The San Francisco 49ers sit at the No. 9 spot in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the potential for four quarterbacks in the top eight picks opens the door to a host of options. We’ve seen a handful of names consistently mocked out to the 49ers. They usually include Derwin James, Quenton Nelson, Denzel Ward, Tremaine Edmunds, and Roquan Smith. We see a few of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Harold Landry, and a handful of others.
In the latest update to our 49ers mock draft database, a new name has snuck in. One site suggests Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne at No. 9. We’ll always see some random ones, but Payne is a surprise for a couple reasons. The first is Payne has not really been a regular mention as a potential top ten pick. The second is whether or not the 49ers would invest a draft pick in an interior defensive lineman.
The 49ers have DeForest Buckner is their best defensive lineman, and arguably their best defensive player. Solomon Thomas rotated between the interior and exterior, while the team tried to convert Arik Armstead into more of an edge defender. Earl Mitchell and Sheldon Day are contributors on the interior, with Day a particularly intriguing option to consider for the future.
All of this is to say, there is room to continue adding depth. I don’t expect it to happen in the first round, but a sizable investment is not the worst idea in the world. Albert Breer made a good point recently in the importance of keeping a strength a strength even amidst injuries.
I don’t expect the 49ers to spend a first round pick on a defensive tackle, but how they approach the line will be something to watch in late April. The 49ers have quite a few options along the line currently on the roster, but the draft will give us a better idea of how they feel about that group.