NFC West: Eric Reid

Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers were supposed to be powerbrokers of the first round.

Everyone was expecting them to go make the big move for a top-end receiver in an effort to compete with Super Bowl champion -- and heated NFC West rival -- Seattle.

Instead, the 49ers ended up addressing their one true need -- albeit in an unexpected way.

Instead of trading up for stud LSU receiver Odell Beckham or taking one of the glamour cornerbacks, the 49ers grabbed Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward with the 30th pick.

At first glance, it smacked of a curious reach. Yes, Ward was a scout's favorite, but he was considered more of a second-round pick. And he played a position the 49ers made their biggest offseason investment at -- by signing veteran Antoine Bethea to a four-year, $23 million deal.

With receivers Cody Latimer and Marqise Lee still on the board, picking Ward did not initially appear to make much sense. But after digesting the pick, I could see why the 49ers made this pick.

The 49ers' benchmark is defense. With star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman out until about midseason with a torn ACL and star linebacker Aldon Smith's future clouded by a potential NFL suspension, the 49ers need to keep their edge in the early season.

This move should ensure they stay stout in the secondary. In addition to safety Donte Whitner (who Bethea replaces), the 49ers parted ways with their second and third cornerbacks -- Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers -- this offseason. Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver are expected to start.

The 49ers want to see Ward become the nickel. He played there often at Northern Illinois. Some teams are using safeties as a nickel and it seems the 49ers are going that route.

There were rumblings the 49ers didn't like any of the four cornerbacks that went in the first round -- Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard and Jason Verrett. They had the means to trade up and pick any of them and didn't.

Instead, they eyed the hard-hitting, competitive and smart Ward.

This may be out of the box, but it seems like a 49ers move. Having Reid, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season, the steady Bethea and Ward on the field together makes this a strong secondary.

49ers general manager Trent Baalke raved about Ward's competitive nature. Coach Jim Harbaugh simply said: "He loves football."

Baalke, who saw Ward play live once, said it was telling that when he asked scouts which games of Ward's he should watch, multiple scouts said, "Pick one." It was Ward's consistency that stood out to the 49ers.

Ward, who had the second most interceptions in the country last season with seven, led his team in tackles and interceptions the past two seasons. Baalke doesn't think coming from a smaller conference will be too much for Ward.

"The stage isn't too big for him," Baalke said.

Ward showed he had the mental toughness for the NFL when he ran for scouts with a broken foot, which is expected to be completely healed by training camp. Ward posted a 4.48 40-time on a bad wheel. That made Baalke smile.

The 49ers may not have stolen headlines with this pick, but they did add a key component to what makes them the 49ers -- an ornery defense.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The pick: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois.

My take: Stunned. Ward is a fine player, but considered by some as a second-round pick. The 49ers have now taken safeties in the first round of the past two drafts. They traded up to take Eric Reid last year. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. The 49ers signed Antoine Bethea to a four-year, $23 million deal in March after Donte Whitner left to join the Cleveland Browns. Ward could see some time in nickel packages as the 49ers are somewhat weak at cornerback.

No trade up: There was speculation the 49ers would trade up for a receiver such as LSU's Odell Beckham or Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks. But those deals never developed and the 49ers will have five of the 68 selections Friday.

What’s next: The 49ers have more picks than anyone in the second and third rounds. Expect the 49ers to make some trades Friday. They can grab a receiver and a cornerback in the second round. Those spots remain the 49ers’ biggest needs.
There has been speculation throughout the NFL draft season that the San Francisco 49ers could be a prime candidate to move up in the first round next Thursday.

A potential trade partner could be the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens hold the No. 17 pick. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome told reporters Wednesday that they have already received calls for the pick.

Let's look at some reasons how the 49ers (who have the 30th overall pick in the first round) and the Ravens could be trade partners.

49ers have done it before: This move up would be 13 spots. The 49ers did exactly that last year when they went from No. 31 to No. 18 in a trade with Dallas to take safety Eric Reid, who became a Pro Bowl player as a rookie. In addition to No. 31, the 49ers gave Dallas No. 74, in the third round.

Teams work well together: We know these two teams communicate. Of course, Jim and John Harbaugh are the respective coaches of the 49ers and the Ravens. Plus, the two teams have been in contact this spring putting together a joint workout in August. Newsome and 49ers general manager Trent Baalke have had dealings in the past. And the Ravens sent receiver Anquan Boldin to the 49ers last year.

Potential targets: The 49ers' top needs are at cornerback and receiver. The cornerbacks expected to go in the top 20 are Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and perhaps Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller. The receivers who could be taken in that range include LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks. The 49ers have been studying both players intensively.

What would it cost? The 49ers have a few packages to offer. They could offer No. 30 and No. 77, in a similar deal to the Dallas swap. Or they could offer No. 56 and No. 61, and perhaps even those two picks with No. 84 or No. 129.

Have they already talked? Newsome said they’ve had preliminary talks with teams, and Baalke said last week it is routine for him to have initial talks prior to the draft with potential trade partners to discuss potential scenarios.

