Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch last spring used free agency to address their most pressing needs to allow the 49ers flexibility in the NFL draft.

They needed receivers, so they signed veterans Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson. They filled a void at linebacker with Malcolm Smith, added a Pro-Bowler at fullback in Kyle Juszczyk and found their bridge quarterback in Brian Hoyer, which allowed them to pass on quarterbacks in Round 1 making the Jimmy Garoppolo trade possible in October.

So while it’s apparent the team has clear needs at cornerback, pass rusher and along the offensive line at the start of the offseason, those needs could change drastically when free agency kicks off next month when Lynch and Shanahan can start leveraging their $110 million in cap space. Players like Ezekiel Ansah, Rashaan Melvin, Malcolm Butler and/or Andrew Norwell could alter the team’s strategy in the draft.

Those free-agent puzzle pieces aren’t in place yet, making it easy to tap a pass rusher or cornerback to the 49ers with their first pick in mock drafts.

That’s what ESPN’s Todd McShay did in his latest mock this week, pegging Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward to San Francisco with pick No. 9. His take:

Well, things have changed a bit for the 49ers, haven’t they? With Jimmy Garoppolo looking like a franchise QB, all of a sudden it’s no longer a position of need for San Francisco. Instead, the 49ers can look to the defensive side of the ball and grab the best man-to-man cover corner in this draft. Ward lacks ideal starting experience at Ohio State but was exceptional this season and rose quickly up my board.

The 49ers and Raiders will have a coin flip to determine who picks ninth and 10th at the scouting combine later this month.

Ward makes plenty of sense given the 49ers have an obvious void at cornerback with starter Dontae Johnson coming off an uninspiring season and poised for free agency. Ward will test off the charts at the combine and overcomes his lack of height (5-foot-10) with good length and closing speed needed to excel in the zone coverages San Francisco utilizes.

McShay projects ascending prospect Tremaine Edmunds — a linebacker from Virginia Tech — to the Raiders at pick No. 10, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson to the Dolphins at 11, Texas tackle Connor Williams to the Bengals at 12 and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith to Washington at 13. Good cases could be made that those prospects would fit the 49ers, as well.

Last offseason’s approach led to Shanahan and Lynch having a good mix of veterans and young players to begin developing the team in their vision. They ended up finding at least six starters in their first draft class, which they hope to replicate with their second batch of rookies this spring.

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