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Considering 49ers roster needs in 2015 free agency and NFL Draft

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The 49ers are in the thick of the playoff chase, but that doesn't mean we can't talk about the future beyond this season. We take a look at some recent suggestions by Gil Brandt.

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The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of important football left on their schedule, with a tight NFC playoff race keeping them on their toes. However, as other teams are going in the tank, draft discussion is picking up. We are a ways away from getting into that in serious detail, but there is always discussion going on (see this NN FanPost).

On Tuesday, Gil Brandt posted the updated NFL Draft order, and suggested three needs for each team. For the top five teams in the current draft order, he included top rated seniors at the various positional needs. For everybody else, he just listed the needs.

For the 49ers, Brandt said "QB (backup), OL (depending on their free agents), DL." I could probably ask 10 people what the 49ers top three needs are, and we might get a handful of different responses, but here are a few quick thoughts on Brandt's list.

Quarterback

Blaine Gabbert and Josh Johnson are both free agents after this season, so it is hard to tell what exactly the future holds there. I honestly would not mind bringing Gabbert back for another season of development, but if not, I continue to hope the 49ers invest a draft pick in a quarterback they could work with for a few years. I think a lot of us would prefer that over just signing random backups.

Offensive Line

I am operating under the assumption that Mike Iupati will depart in free agency this offseason. If he departs, the 49ers will need a new left guard. Of course, they drafted and red-shirted Brandon Thomas this year, so there is a good chance he gets first dibs on the left guard job. Joe Looney will also be in the mix for that role as he heads into the final year of his rookie contract. Alex Boone is signed through 2015, so the 49ers are probably going to look for some additional depth that could eventually move into the starting lineup in 2016. Looney is a guy they could try and extend, but even if they do, I suspect we see them draft an interior lineman next April.

Defensive Line

A lot of folks are prepared to declare Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine busts. It is disappointing we have not seen them on the field nearly enough, but I also think next year is when we really find out what's up. Tank will have two years with the team. I'd prefer he be more assignment sound at this point, but between now and next season the excuses dry up. It will be interesting to see just how the 49ers use their 2015 draft picks along the line. If we see an early round defensive lineman, that would not seem to bode well for one or both of Dial and Tank. At the same time, with Glenn Dorsey extended through 2016, it is possible the 49ers are covered even if they are not happy with Dial and/or Tank.

Ray McDonald and Justin Smith are both getting up there in age, with Smith coming to the end of his contract in 2015. The 49ers need to figure out their long-term plan along the line. This draft could tell us a lot about where they think they stand.

Cornerback

The 49ers will likely see both Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver hit free agency. The team went fairly heavy with cornerbacks this past draft, selecting Jimmie Ward (DB) in the first round, Dontae Johnson in the fourth round, Keith Reaser in the fifth round, and Kenneth Acker in the sixth round. Johnson has already shown some things early in the season, while Reaser and Acker are out for the season with injuries. The 49ers are not assured of anything from any of these young guys, but they are options to compete for big roles next year.

Wide Receiver

The 49ers will likely head into the offseason with Anquan Boldin, Stevie Johnson, Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington and Chuck Jacobs signed for the 2015 season. Michael Crabtree's future is uncertain, and Brandon Lloyd is a tough one to figure out given that he was willing to sit out the 2013 season. I don't think this will be high on the needs list, but the team likely will need to consider their options.

What do you consider the 49ers top needs at this point in the season?