49ers depth chart 2014: What's next along the defensive line in free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft?

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have a good deal of depth along the defensive line behind some strong starters. However, with Justin Smith and Ray McDonald getting up there in age, the future could be sooner rather than later.

Over the course of this offseason, 49ers mock drafts have focused on cornerbacks and wide receivers, but there have been a few that decided defensive line was the way to go. And even some that went cornerback or wide receiver in the first, felt the need to go defensive line in the second.

The 49ers head into the draft with their defensive line depth chart looking as follows:

LDT: Ray McDonald, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Tank Carradine, Christian Tupou
NT: Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Quinton Dial, Mike Purcell
RDT: Justin Smith, Demarcus Dobbs, Lawrence Okoye

The 49ers use plenty of four-man fronts, and that results in Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks moving down on to the line. For our purposes though, let's just look at the guys actually listed as defensive linemen.

Justin Smith is 34, and Ray McDonald turns 30 at the start of the 2014 season. Smith would seem to have at least one good year left in him, while McDonald continues rolling along. However, the 49ers do have to look to the future. The question becomes who will be in it. They drafted Tank Carradine last year and effectively red-shirted him for the season. They added Quinton Dial to compete at nose tackle, and they signed Lawrence Okoye as an undrafted free agent with zero American football experience.

Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs were the primary backups once Ian Williams went down with his ankle injury. Prior to that, Williams started at nose tackle, and Dorsey looked like he would be the primary backup along the line. A healthy Williams would open up competition at nose tackle, and then potentially shuffle the backups.

The 49ers can find upgrades, but given the decision to tender Demarcus Dobbs, I'm curious to see how that impacts their draft strategy. As everyone is predicting a first or second round pick on a defensive lineman, maybe they either wait until later, or just wait until next year?

Here are rundowns of the top 25 defensive tackles and defensive ends in Poldarn's consensus Big Board. I'm listing them separately since we're talking about the entire defensive line. Some of the defensive ends likely could play in the 3-4, just like some of the defensive tackles might be better suited for the 4-3.

I've included each player's overall ranking in parenthesis.

Top defensive tackle prospects

1. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh (16)
2. Louis Nix III, Notre DAme (19)
3. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State (28)
4. Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota (29)
5. Dominique Easley, Florida (53)
6. Will Sutton, Arizona State (64)
7. DaQuan Jones, Penn State (67)
8. Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina (74)
9. Ego Ferguson, LSU (86)
10. Anthony Johnson, LSU (99)
11. Caraun Reid, Princeton (138)
12. Daniel McCullers, Tennessee (140)
13. Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech (156)
14. Deandre Coleman, California (166)
15. Jay Bromley, Syracuse (209)
16. Zach Kerr, Delaware (210)
17. Shamar Stephen, Connecticut (213)
18. Ryan Carrethers, Arkansas State (226)
19. Eathyn Manumaleuna, BYU (249)
20. Bruce Gaston, Purdue (254
21. Beau Allen, Wisconsin (258)
22. Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State (276)
23. E.J. Dunston, UCF (293)
24. Khyri Thornton, Southern Mississippi (314)
25. Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech (339)

Top defensive end prospects

1. Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina (1)
2. Kony Ealy, Missouri (23)
3. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame (35)
4. Trent Murphy, Stanford (41)
5. Scott Crichton, Oregon State (42)
6. Marcus Smith, Louisville (65)
7. Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State (71)
8. Chris Smith, Arkansas (76)
9. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (80)
10. Kareem Martin, North Carolina (102)
11. Trevor Reilly, Utah (103)
12. Will Clarke, West Virginia (121)
13. James Gayle, Virginia Tech (126)
14. Aaron Lynch, South Florida (127)
15. Josh Mauro, Stanford (128)
16. George Uko, USC (130)
17. Ed Stinson, Alabama (133)
18. Taylor Hart, Oregon (148)
19. Brent Urban, Virginia (153)
20. Jeoffrey Pagan, Alabama (175)
21. Cassius Marsh, UCLA (214)
22. Kasim Edebali, Boston College (220)
23. Ben Gardner, Stanford (257)
24. Larry Webster, Bloomsburg (263)
25. Chaz Sutton, South Carolina (302)

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