Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have made no secret of their desire to build the 49ers from the inside out. The first pick the two ever made together was defensive tackle Solomon Thomas, and they have spent two other top 15 picks on the defensive line as well. Clearly it’s a position they prioritize about all others. Even without a first round pick this year, there has been speculation that they could still take an edge rusher with their first pick at 61. Here’s why I don’t think that will happen.
First, the flat realities of the roster. There are 12 defensive linemen currently under contract right now. Most teams usually carry 10 or 11, so there really isn’t a ton of room on the team for another lineman. Things can always change before the start of the season, of course, but there isn’t exactly a huge vacancy right now.
Second, even if they 49ers were determined to add yet another defensive lineman, they might be better served adding a free agent rather than drafting a rookie. At the point in the offseason, you’re more likely to find an underrated pass rusher than you are other positions like nickel corner or safety. If you sign a free agent off the street and draft one of those other positions, you’re likely going to end up stronger at both positions. As we know, free agent pass rusher Kemoko Turay visited with the team yesterday.
Third, need. There are two many other places on this team that are in far worse shape than the defensive line. Former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick used to say that need was a terrible evaluator of talent, but the truth is that the 49ers do have some significant needs at this point. The interior of the offensive line is a major question mark, not to mention safety and nickel cornerback. Even the wide receiver corps can use another body.
As much as Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch love to stockpile quality defensive lineman, it just makes too much sense for the 49ers to go another direction at 61. Between what’s on the roster now, the quality of players they’d be passing up, and the holes still left to fill, I don’t think a seventh defensive lineman will be called with the 49ers first pick on draft night.
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