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What’s the bigger need for the 49ers?

We know the Niners are determined to build through the trenches. But which side of the ball needs more resources?

NFL Combine Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The NFL combine is in full swing. The 49ers draft begins at the tail end of the third round, and the team has several needs. Center, safety, interior defensive line, and edge jump out immediately for the 49ers.

But what is the biggest need for the 49ers?

The 49ers strategy has been clear during the Kyle Shanahan/John Lynch tenure. Building in the trenches, on both sides of the ball. Last season, four draft picks were used on the defensive and offensive lines combined. Not to mention, the undrafted free agents signed.

Drake Jackson, Spencer Burford, Nick Zakelj, and Kalia Davis were selected, and Burford started at right guard. Jackson contributed early in the season, but hit a “rookie wall,” according to Kyle Shanahan.

The offensive line is a point of emphasis for 49ers fans after the end of the season in Philadelphia. Whether it’s Brock Purdy or Trey Lance or a veteran, protecting the quarterback is paramount.

The left tackle spot is locked in, Aaron Banks performed well in his first season at left guard, and Burford showed flashes but rotated with Daniel Brunskill at right guard.

John Lynch spoke at the combine about Mike McGlinchey being out of the 49ers’ price range, and the center position was filled admirably by Jake Brendel, but he isn’t the long-term answer.

Banks replaced Laken Tomlinson, who departed for the Jets. It sounds like McGlinchey’s replacement is in-house with Colton McKivitz. Brendel’s potential departure can be softened with Zakelj. Bringing back Brunskill is a safety net for any struggles by Mckivitz or Zakelj or injuries on the line.

The plan appears to be, replacing departing free agents with in-house draft picks on the offensive line, but the 49ers will draft more prospects.

What about the defensive line?

Nick Bosa was incredible, earning the defensive player of the year in 2022. Down the stretch, it became clear Bosa needed more help from the defensive line, in particular, from the defensive tackle. Arik Armstead returned from injury but was the only consistent force in the playoffs.

At edge, Samson Ebukam was solid, but could also depart in free agency. The 49ers are hoping for a second-year leap from Jackson in 2023.

With the quarterback position surrounded with uncertainty, at the moment, due to injuries to Lance and Purdy, the defense may need to be even better in 2023. Getting home consistently is a great place to start for this defense.

So, what position is more important? In my opinion, it is more important to keep building the offensive line to protect the quarterback. The 49ers have done a remarkable job of finding defensive linemen, either in free agency or by a cheap trade, with traits that can be accentuated by Kris Kocurek.

The team will draft more players across the defensive line, but bracing for a potential retirement by Trent Williams and fortifying the offensive line for the future should be the focus.