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Pro Football Focus mock draft 2017: Would Reuben Foster be the best player available?

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The 49ers need depth at linebacker, but also just need the best talent available.

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The San Francisco 49ers are viewed by many as a strong candidate to draft a quarterback at No. 2. It’s an obvious need with the potential to have no quarterbacks on the roster when free agency gets started. However, some media sites are moving away from the QB position to fill other areas of need for the 49ers.

On Wednesday, Pro Football Focus writer Steve Palazzolo released his fourth 2017 NFL mock draft. He decided to go a different direction than quarterback. After sending Texas A&M pass rusher to the Cleveland Browns, he has the 49ers drafting Alabama inside linebacker Reuben Foster. Here’s what he had to say about the pick:

Another team in need of a quarterback, the 49ers are also lacking a clean fit for new Head Coach Kyle Shanahan’s system. The next-best player on the draft board is Alabama interior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, but with San Francisco’s last two first-round picks coming at a similar position, there are questions about fitting those pieces together efficiently. Instead, San Francisco goes with Allen’s teammate, Foster, to add a three-down presence that will remind fans of Patrick Willis or NaVorro Bowman in their prime. Foster was the nation’s top-graded linebacker, earning a 93.3 overall mark, leading the way against the run at 91.7 and ranking fifth in coverage, at 87.3. With the ability to defeat blocks in the run game and stick with running backs in coverage, Foster’s three-down versatility comes at a time when the league covets it more than ever in an era of spread-heavy offenses.

The 49ers are going to need linebackers that can drop into coverage. NaVorro Bowman has been a dynamic linebacker, but his long-term status is somewhat tentative coming off a torn Achilles. He seems to be making good progress, but it is still something to keep an eye on heading into training camp.

Ray-Ray Armstrong got a two-year extension in December, but it is a prove-it deal. He could be the guy who gets a lot of coverage work, but he has a new coaching staff and front office to impress.

After that, the 49ers switch to a 4-3 Under will open up all sorts of possibilities with how they will move around their linebackers. And if they decide Foster is the best option available at No. 2, they need raw talent.