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2018 NFL mock draft: How high are the 49ers on Sam Darnold?

The 49ers have some decisions to make, but they have options.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We are officially halfway through the 2017 NFL season, and the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns are heavy front-runners for the top two picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Plenty will change in the draft order as well as the prospects available, but for the second straight season, we have a pretty good idea of where the 49ers will be picking.

2018 NFL mock drafts are going to be all over the place between now and April, but we can at least start to narrow down the list of options the 49ers can and will consider at No. 2. Quarterback is likely high on the list, Saquon Barkley will be intriguing for plenty, and the need for edge rushers and cornerbacks is up there as well.

Matt Miller put together his latest 2018 NFL mock draft, offering up a midway look at where things stand. Underclassmen have until January to declare for the draft, so big names in this could change. But it offers some intriguing insight.

Miller has Cleveland selecting Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 1 pick, and then San Francisco selecting USC quarterback Sam Darnold at No. 2. There has been some chatter Darnold might return to school, so any such picks will be something to watch. Here’s what Miller said about the 49ers pick.

Throughout the season my thought on the San Francisco 49ers was that general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan would use the expected more than $100 million in salary cap space to buy an offense in free agency. That idea loses steam if Kirk Cousins doesn't leave Washington after this season.

Hypothetically, what would the 49ers do if Cousins doesn't hit the free agent-market? Would they go after a Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater type? It's possible, but my sources in San Francisco say the team loves Sam Darnold.

The USC redshirt sophomore has struggled at times this year with a diminished supporting cast and by putting too much pressure on himself to make plays that have led to turnovers. The talent that made him a top prospect over the summer is still there, though. Darnold's poise, football IQ, accuracy and mobility would be a perfect match for the Shanahan offense. And while Darnold's lack of arm strength might be a concern in Cleveland or Buffalo, the California kid would be right at home in Santa Clara.

The Kirk Cousins saga will be a major factor in how the draft goes down. If he ends up with the 49ers or any other team, it would drastically shake things up. If he sticks with Washington, then we have a status quo. Given the nature of free agency, I’m inclined to assume he will stick in Washington. If he goes elsewhere, so be it, but it is easier to nothing happens than something happens.

If Darnold does return to college, the 49ers have quite a few other quarterbacks to consider. Miller has six quarterbacks going in the first round, in the following order:

2. San Francisco 49ers - Sam Darnold (USC)
3. New York Giants - Josh Rosen (UCLA)
6. Los Angeles Chargers - Josh Allen (Wyoming)
17. Jacksonville Jaguars - Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)
21. Miami Dolphins - Lamar Jackson (Louisville)
28. New Orleans Saints - Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)

The 49ers could go with another QB at No. 2, trade down, or go in another direction and then go QB in the second round or move up into the bottom of the first round. The 49ers need to figure out their quarterback position, but they do have a host of options at their disposal. And with two picks each in the second and third rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, there will be all sorts of room to maneuver.