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We break down Mel Kiper and Todd McShay's latest mock drafts, and the defensive line help they expect the 49ers to consider.
Mel Kiper and Todd McShay released their latest mock drafts on Thursday with the first round draft order officially settled. The 49ers hold the 31st overall pick of the draft, although it would not surprise me to see them do some maneuvering. They have a veritable grab bag of draft picks to work with, which opens the door for all sorts of moves.
Both Kiper and McShay have the 49ers looking at defensive line help.
FOOCH'S UPDATE: Apparently ESPN had posted McShay's incorrectly. He has the 49ers selecting Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter, NOT Sharrif Floyd. I've removed Floyd's info and replaced with Hunter.
The current construct of the Niners' roster really offers them a great chance to maximize value, and getting a player like Jenkins this far down the board would represent a lot of value. I also think San Francisco should be conscious of depth and age on the defensive line. We saw how diminished the pass rush was when Justin Smith wasn't healthy, and that's because Smith simply eats up blockers. Jenkins can do the same, though he's certainly no proxy for Smith. But at 359 pounds, he can really move.
Todd McShay mock draft - Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Nose tackle is a possibility here, but wide receiver is a legitimate need for the 49ers with bothRandy Moss and Ted Ginn scheduled to hit free agency. The team would like A.J. Jenkins to become a difference-maker in the slot, but San Francisco needs another outside weapon who can take advantage of QB Colin Kaepernick's strong arm. Hunter's hands are a bit inconsistent, but he is a smooth athlete who runs good routes and can make plays downfield.
The 49ers have a strong defensive line, but the depth is entirely too questionable at this point. Ricky Jean-Francois has been the utility defensive lineman, but even if he does return as a free agent, he seems more suited for that utility role. He could develop into a better overall defensive lineman, but for now, he does not appear to be the long-term answer when Justin Smith retires.
Furthermore, the team simply needs greater depth to provide some rest to a well-worked pair of defensive ends. Smith and McDonald rotate into the defensive tackle role in the nickel, which means they are spending an inordinate amount of time on the field. According to ESPN Stats & Information, McDonald and Smith were third and fourth respectively in total snaps, including the playoffs. It is essential for the 49ers to develop more depth that can help provide some needed rest for these two.