The San Francisco 49ers are rebuilding and the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft will surely help. Who could they select when they’re on the clock?
The San Francisco 49ers are going to be vastly different in the 2017 season than they were the previous year. John Lynch has replaced Trent Baalke as general manager while former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator (and resident genius) Kyle Shanahan will assume head coaching duties after Chip Kelly was fired. More than that, though, the Niners are going to have new talent incoming from every direction—including the 2017 NFL Draft.
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After their dismal two-win campaign in 2016, the 49ers possess the second-overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Subsequently, they have the opportunity before them to draft one of the can’t-miss prospects in this draft. However, you don’t win two games in a season because you have areas of your roster figured out. In fact, the situation is quite the opposite.
As a result, there are serious questions about what the San Francisco 49ers might do with the No. 2 pick in the draft. There’s still the potential that they could trade it for a quarterback or even to move down. But assuming they keep the selection, what then are the Niners going to do with it?
Though there’s nothing certain, here are five viable first-round options for the 49ers with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Sep 26, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) in action against the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
5. Myles Garrett, EDGE – Texas A&M
Full disclosure: I would be appalled if the Cleveland Browns don’t take Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick. You can talk about their need at quarterback (a glaring need at that), but they essentially have needs at the majority of the positions on the field. In that situation, they have to take the best player available and that’s Garrett every day of the week. He brings the rap of being a game-changer right way with the potential to only get better as he further matures and learns.
However, the Browns don’t exactly have a glowing history of success when it comes to drafting. Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden are recent testaments to this fact. Subsequently, you can’t rule out the possibility that they make a massive blunder with the first-overall pick—namely, not taking Garrett. If that’s the case, then the 49ers should only be on the clock for the amount of time that it takes to write the Texas A&M star’s name down.
Garrett could fill any void that the Niners would need him to, simply because he’s that versatile and dominant of a prospect. If they need him as a 3-4 defensive end, he has the size and power to succeed there. What’s more, though, he has the speed and move-set as a pass-rusher to be effective as a stand-up linebacker on the edge in the same scheme. Getting Garrett at No. 2 would be the steal of the century for the 49ers. So while it’s unlikely, it deserves to be mentioned that San Francisco can’t pass up the Aggie if he slips past the first pick.
Nov 25, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) is pushed out of bounds by North Carolina State Wolfpack linebacker Jarod Fernandez (4) during the second half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The Wolfpack won 28-21. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
4. Mitch Trubisky, QB – North Carolina
What the San Francisco 49ers plan to do at quarterback upon the arrival of Lynch as general manager and Shanahan as head coach remains the biggest mystery of the offseason for this team. They’ve been linked to having interest in potentially available veteran options such as Kirk Cousins, Tyrod Taylor, Jimmy Garoppolo and even Matt Schaub. Hell, you can even throw Tony Romo speculation into the mix.
All the while, that the 49ers will either land any of those players this offseason—or in the case of Schaub, if they believe he’s a long-term solution—remains to be seen. With Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert likely having played their last meaningful down in San Francisco, the Niners could then turn to the draft and would likely have to reach a bit at No. 2 to get their guy. If that’s the case, they have to take the best prospect at the position there and that title falls on Mitch Trubisky out of North Carolina.
Trubisky is certainly a flawed player. After just one year of starting for the Tar Heels, he was productive and successful, but the issues of inexperience were evident. His mechanics were often inconsistent and he shows a tendency to get anxious with his feet in the pocket. Even still, the arm strength, athleticism, prototypical size, and potential for him to be a starting NFL quarterback were all evident throughout the season as well. Subsequently, if the 49ers find themselves in the position of needing a quarterback for the future come the draft, Trubisky should be their guy and someone that will be worth the work and development necessary.
Dec 31, 2016; Orlando , FL, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
3. Jamal Adams, SS – LSU
Once you get past the likes of Myles Garrett, Jonathan Allen and Leonard Fournette, there might not be two better playmakers in the 2017 NFL Draft than at safety when it comes to LSU’s Jamal Adams and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker. With Eric Reid already in-tow and having shown some promise at free safety, though, the 49ers would likely look opposite him at strong safety. That leaves them potentially looking at Adams, who could be a game-changer.
Perhaps the best description for Adams—especially with the LSU connection—would be the “Honey Badger” Tyrann Mathieu if he were prototypically sized. When you watch the film of Adams, there’s simply not much that he can’t do. He’s capable in coverage with great range, speed, and recognition on the back end of a secondary. What’s more, his recognition carries over when he’s forced to come up against both the run and short passing plays. Once on the ball-carrier, Adams can deliver the thump with big hits, but also is a sure bet to bring down his man.
No matter where he lands, Adams is going to be a star in the NFL. Much like Garrett, he’s the type of player that can make an impact right away, but also has a bevy of upside to potentially become a superstar in the NFL. Considering that the 49ers trotted veteran (Re: past his prime) Antoine Bethea at strong safety in 2016, they’d much rather have the immensely talented Adams taking the field. He’s not the first option, but it’d be hard to call taking Adams a misfire on their part.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) reacts after bring brought down by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster (10) during the second quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
2. Reuben Foster, ILB – Alabama
Linebacker has historically been a position of strength for the 49ers, both on the inside and outside. However, troubled injury histories of NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks in addition to the unexpected early retirement of Chris Borland have left them wanting at the position. That’s only going to be more so the case heading into 2017 as three of their top-four players on the depth chart at the position are slated for free agency.
Looking at that need then, Reuben Foster out of Alabama could very well be in play with the No. 2 overall pick. Like many of the players coming out of Nick Saban’s defensive factory, Foster looks to be a complete prospect that can be a game-breaker at inside linebacker. He put a full skill-set on display throughout his time in Tuscaloosa and was one of the anchors of the most fearsome defense in all of college football.
Foster’s biggest strength is most certainly his ability to recognize plays and react quickly, especially when it comes to making plays against the run. He’s a sure tackler that can deliver hits with pop, but rarely sees ball-carriers bounce off his contact as he wraps up consistently well. What’s more, he’s also effective as a pass-rusher up the middle when called up to do so, displaying similar burst and great timing in that regard. While he could still use a bit more work in pass coverage, he’s still proficient in that are already and could ultimately fill a huge need for the Niners.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) reacts during the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
1. Jonathan Allen, DL – Alabama
Assuming that everything goes as planned with the Browns and the No. 1 pick (Myles Garrett), the 49ers would be foolish in my estimation to let Jonathan Allen slip through their grasp. Yes, they’ve addressed the front-three of their 3-4 defense in recent years with the additions of Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, with the latter looking quite promising prior to his injury. While that’s the case, though, Allen is an absolute game-changer.
Bursting with versatility, Allen truly did everything asked of him at Alabama. That included moving all over their defensive front, playing both on the edge and on the interior. In both areas, he displayed a tremendous blend of burst, power and speed for a man his size. Though he was surely aided by being a part of one of the best defenses in the country, Allen was the driving force behind said defense. He was disruptive on almost every down, no matter the situation. He’s polished and could make an impact in the NFL upon arrival.
For a team that’s as wholly talent deficient throughout the roster as the 49ers, they can’t afford to pass on Allen. Yes, they have other needs that would be considered more pressing at No. 2. However, solidifying a game-changing front-three for the future would be a huge step in the right direction. Allen would provide that and more in San Francisco. He should be option No. 1—again assuming that the Browns take Garrett.