NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock will be plenty busy in two weeks at the 2018 NFL Combine, and to get ready, he has prepared his first position rankings of the year. He will update them after the Combine, and then one or two more times after that before the 2018 NFL Draft arrives.
The 49ers have plenty of needs heading into the draft, so I thought we would take a look at the rankings for some of those areas.
1. Denzel Ward, Ohio State
2. Josh Jackson, Iowa
3. Mike Hughes, UCF
4. Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
5. Jaire Alexander, Louisville
*Minkah Fitzpatrick is ranked as the top safety, but is viewed as a hybrid player.
We have seen mock drafts alternating between Ward and Jackson to the 49ers at No. 9/10. The team has a host of needs, but cornerback is the team’s biggest this year. Ahkello Witherspoon will start on one side, with K’Waun Williams lining up in the slot. Greg Mabin will compete for an opportunity, but otherwise, they have nothing to fill in on the other side. If they end up signing a Trumaine Johnson or Malcolm Butler in free agency, this would likely slip a bit.
1. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
2. Roquan Smith, Georgia
3. Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
4. Rashaan Evans, Alabama
5. Uchenna Nwosu, USC
The 49ers need here rose considerably following Reuben Foster’s two offseason arrests. The team has Malcolm Smith and Eli Harold to line up at outside linebacker, and will likely sign Brock Coyle to a short-term contract. I still think cornerback is the biggest overall need, but linebacker is not far behind. Tremaine Edmunds and Roquan Smith are two options at No. 9/10.
1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
2. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
3. James Daniels, Iowa
4. Will Hernandez, UTEP
5. Billy Price, Ohio State
The 49ers signed Daniel Kilgore to a three-year contract, but that doesn’t drastically change things. Even with Joshua Garnett potentially returning, they need help at guard. And while Kilgore has signed a contract, if the right center slips down, the 49ers could still pounce.
1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State
2. Derrius Guice, LSU
3. Ronald Jones II, USC
4. Sony Michel, Georgia
5. Nick Chubb, Georgia
The 49ers running back situation is a conundrum. Carlos Hyde is a free agent this year, and there is no sign yet that the 49ers plan on re-signing him. More than likely both sides will see what the open market brings, and take it from there. If the 49ers part ways, they could sign a Dion Lewis type of running back, or they could wait and see what Kyle Shanahan and Bobby Turner like in the draft. Joe Williams will get a crack at joining the mix this year, but the team could end up sitting and waiting for an option.
Saquon Barkley was an option when the 49ers were looking at a top five pick, but at No. 9/10, it’s unlikely he lasts that long. Shanahan and Turner have done a lot of big things with day three running backs, so one has to wonder if they will wait and see who is there on Saturday.
1. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
2. Marcus Davenport, UTSA
3. Arden Key, LSU
4. Harold Landry, Boston College
5. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
The 49ers were hoping Aaron Lynch would emerge as a consistent threat, but it never happened. It’s unlikely the team re-signs him. Elvis Dumervil led the team in sacks, but he turned 34 last month. Arik Armstead will likely get an opportunity on the edge this summer and fall, but it remains to be seen if he can take to that kind of role. Cassius Marsh was a solid option the 49ers decided to re-sign, but he is likely more of a rotational player than a starter.
All of this is to say, the 49ers need more help on the edge. Some want to see the team sign free agent Ezekiel Ansah. DeMarcus Lawrence would be a nice addition, but he is likely to be franchised.
Make sure and check out Mike Mayock’s full pre-Combine position rankings.