The San Francisco 49ers walked away with two of the top three players on their big board, but it’s the players they did not land that offer additional intrigue. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch repeatedly talked about needing good football players above and beyond everything else, but some of their reported targets suggest plenty.
MMQB’s Peter King wrote up a feature on the 49ers day one process, following around John Lynch all day. We heard all about the team’s work to get Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster, but his column also revealed other players of interest to the 49ers. The team talked extensively about moving up from pick No. 34. They eventually landed Reuben Foster at No. 31, but they had several other players on their radar.
Moving from 34 to the area around 21 is important, they think, because one of their targets should they deal down from two to the area between eight and 15 could be there: running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver John Ross, edge rushers Charles Harris, T.J. Watt or maybe Takkarist McKinley, and perhaps a wild card.
“I think Jabrill Peppers has to be in the discussion there,” Lynch says.
Additionally, Shanahan mentioned wanting to get Ohio pass rusher Tarell Basham later in the draft, and paired Rasul Douglas with Ahkello Witherspoon as a third option.
The 49ers landed Solomon Thomas to help with the pass rush, but they did not draft a pure edge rusher until Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round. From that group above, Harris went No. 22, McKinley went No. 26, Watt went No. 30, and Basham went No. 80 (third round).
The 49ers entered the draft with Aaron Lynch likely the leader for the LEO role, but Arik Armstead also getting some work there. The team will likely spend more time in their nickel, in which we could see Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, and others get some work at the defensive end roles. Taumoepenu is more of a pure speed option, but as a sixth round pick, expectations are going to be low this first year.
The laundry list of players Shanahan mentioned above is likely a lot of “best player available,” but the 49ers did need more pass rushers. And really, they still need more help at the unit, unless we see some big developments this year. Lynch is incredibly talented, but also has his share of issues, including weight and his failed drug test last year. Armstead is a versatile big man, but he’s also bigger than we often see in those edge rushers. Could he break the mold for edge rushers, or will he likely revert to an interior role?