General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan are no longer rookies. They’re entering their second offseason since being tasked with rebuilding the 49ers starting last winter. The pair orchestrated a mostly successful debut, with solid additions in free agency, the NFL draft and finishing the season with five straight wins after a blockbuster trade for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

San Francisco now enters another critical period. Expectations are already sky high with Garoppolo at the helm, but with a top-10 pick and nearly $115 million in projected salary cap space, the pressure is on for Lynch and Shanahan to make a splash in March’s free agency and April’s draft.

The 49ers will flip a coin with the Raiders at the NFL combine next month to determine who picks ninth and 10th. Both teams finished the season with identical records and strength of schedule.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper released his first mock draft of the year with the 49ers picking ninth and selecting Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. His take:

The 49ers have a really solid young core on defense, but most of their top picks were spent on the front seven. They really need a top-tier cornerback. Ward is the top corner in this class — if you consider Fitzpatrick to be a safety — though I don’t have as high a grade on him as I did for his former teammate Marshon Lattimore, who went No. 11 last year and had a great rookie season in New Orleans. Ward flashed in 2016 and had a tremendous junior season.

The 49ers passed on Lattimore last year after concerns over lingering hamstring injuries. He ended up in New Orleans and is now a favorite for defensive rookie of the year. Ward might be an equally promising prospect after racking up 37 tackles and two interceptions as a junior at Ohio State.

Ward (5-11, 190) has average size for a cornerback but would be considered undersized in a 49ers scheme that favors corners capable of jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and dropping into zone coverage. Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller published a two-round mock draft this week and also had the 49ers selecting Ward in the first round. His thoughts on Ward suggest he has the athleticism to overcome his lack of size:

He’s insanely quick, aggressive and athletic. Playing at the line of scrimmage, he’s able to use his length and toughness well in press coverage. You can’t watch Ohio State film without marveling at his recovery speed and instincts.

The 49ers traded Rashard Robinson to the Jets before the trade deadline on Halloween. Fellow starter Dontae Johnson struggled and was benched twice during games late in the season. Third-round rookie Ahkello Witherspoon and nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams both played well in 2017. Adding Ward would give the 49ers a solid trio of corners to compliment the first-round investments made in the front seven over the three previous drafts.

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