• Robert Moore

Roster Clarity and Draft Focus Following 49ers' Trade

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As the dust starts to settle from free agency and the 49ers roster has started to take shape, the team's focus has turned toward the draft. With the breaking news of the blockbuster trade, the 49ers have traded up to the third overall pick, so it’s clear they have their eyes set on the quarterback of the future. The 49ers currently have 80 of the allowable 90 players signed to the roster. It is possible they could still acquire some players in free agency, but even after this trade, they still have nine draft picks and will look to fill most of the roster spots with rookies and some undrafted free agents.

The 49ers started free agency with glaring needs as many of the team's players were to become unrestricted free agents. The 49ers’ front office has been busy re-signing key unrestricted free agents like Trent Williams, Jaquiski Tartt, Jason Verrett, Kyle Juszczyk, K’waun Williams, and D.J. Jones. The team has also brought back some depth pieces like Jordan Willis and Dontae Johnson.

In addition to re-signing some of the team's most talented free agents, the 49ers added center Alex Mack to an offensive line that could use some additional veteran leadership. Mack's familiarity with Shanahan's offense should make for a seamless transition and provide a reliable upgrade at a position that was a revolving door in 2020.

The 49ers addressed another position with explosive athlete edge rusher Samson Ebukam. As Dee Ford's back injury continues to leave a big question mark regarding his future with the team, Ebukam is a low-risk, high-reward signing who will get the opportunity to blossom under defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.

The team is expected to address the following positions during the draft: quarterback, cornerback, wide receiver, safety and offensive line. Here are few reasons that lead me to believe these positions will be the primary focus in the draft:

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Quarterback: The current 49ers’ front office has yet to spend a first-round draft pick on a quarterback, but it appears that Shanahan has identified his QB of the future. Given their ties to Robert Saleh, it is very possible they have received some intel from New York that the Jets intend to take Zach Wilson with the number-two pick; or the team likes at least three quarterbacks in this draft enough to trade multiple future first-round picks. The offseason has been clouded with controversy as to the future of Jimmy Garoppolo, and now with this move, we have some clarity. It is theoretically possible the team can retain Garoppolo for this season as a bridge QB, but I do anticipate that he will be traded leading up to the draft.

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Cornerback: The team re-signed cornerbacks K’waun Williams and Jason Verrett to one-year deals. After this season, the 49ers will have Emmanuel Moseley under contract for one more season. It's possible that San Francisco could re-sign Verrett or Williams again after the 2021 season if they put together solid healthy years, but I would expect them to hedge their bets in the draft and get at least one cornerback.

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Wide receiver: As it sits now,the 49ers have no obvious third wide receiver. The loss of Kendrick Bourne leaves a question mark as to who will fill that WR3 spot. They signed Mohamed Sanu, but he is likely nothing more than a role player and they cannot rely on Jalen Hurd to be healthy for the season. They will likely look to add a WR in the draft. If Hurd has a healthy 2021 season, then the WR room will have a great young core for years to come.

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Safety: The 49ers re-signed safety Jaquiski Tartt to a one-year deal, while Jimmie Ward is an unrestricted free agent in 2023. Tarvarius Moore and Marcell Harris have both shown flashes but have been inconsistent. Both players will be unrestricted free agents in 2022. This leads me to believe that the Niners will look to sign a safety during the draft.

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Offensive line: It's no secret that the 49ers can afford to get younger on their OL. They signed Mack, who although he is a great player, is 35 years old and in the twilight of his career. Left tackle Trent Williams will turn 33 before the start of the season. The 49ers should be expected to draft a center of the future or a lineman (or two) with some position versatility.

There is already a lot of speculation as to who the 49ers will choose with the third overall pick. Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones have all been mentioned by analysts. Lots of intrigue as we approach the draft on April 29.

Stay tuned!

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