The San Francisco 49ers head into the 2011 NFL Draft with a variety of needs, big and small. They hold more picks than any other team in the NFL with twelve picks. They have two compensatory picks they cannot trade and then ten normal picks they can move however they want. This gives them plenty of picks to both fill holes and also flexibility to potentially move around in the draft.
Given that it's a fairly quiet Saturday, I thought I'd make some fairly basic predictions about what the 49ers might do in the 2011 NFL Draft. I have a hard enough time figuring out who most of the draft-eligible players are, so I generally shy away from making specific player predictions round-by-round. Rather I find it interesting enough to just try and figure out the positions the 49ers will address with their picks.
The general belief has the 49ers grabbing some combination of a cornerback, outside linebacker, and/or quarterback in the first two rounds. Beyond those specific needs, the 49ers roster has a few areas where depth concerns range from mild to serious. Part of the concerns are the roster as is, and other concerns are impacted by the labor issues preventing internal free agency concerns from being addressed. The 49ers are likely to retain guys like David Baas and Dashon Goldson, but we can't know for sure while the labor issues continue.
If we assume the 49ers grab the above three listed positions, that leaves nine draft picks. We'll likely see multiple picks for some positions, with cornerback potentially leading the way. Additionally, I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers used a late flyer on a second quarterback. Even if the 49ers wait until the fourth or fifth round for a QB (unlikely), I see one of the seventh round picks being used on an additional quarterback. Part of that is the need for more bodies, and part of that is because we don't know when undrafted free agents will be able to sign with new teams.
If the 49ers draft two cornerbacks, two quarterbacks and one outside linebacker, that leaves us with seven draft picks. Before we consider potential trades, here are the positions I could see being addressed with those seven picks:
These positions are not listed in order likelihood or order of specific needs as I view them. Rather, it's just a rundown of the positions I could see the team electing to draft. Kicker is a tough one to decide because if the 49ers spend a draft pick on the position, they'd be looking for that person to win the job in camp. If Joe Nedney is sufficiently healthy when training camp starts, that suddenly becomes an incredibly interesting positional battle.
Nose tackle could also be a position of interest since Aubrayo Franklin would be an unrestricted free agent at this point. Ricky Jean-Francois looked very solid in the nose tackle last summer, but it remains to be seen what the 49ers will be looking at in terms of depth at the position this fall.
All of this also doesn't factor in potential trades. Given the number of picks the 49ers have at their disposal, I think a trade up at some point is virtually a certainty. The team could conceivably deal their third, fifth and one of their two sixth round picks to get into the back end of the second round if the right guys is there. Future draft picks can be dealt as well, although the league has said such trades are done at a team's own peril given the labor uncertainty. However, with the wealth of picks this year, I could see a mid-round move at some point if the right guy is there.
The positions above all need to be addressed in some form or fashion. Even if the 49ers aren't able to address every position of need, they've got enough picks to make a big dent in their depth issues.