The San Francisco 49ers, coming off their Week 11 bye, begin practice Monday to prepare for their upcoming matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite not taking the field, the 49ers still won this weekend, securing the 2019 NFL Draft’s first-overall pick (for now) after some favorable outcomes around the league.
The Oakland Raiders, who previously held the draft’s top pick, topped the Arizona Cardinals Sunday with a last-second field goal. The 49ers, Raiders and Cardinals now all hold identical records at 2-8, but San Francisco’s strength of schedule is the weakest of the three, giving them the nod.
This week’s contest against the Buccaneers may be the 49ers’ most winnable game for the rest of 2018, with the Seattle Seahawks (twice), Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, and Los Angeles Rams rounding out the remaining five opponents. We’ll take an early look at the options presented to general manager John Lynch should the 49ers go on the clock after Week 17.
Draft Nick Bosa
This is the only real option for the 49ers if they land at No. 1. You’ll struggle to find a reputable 2019 Big Board that doesn’t feature Nick Bosa at the top of the list. The former Ohio State pass rusher racked up 77 total tackles, 29 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks in 19 games for the Buckeyes. His junior season was put on hold to undergo core muscle surgery in September after suffering a lower abdominal injury in the third quarter against TCU. Bosa was expected to return this season, but instead opted to leave Ohio State to recover and focus on the NFL Draft.
Bosa aligns with both value and need for the 49ers, who’ve struggled to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2018. Bosa’s ability to threaten off the edge would transform the 49ers’ defense, freeing up interior players like Deforest Buckner for more one-on-one matchups while relieving pressure on the 49ers’ secondary. This one would be a no-brainer for Lynch as the draft’s top pick.
In the off chance Lynch isn’t sold on Bosa, there will undoubtedly be a long list of suitors with strong trade offers to move up to No. 1. The 49ers only hold five draft picks in 2019. Reeling in a bevy of additional selections to move back would be worth exploring for a depleted roster that could use all the top-tier talent it can get. Along with Bosa, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is widely considered the draft’s top signal caller. Should Herbert declare for the draft, it would add additional value to the 49ers’ potential top pick.
The 2016 Rams were the last team to trade up for the first-overall pick. They gave up a first round pick, two second-round and third-round selections to the Tennessee Titians, along with first- and third-round picks the following year. In addition to the swap from No. 1 to 15, the Titans sent a fourth- and sixth-round pick back to the Rams. A haul anywhere close to that magnitude would be tough to turn down for the 49ers.
Lending gravity to the idea of trading back is a top-heavy draft that’s chalked full of premier defensive talent, which is widely considered the 49ers’ biggest need. 23 of Matt Miller’s Top 32 players are on the defensive side of the ball. Alabama safety Deionte Thompson, LSU cornerback Greedy Williams and defensive lineman Ed Oliver are the draft’s top names at other positions on defense.
There’s also a bevy of pass rushers outside of Bosa that could prove intriguing if the 49ers find themselves out of reach. Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, Kentucky’s Josh Allen, Florida’s Jachai Polite, Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat, and Florida State’s Brian Burns are considered the best at the position and could all go in the first-round.
Whether or not the 49ers land No. 1 overall at season’s end, they’ll be in position to address some of their most glaring roster holes with a draft that seems tailored toward the team’s needs.