The San Francisco 49ers saw their inside linebacker depth take a huge hit last offseason when Patrick Willis decided to retire. Getting NaVorro Bowman back was a huge lift, but the unit that was once easily the best in football was not nearly on the same level in 2015 as it was in 2013 and before.
The turnover at the position has led to various 2016 NFL mock drafts looking at linebackers for the 49ers first round pick. Jaylon Smith had gotten some play early on, but lately, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack has been frequently mentioned. ESPN's Mel Kiper is the latest in his second mock draft of the offseason. In discussing the pick, Kiper addresses the usual point about the turnover at the position:
The 49ers had their linebacking corps diminished before the season even started in 2015, and Jack -- who will be 100 percent even though he's not a full workout participant at the NFL combine -- gives them immediate help as a gifted linebacker who can cover as well as a good safety.
Here is how Kiper's first six picks went:
1. Tennessee Titans - OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
2. Cleveland Browns - QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
3. San Diego Chargers - DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon
4. Dallas Cowboys - QB Jared Goff, Cal
5. Jacksonville Jaguars - DB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
6. Baltimore Ravens - DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Kiper joins the Wentz to the Browns hype train that has picked up a lot of steam the last few weeks. There are a lot of rumblings about it, but is it possible it just a smoke screen at this point? I don't really know what the Browns would have to gain from that, but it just seems too obvious that Wentz ends up being the pick given all the chatter.
Previously, Kiper had the 49ers drafting wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. This time around, he has Treadwell dropping to the Los Angeles Rams at No. 15. I'm not entirely sure how he decided on that switch, but that's what we've got. Inside linebacker makes sense if the team is not convinced Gerald Hodges or Michael Wilhoite are a sufficient answer to pass up a playmaker like Jack. A BPA approach makes plenty of sense at this point, but we'll see what late April brings.