
Norris’ Mock Draft:
Round 1 (15): DL Arik Armstead, Oregon - This is the latest I could see Armstead stay on the board. The player everyone expected to retire, Justin Smith, has not (yet). Sometimes these things happen after the draft or during training camp. Armstead has the level of ability to be a gamechanger along the defensive line by occupying multiple blockers or getting upfield with athleticism.
Round 2 (46): LB Benardrick McKinney, Miss State - Perhaps this is optimism, but an old school linebacker like McKinney could stay on the board longer than others. For his weight, McKinney tested like a good athlete. He lacked the ability to recover in games (e.g. Auburn), but few coaches are better at highlighting those deficiencies than Gus Malzahn.
Round 3 (79): CB Josh Shaw, USC - Some teams could view Shaw as a free safety, but he fits what the 49ers look for at CB (at least I think so). Shaw will press at the line of scrimmage and use frame/length to slow and stick with receivers along the sideline. He is an outstanding athlete in terms of straight line speed and jumps.
Round 4 (126): WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor - Goodley’s name has been lost in the shuffle. At one point I felt I was more critical of Goodley's game than most; now I’m sticking up for him. His catch technique is not consistent and leads to drops, but Goodley is like a running back with the ball in his hands.
Round 4 (132): WR DeVante Davis, UNLV - Many on the outside love Davis due to size, contested catch ability and production. I see him more as a day three selection and bet the NFL does as well. The 49ers do need someone who is reliable at the catch point outside of Anquan Boldin.
Round 5 (151): TE Blake Bell, Oklahoma - This year’s “redshirt” 49ers pick. Bell likely isn’t ready to contribute during his rookie season after converting from quarterback to tight end. Vance McDonald has not progressed (imagine that) and Vernon Davis is in the final year of his deal. Writing this I realize tight end could be an earlier selection.
Round 6 (190): RB Trey Williams, Texas A&M - Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter are both on one-year deals, so why not groom a “space” back who could help in the receiving game down the road? Williams has a nice jump cut and makes people miss in the open field. He is a role player, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Round 7 (246): OL Terry Poole, San Diego State - The Texans, Cardinals, Seahawks and Eagles have shown interest in Poole. Teams likely view him as swing tackle depth.
Round 7 (254): NT David Parry, Stanford - Prospects like Perry just aren’t coveted anymore, but he knows where he wins and can help a team as a run stuffing defensive tackle for 10 to 20 plays per game.
49ers Current First-Team Offense
QB: Colin Kaepernick
RB: Carlos Hyde
FB: Bruce Miller
WR: Anquan Boldin
WR: Torrey Smith
TE: Vernon Davis
LT: Joe Staley
LG: Brandon Thomas
RG: Alex Boone
RT: Anthony Davis
49ers Current First-Team Defense
LE: Tank Carradine
RE: Darnell Dockett
NT: Ian Williams
OLB: Aldon Smith
OLB: Ahmad Brooks
ILB: Navorro Bowman
ILB: Michael Wilhoite
CB: Tramaine Brock
CB: Shareece Wright
FS: Eric Reid
SS: Antoine Bethea