The 49ers will have to upgrade at two of the most valuable defensive positions if they want to improve against the pass in 2018: cornerback and pass rusher.

San Francisco in 2017 had the 21st ranked passing defense while sacking opposing quarterbacks on on 5.2 percent of drop backs, the seventh-worst rate in the NFL.

That’s why the 49ers are expected to use one of their early selections in the upcoming NFL draft on a defensive end to compliment their recent first-round investments on the interior, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas.

That decision will come in concert with how things go in free agency. San Francisco may target Lions pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah, who was drafted in the first round by personnel executive Martin Mayhew when he was the general manager of the Lions in 2013. Ansah had 12 sacks this season, nearly doubling Elvis Dumervil, who led San Francisco with 6.5.

Mock draft season is here. And Pro Football Focus this week added to the fun, projecting the top pass rusher available to San Francisco with the ninth-overall pick. They had NC State’s Bradley Chubb heading to the Bay Area.

PFF’s analysis:

The defensive line has been a consistent theme to recent 49ers’ first rounds, but Chubb brings a different dynamic to the table. He finished No. 6 overall among edge defenders at 89.4, including the No. 3 mark against the run and the No. 11 grade as a pass-rusher.

First, it should be noted the 49ers will flip a coin with the Raiders at the scouting combine next month to determine who picks ninth and 10th. The two Bay Area teams happened to finish 2017 with matching 6-10 records and strength of schedules, which is the tie breaker for draft order.

Chubb (6-4, 275) is widely considered a top-five prospect, so falling to No. 9 would be improbable, although not unwelcome for the 49ers. Chubb in his last two seasons logged 20 sacks and 44 tackles for loss with the Wolfpack, proving he could be an every-down player in the NFL at either defensive end spot.

You can never have too many good pass rushers. Just ask the Jaguars, who have a stable of six players on the defensive front that are capable of wrecking havoc on any given play. The pairing of their pass rush and elite secondary is the key reason they’re playing the Patriots on Sunday with a Super Bowl trip on the line.

The 49ers are a long way away from replicating Jacksonville’s success on defense. They have to find another long-term option at cornerback opposite promising rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, which could mean using the ninth- or 10th-overall pick on a corner if Chubb isn’t available.

The corners most commonly associated with San Francisco early in the draft process are Ohio State’s Denzel Ward and Iowa’s Josh Jackson. The 49ers also have needs on the offensive line, receiver and potentially linebacker to give Reuben Foster a running mate for years to come.

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