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Mel Kiper mock draft features a notable name dropping to 49ers

The ESPN draft analyst is back with his third mock draft of the year.

The 2018 NFL Draft is just under one month away, and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper is back with his third mock draft of the offseason. In his first two mocks (1, 2), he had the San Francisco 49ers selecting Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 9. This time, he has Ward moving up to No. 7, and the 49ers selecting Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Here’s what Kiper had to say about this selection:

San Francisco picked up Richard Sherman before free agency started, but its defensive backfield still isn’t set. The 49ers could take the versatile Fitzpatrick and use him in a hybrid safety role in which he plays some slot corner, too. He’s a true playmaker with the size and athleticism to play any position in the secondary. General manager John Lynch showed last year that he isn’t afraid to make draft-day trades, so this is a spot to watch for teams moving up.

John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have discussed plans to get Jimmie Ward practice time at cornerback this offseason. If they were to add Fitzpatrick, or even if it ended up being Ward or Joshua Jackson, the secondary would suddenly have a ton of depth for 2018. They have solid playmakers in the defensive backfield, but adding a first round pick would beef it up that much more.

This mock draft featured four quarterbacks going in the first five picks. Kiper had Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, and Josh Rosen going to the Browns, Giants, and Jets, and then Baker Mayfield to the Broncos. The Browns went with Saquon Barkley at No. 4, and then we saw Bradley Chubb, Denzel Ward, and Quenton Nelson go off the board before the 49ers.

The 49ers could use a fourth quarterback going in the top eight picks, but even if only three are drafted before them, there is a lot of intriguing talent sitting there. Derwin James is a versatile safety option, you’ve got Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds as potential linebackers, and even a Marcus Davenport as the more raw pass rush option.

Even if the 49ers are unable to deal down for a nice haul of picks, they’ll have their choice of some really quality talent at No. 9.