In the third installment of my mock draft series, I will address both sides of the line of scrimmage early and often. That’s right, bust out all those cliches about how football games are won and lost in the trenches.
History tells us that it’s good business to allocate day two picks on the offensive line, and the 49ers have a decent amount of uncertainty there beyond Trent Williams at this point. Alex Mack returning certainly helps, but even so, it would probably be for one final season.
Dan Brunskill is more than a serviceable player, particularly for the price tag he comes with. However, beyond this season, the 49ers are facing a scenario that leads to them searching for an upgrade, or on the flip side, Brunskill plays so well that he prices himself out of the 49ers' level of financial comfortability next offseason.
Finally, Mike McGlinchey and the unknowns surrounding his ability to return to form following a gruesome leg injury that has a history of being very difficult to overcome. Based on the rate athletes have recovered from torn quadricep tendons, it would be wise for the 49ers to invest in a player who could potentially step into that role, whether it is immediately or a year down the road.
I traded up a few times in this draft for two main reasons. One, when you see players you covet, you don’t take chances on hoping they fall. You go out and get them. And two, shedding a handful of late Day 3 draft picks in the process.
It makes no sense to use all nine selections, and by moving up at different points, I ended up with a much more reasonable number of players out of this class by the end of the mock.
Abraham Lucas, Tackle - Washington State
Right out of the gate, the 49ers land an extremely athletic prospect who has the potential to be one of the better offensive linemen in this class. I was on hand in Indianapolis to watch Lucas go through combine drills, and I was immediately blown away by the explosion and lateral movement he possessed, given his size. He just looked much smoother than someone that big should be.
At 6’7, 319 pounds, Lucas has the requisite size to play either tackle position. He also has a tremendous amount of agility and great feet, something that should translate well into the 49ers' aggressive outside zone scheme.
Lucas is a four-year starter with 42 starts under his belt at the collegiate level and would be a fantastic candidate to be the long-term succession plan at right tackle. He is an explosive athlete who could use a bit of seasoning as he transitions to the NFL level. This is a pick that gives the 49ers a range of outcomes where they come away with an impact player for years to come.
Even if McGlinchey gets back to his old self, the 49ers would still be wise to explore potentially getting younger and cheaper at the position. I’ve never heard of a franchise complaining that they have too many good players on the offensive line. That’s a problem the 49ers would gladly welcome.
49ers send picks 93 & 172 to Pittsburgh in exchange for pick 83
Round 3, pick 84
DeAngelo Malone, Edge - Western Kentucky
I think Malone is a player that teams are higher on than the general public seems to be. This is why I ensure being able to select him by trading with the Steelers to jump up ten spots to 83 while sending back 93 paired with a 5th-round pick in return.
At 6’4, 240 pounds, Malone has the combination of length and weight to excel in a role off the edge at the next level. Malone can win as both a speed and power rusher, displaying a deep bag of pass-rushing moves to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
The thing that stands out to me the most about Malone is his burst. He explodes off the line of scrimmage at the snap in a way that regularly jumps off the tape. That get-off, coupled with a significant bend around the edge, has caused headaches for opposing tackles attempting to keep him out of their backfield.
During his time at Western Kentucky, Malone has been one of the most productive players at his position in the entire country. In 2019 and 2021, Malone led all FBS defensive linemen in total tackles. Malone has recorded more tackles for loss than any other defensive lineman in the country over the last five seasons.
Malone also logged at least six sacks in each of the last four seasons, showing a consistent ability to produce both as a pass rusher and as an elite run defender.
Malone was voted to the first-team All-Conference USA in each of his last three seasons while also taking home Conference USA defensive player of the year awards in two of the last three seasons.
This is a player who could get work from day one as the LEO in a pass-rushing specialist role for the 49ers. The combination of size and speed is too good to pass up here.
49ers send picks 105 & 221 to Cleveland in exchange for pick 99
Luke Fortner, IOL - Kentucky
Like Malone, I think Fortner is someone teams are a bit keener on than I’ve seen from the public. The 49ers send pick 105 and a compensatory 6th rounder to the Browns for the right to jump one spot in front of the Baltimore Ravens, who are in the market for interior linemen themselves.
Parting with one of two picks at the back end of the sixth round is a small price to pay to ensure you add a player like Fortner. With questions across the board on the interior offensive line, Fortner is a player who could feasibly plug any of the three spots. Fortner’s measurables come in at 6’6, 300 pounds.
Fortner played all 771 snaps he took in 2021 at the center position but logged over 200 snaps at both guard positions during the 2020 season. That kind of versatility is invaluable at any level of football and would give the 49ers tremendous option power with their long-term plans on the interior of their offensive line.
Fortner was extremely durable during his time with the Wildcats as well, starting in the last 36 consecutive games for Kentucky. As good as he was on the line, Fortner also shined off the field, earning SEC Academic Honor Roll in five different seasons. Fortner will be leaving Kentucky with two, yes, you read that right, two master's degrees.
Overall this is a durable, versatile player who has displayed a tremendous amount of ability to pair with elite intelligence.
Round 4, Pick 134
Grant Calcaterra, Tight End - SMU
The 49ers look to upgrade behind George Kittle and do so by insulating the tight room with a skilled receiver which provides a strong receiving option at the position behind the All-Pro starter.
Calcaterra has good size at 6’5 247 pounds and is receiving chops, making him a legitimate threat in the passing game. The former Oklahoma transfer recorded 38 catches for 465 yards and four touchdowns in 2021.
This one is pretty straightforward. The 49ers need to get better production from their secondary options at the tight end position, and Calcaterra gives them a depth piece who can step in and provide an immediate upgrade as a pass catcher behind Kittle.
Round 6, pick 187
Bo Melton, Wide receiver - Rutgers
The 49ers have a solid foundation at the wide receiver spot right now, but their recent moves in free agency point to them seeking a burner with the ability to take the top off a defense. They get that here with their selection of Melton.
Melton’s stock got a bump when the Rutgers receiver ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. That speed absolutely translates on the field, and Melton could provide great value as not only a deep threat but as a YAC threat with the ball in space.
Melton is a three-year starter who ranks third all-time in games played in Rutgers history with 56 while being sixth in school history with 164 receptions.
At 5’11, 195 pounds, Melton might project better into a role in the slot, but he showed he was more than capable of holding his own on the outside. The 49ers add a talented player to an already strong receiver group, giving first-year starter Trey Lance another weapon
49ers send picks 220 & 262 to the Houston Texans for pick 207
Jack Jones, Cornerback - Arizona State
You can never have too many good defensive backs, and the 49ers make a move up to grab a player who is a tremendous value at this range. Jones was one of the more talented corners in the entire PAC 12 and likely would be taken much higher if not for some off-field issues four years back.
Jones is one of the best cornerbacks in this class when in man coverage and has the makeup of being a legitimate cover corner. Jones recorded 25 pass breakups in 24 career games and was tied for the PAC 12 lead in interceptions in 2021.
The 49ers bank on the off-the-field issues being a thing of the past and bring in a highly talented player who has the potential to take on a starting role in the near future.
Pick 61: Abraham Lucas, T - Washington State
Pick 84: (Traded 93 & 172) : DeAngelo Malone, Edge - Western Kentucky
Pick 99: (Traded 105 & 221) : Luke Fortner, IOL - Kentucky
Pick 134: Grant Calcaterra, TE - SMU
Pick 187: Bo Melton, WR - Rutgers
Pick 207: (Traded 220 & 262) : Jack Jones, CB - Arizona State