The San Francisco 49ers headed into this offseason with a lot of questions about how they would fill the roster. Aside from “spend money in free agency” and “draft good players in the draft,” a first-time head offensive-minded head coach coupled with a GM with no front office experience left questions as to the specifics.
John Lynch has been plenty active speaking with the media, and he regularly gets questions about his philosophy and how he’ll go about building a team. He does not get into details, but he regularly talks about making sure to talk to people who have done this kind of thing before. Plenty of people have offered him advice, and he will need to figure out what advice will work best.
One person who he has regularly mentioned is Tony Dungy. Lynch played for Dungy in Tampa, and it is quite clear respects his former head coach immensely. He talked about how Dungy and others helped turn around the Bucs, and how Dungy created a great vision for going about the rebuilding process.
Earlier this week, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah took a look at the questions surrounding what the 49ers might do with the No. 2 pick. Jeremiah wrote that he was hearing around league circles that Lynch might be looking to build a high-caliber defense like the Bucs had at the height of his time there.
It’s not shocking that Lynch would want a similar defense, but it could suggest the team is prepared to invest heavily in what is a strong defensive draft. The 49ers spent most of free agency investing on the offensive side of the ball. They added DT Earl Mitchell, LB Malcolm Smith, and CB K’Waun Williams on the defensive side of the ball, but they really went at it on offense.
It is possible the team could decide they want to do some patching on offense, and then use this draft to fill in on defense for the long haul. The Bucs championship defense included two Hall of Famers in defensive tackle Warren Sapp and linebacker Derrick Brooks, and then a potential Hall of Famer on the back end in John Lynch.
Jeremiah offered up some suggestions at the top for filling these three notable areas.
Stanford's Solomon Thomas is a little undersized to be a full-time three-technique defensive tackle, but he could do a lot of damage as a pass rusher from that alignment. Reuben Foster has the potential to develop into the next Brooks. He has similar size, play speed and toughness. Meanwhile, Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker are both premier safety prospects capable of setting the tone and making game-changing plays like Lynch did for the Bucs. I have the two safeties rated the highest among this group of players, but it might make more sense to take Thomas with the second pick because of the quality of depth at the other two positions in this draft.
We have no idea who is at the to of the 49ers draft board, so it is mostly a shot in the dark as to the specific player or even position that will go at No. 2. That being said, there are some clear-cut options to consider up top. The 49ers found most of their secondary back in the 1981 NFL draft. Maybe we see them focus on defense and find two or three possible cornerstone players from this class. I’d take one cornerstone and a couple solid options, but hey, we can get greedy, right?