The 49ers didn’t draft a pure pass rusher until the sixth round when they selected Utah’s Pita Taumoepenu with the 202nd overall pick.
But they were eying edge rushers — players who could line up at their so-called “Leo” position — throughout the draft, according to MMQB’s Peter King, who spent the draft with the team.
That began with Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, whom the 49ers would have taken with the No. 2 overall pick if the Browns hadn’t selected him at No. 1.
Before the draft began, the 49ers also considered the possibility of either trading down into the middle of the first round or trading back into the last third of the first round, and they discussed Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt, Missouri’s Charles Harris and UCLA’s Takk McKinley as options. Those three players were selected from pick No. 22 to pick No. 30.
Kyle Shanahan also liked Ohio’s Tarell Basham, who was a consideration in the third round. San Francisco, however, liked Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon more and took him at pick No. 66. Basham went to the Colts at pick No. 80.
Stanford’s Solomon Thomas, whom the 49ers took with the No. 3 pick, initially will line up at left defensive end. That position also rushes the passer, though it is not the marquee pass-rushing spot the “Leo” or right defensive end is designed to be.
According to King’s report, the 49ers also discussed cornerbacks Kevin King from Washington and West Virginia’s Rasul Douglas, who went in the second and third rounds respectively.
Others they would have considered in the middle of the first round: Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (he went eighth overall to Carolina), Washington receiver John Ross (ninth, Cincinnati) and perhaps Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers (25th, Cleveland).