• Akash Anavarathan

Akash's Monday Morning Blitz XVI: 49ers' very, very early Big Board

Most 49ers' fans are already itching for the start of the 2018 season. They're mostly bummed that their team wasn't allowed into the playoffs after finishing the season on a five-game winning streak. With that said, a majority of 49ers' faithful are trying to get their hands on as much draft information as possible.

In order for San Francisco to be able to continue to the success that they had down the stretch of the season, they must re-load in free agency and the draft. The hardest brick to lay down -- the franchise quarterback -- is in place. Now John Lynch must find the supporting structures to keep this mission going.

While the draft is a little over three months away, there'll be a lot of mock drafts, projections and scouting reports. Just to start to get 49ers' fans familiar with the names you'll be seeing for the next few months, the 49ersHub is presenting the very, very early Big Board for San Francisco.

In this Big Board, I'm going to be ranking the 10 top prospects who I believe San Francisco should be targeting with their draft selections in the first and second round. In the first round, the 49ers will either draft nine or 10, depending on the coin flip. In the next round, they own the Saints' pick, which could drop depending on how far New Orleans advances in the playoffs.

49ers' very, very early Big Board:

1. OL Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame

Most scouts have compared Nelson to Dallas' Zack Martin, one of the premier guards in the league. Interior OL play has plagued San Francisco and I think it's priority number one that they protect QB Jimmy Garappolo in the years to come. The question is going to be if Nelson will be there when the 49ers make their first selection.

2. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia

Remember LBs Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman? The 49ers could choose to recreate that and strengthen the middle of their defense with LB Roquan Smith. The Bulldogs' linebacker plays sideline to sideline and is the one of the best defenders in the country. Pairing him with LB Reuben Foster could create a formidable tandem.

3. RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Kyle Shanahan and Bobby Turner don't draft RBs early. Fact. This is a deep running back draft class. Fact. But Penn State's Saquon Barkley is the best running back prospect in recent memory. If he's there when the 49ers make their first selection, can they really pass on him?

4. S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

Can he be a full-time cornerback in the NFL? If Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick can develop into what Jalen Ramsey is for the Jaguars, I wouldn't hesitate pulling the trigger on him. With the 49ers' loaded at safety, I'm not sure if Robert Saleh can FIT"zpatrick" him into the puzzle.

5. DE Bradley Chubb, NC State

With the 49ers' lack of pass rush this season, it's one of the major positions of need heading into 2018. So why not take the best pass-rusher in the draft? Chubb's had back-to-back years of double-digit sacks.

6. CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State

Is anyone watching what former Buckeye Marshon Lattimore is doing in New Orleans during his rookie season? I think CB Denzel Ward has the ability to have a similar impact in his rookie season wherever he lands. The best true cornerback in this draft class, ladies and gentleman.

7. CB Josh Jackson, Iowa

Jackson's not far behind Ward, with his FBS-leading eight interceptions. If the 49ers chose to go with a defensive back to pair with Ahkello Witherspoon, Jackson and Ward are fantastic options.

8. WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama

Kyle Shanahan has known to be a fan of receivers that find quick separation from their defenders. Nobody seems to be better at that in this class than Calvin Ridley. Is he Amari Cooper? Nope, but he's a productive college player that can turn into a solid professional.

9. OT Connor Williams, Texas

The second-best offensive line prospect, Connor Williams, would also be an intriguing option for the 49ers in the first round. This could be an eventual replacement for LT Joe Staley, who is getting up there in age.

10. DE Harold Landry, Boston College

The Boston College pass rusher has all the physical tools to be successful at the next level. Over his last three seasons, he has 46.5 sacks. That kind of production will be immensely valuable for San Francisco in the first round.