Teams that pick in the top five and do not have a ton of needs are rare, and the 49ers are not one of them. San Francisco is in need of a complete rebuild and the process has already started with the hiring of new general manager John Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan. While the rebuilding will likely last years, the first draft for the duo will be crucial to see if they can start the new tenure on the right note and select players that can contribute early and become a cornerstone of what they are trying to build in Santa Clara.
It’s debatable whether a rebuild should start with the acquisition of a new quarterback or whether that can wait; however, the 49ers certainly have a need at the position. Even though they signed quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer during free agency, neither can be viewed as a long-term option for San Francisco, but rather as a stopgap until the 49ers and Shanahan find their signal caller of the future. The fact that there is no quarterback in this year’s draft that has franchise quarterback written all over him may force San Francisco to wait a year or two with acquiring a passer.
Early-round target: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
PFPF’ top-ranked quarterback, Trubisky burst onto the scene in 2016 and finished as one of the highest-graded signal callers in the nation. Trubisky demonstrated excellent anticipation skills under pressure and good short-area accuracy in his one year as a starter at North Carolina. While most view it as a negative that Trubisky started only one season at the collegiate level, it could also mean that he would be more moldable for an offensive-minded coach like Shanahan.
Mid- or late-round target: Zach Terrell, QB, Western Michigan
Even though Terrell had a lot of success at the collegiate level, he has been flying under the radar this draft season due to the fact that he played for a small school and had an excellent supporting cast around him. However, Terrell led the nation with an adjusted completion percentage of 81.0 percent in 2016 and was ranked fourth with 9.37 passing yards per attempt. While Terrell’s technique may be raw, he has shown in the past what he is capable of in a good system with a strong offensive line and an elite wide receiver. While the 49ers only have the first one of these, it could be worthwhile to see what Shanahan could develop the former Western Michigan quarterback into.
Need: Offensive line
Even though the 49ers selected former Stanford guard Joshua Garnett in last year’s draft, San Francisco still lacks the quality and depth when it comes to unit and the fact that Garnett had a lackluster rookie season does not help either. The only reliable members of the offensive line are veteran left tackle Joe Staley and free-agent acquisition Jeremy Zuttah, who both had above-average 2016 seasons and who can be considered the main strengths of the unit in 2017.
Early-round target: Forrest Lamp, G/OT, Western Kentucky
Lamp has been getting more and more recognition over the past months and now it is becoming unlikely that he will actually be there when the 49ers select early in the second round. Lamp, who many project to move inside and play guard in the NFL, can even play right tackle for the 49ers and he has proven to be equally solid both in pass protection and run-blocking. In fact, Lamp finished the 2016 season with the third-best pass-blocking efficiency among tackles as he allowed only five total pressures – without any sacks – on 404 pass-blocking snaps.
Mid- or late-round target: Josh Boutte, G, LSU
Unlike Lamp, former LSU offensive lineman Boutte played guard in college too, although he started only in his last season at LSU. Boutte wasn’t extraordinary in pass protection as he allowed 8 total pressures – including a sack – on 291 pass-blocking snaps. However, his familiarity with zone schemes makes him a good fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense, especially since Boutte was one of the best run-blocking guards in the nation when he played in LSU’s zone-heavy running offense.
Just like on offense, the 49ers have quite a few needs on the defensive side of the ball too; however, most positions are filled with young players who should get an opportunity to prove what they are capable of. The position where it could be the easiest to integrate rookie players without cutting into the playing time of other relatively young players is cornerback.
Early-round target: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Lattimore is PFF’s top-ranked cornerback and is the consensus top player at the position in this year’s draft. As a result, he could start from Day 1 and make an immediate impact in San Francisco’s defense. In addition, Lattimore is also one of the most aggressive and physical cornerbacks in this year’s class who does not lack ball skills either. The former Ohio State player got his hands on 11 of the 50 passes going his way as he recorded four interceptions and broke up seven passes while allowing a passer rating of 30.2 in the process.
Mid- or late-round target: Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota
While Minnesota’s Myrick may get lost in this year’s deep cornerback class, he is one player that can intrigue NFL teams due to his “upside” and physical tools. Myrick’s 4.28 40-time raised eyebrows and certainly made teams and analysts take note of him. In addition, Myrick is not a bum in coverage either as he has allowed a completion percentage of just 47.7 percent over the last three seasons and recorded 5 interceptions and broke up 21 passes on 151 targets. As a result, the former Minnesota defender allowed a passer rating of just 64.6 in coverage over the past three years.