49ers depth chart 2014: What's next at inside linebacker in free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft?

Jeff Gross

The San Francisco 49ers face an important question with NaVorro Bowman sidelined for the near future with ACL and MCL damage. Are Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody the answer opposite Patrick Willis, or will there be additions?

San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman was in town on Tuesday for an autograph session and a visit to the 49ers headquarters. Naturally this resulted in some media availability for the rehabbing linebacker. Steve Corkran and 49ers.com each put together some of his comments, and are both worth a read.

Given the timing, I thought we'd move on to the next depth chart review. Since the bulk of free agency has more or less wrapped up, we've started looking at each position group, and what is next in terms of potential personnel additions. We've looked at safety and backup quarterback thus far, and now we're going to move on to inside linebacker.

In past years, this has been an afterthought given the domination of NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. However, Bowman's knee injury this past January has opened the door for a potential addition. Bowman is likely going to start the season on the PUP list, and even if not that, he would at least likely be inactive a few games early on. Michael Wilhoite is the favorite to handle the duties in his place, and Nick Moody and Darius Fleming will get some opportunities as a backup.

However, while the 49ers can potentially be safe replacing Bowman with Wilhoite, it also means they lose depth. Patrick Willis is an all-world linebacker, but he's dealt with a variety of ailments during his career. And this will likely be the most extensive stretch of starting for Wilhoite. The team needs to be comfortable behind those two.

There are still some free agent options, and it would not surprise me to see the 49ers potentially add a veteran as we get closer to camp. The most notable veteran is London Fletcher, but if he does not retire, he's said he'd only be looking to come back for a playoff contender, just for the stretch run. That obviously does not suit the 49ers needs. Other options include Pat Angerer, Stewart Bradley, Nick Barnett and a variety of others.

The other option is of course to use one of the 11 draft picks to find someone they can develop at a low price. Here is a rundown of the talent per Poldarn's consensus big board. The number in parenthesis after each player is their overall ranking, just to provide a little context:

1. C.J. Mosley (12)
2. Shayne Skov, Stanford (60)
3. Chris Borland, Wisconsin (73)
4. Christian Jones, Florida State (82)
5. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut (89)
6. Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA (135)
7. Lamin Barrow, LSU(143)
8. Max Bullough, Michigan State (168)
9. Preston Brown, Louisville (183)
10. Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky (205)
11. Avery Williamson, Kentucky (206)
12. Devekeyan Lattimore, South Florida (229)
13. Glenn Carson, Penn State (234)
14. Greg Blair, Cincinnati (267)
15. Jeremiah George, Iowa State (295)
16. Marquis Spruill, Syracuse (299)
17. Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech (315)
18. James Morris, Iowa (333)

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