The San Francisco 49ers are likely looking for an inside linebacker in the upcoming NFL Draft, and preparations are underway. Prior to Chris Borland's retirement, the team met with Clemson inside linebacker Stephone Anthony at the school's March 5 Pro Day. Now, Tony Pauline is reporting the 49ers have scheduled a pre-draft visit with Mississippi State inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney. He is expected to also meet with the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans.
The 49ers will meet with plenty of players they never end up drafting, but given their predicament at inside linebacker, it makes sense that they will end up doing some extra research. Chris Borland and Patrick Willis are no longer on the team, leaving NaVorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, Nick Moody, Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas (he seems to appear both as OLB and ILB depending on the depth chart). Bowman's knee remains a question mark. Wilhoite is a very capable replacement, but his upside is relatively limited compared to what the 49ers previously had.
The 49ers likely could find a long-term prospect in the second or third round. Anthony and McKinney appear to be guys likely to slip out of the first round, although who knows what the 32 team draft boards actually look like. There appears to be some very solid talent in the top half of ILB prospects.