It’s already been suggested: Former Tampa Bay general manager and current ESPN analyst Mark Dominik suggested a 49ers-Ravens trade for No. 17 Insider in an Insider piece last week.
It's probably not accurate to believe the San Francisco 49ers are going all in with Chris Cook and the one-high safety scheme.

Cook
After all, Cook signed a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum with no guaranteed money. If he was going to be the centerpiece of a new scheme, he’d get paid like it.

However, the addition of Cook is a sign the 49ers would like to do more press coverage and work in some one-high safety coverage, which Seattle Seahawks have executed so well. Cook is 6-foot-2, which makes him a nice fit for the scheme.

Cook, a second-round pick by Minnesota in 2010, made it clear in his introductory conference call what the 49ers want him to do.

"They want me to be the press guy," Cook said. "And that's what I like to do. I feel like I'll fit in well with the one-high scheme that they like to run. I came from a two-high scheme. And I feel like a one-high scheme and a man-to-man scheme fits me well."

ESPN scout Matt Williamson doesn’t believe the 49ers will adopt the one-high safety attack full time and instead thinks it will be a “wrinkle.” Despite the fact he doesn’t have an interception in four NFL seasons, Cook could help the 49ers.

“They want him to be their Richard Sherman with (safety Eric) Reid over the top. Cook is big and physical in press and does have a lot of ability,” Williamson said. “Not saying he is Sherman, but I do think that best uses Cook's skill set.”

Williamson said if the 49ers use Cook in press coverage, they can move new starting strong safety Antoine Bethea closer to the line of scrimmage than they played former starter Donte Whitner. Williamson said that can help compensate for playing without injured inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman early in the season. Bowman could miss up to half the season as he recovers from a torn ACL he suffered at Seattle in the NFC title game Jan. 19.

So, perhaps, the acquisition of Cook could have multiple benefits.
In an Insider piece, Mel Kiper re-graded the 2013 draft.

The San Francisco 49ers fared well in Kiper’s re-evaluation. Immediately after the draft, Kiper assigned a 'B' to the 49ers. Now that the season is over, Kiper stuck with his original grade.

Here are some of Kiper’s thoughts:
It's tough to add impact to one of the deepest rosters in the league, but the Niners did, and we could see some dividends going forward. (Eric) Reid was a success story -- he stepped in at free safety and acquitted himself well. Elsewhere, (Corey) Lemonier and (Vance) McDonald had moments, and could develop into starters. I thought (Quinton) Patton had the potential to play a bigger role ...

I think Kiper’s assessment is fair. Reid is a stud, but the key, in the long-run, will be the development of the other players Kiper mentioned. The wild cards are the injured players -- running back Marcus Lattimore and defensive lineman Tank Carradine. They are both expected to have roles in 2014.

Jerry Rice tabs 49ers' Eric Reid

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
10:40
PM ET
Rookie safety Eric Reid, the only San Francisco 49er at the Pro Bowl, will be on Team Rice.

Reid tweeted that he was drafted by Jerry Rice’s team for this weekend’s Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Rice and Deion Sanders are heading the two teams this year. It is the first year the Pro Bowl will not be divided by conferences.

The eight original 49ers selected to the Pro Bowl all withdrew. Reid was an alternate selection.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 4
Preseason Power Ranking: 2

Biggest surprise: The impact that Michael Crabtree's injury and then his return had on the team. When Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles in May, the 49ers knew it would affect their offense. But his absence was felt dramatically during the 11 games he was out. The 49ers had essentially nothing behind receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis in the passing game. However, when he returned Dec. 1, the 49ers were instantly a better, more varied, dangerous offense. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was more confident. The difference was stark.

Biggest disappointment: The loss at New Orleans on Nov. 17. The 49ers appeared to have sealed the game when linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked and forced New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees to fumble late. But Brooks was called for a questionable personal foul. The Saints rallied to win. It was a major storyline in the NFL that week. Had the 49ers won, they would have finished 13-3, won a tiebreaker over Seattle in the NFC West and would not have had to play at Seattle in the playoffs.

Biggest need: The 49ers are deep. They don't have many holes. But they can use another young receiver. Boldin is 33 and a free agent. Fourth-round pick Quinton Patton looks promising, but San Francisco will likely take a speed receiver early in the draft. Expect the team to take a cornerback fairly early as well. The 49ers need to develop a young player there.

Team MVP: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The 25-year-old had an amazing season. He is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He was dominant in virtually every game. He is a special playmaker. It was a sad sight seeing him being carted off in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at Seattle with a major knee injury. Bowman is expected back next season. The 49ers need him.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- There will be a San Francisco 49er in the Pro Bowl after all.

After all eight of the players originally selected withdrew – linebacker Ahmad Brooks was the last to withdraw on Tuesday – the team announced rookie safety Eric Reid is going to play in the game Sunday.

The honor culminates a strong rookie season by the safety. Reid looked like a polished veteran all season and was a great fit for the 49ers’ aggressive defense. The team did not miss Dashon Goldson, who went to Tampa Bay in free agency.

The 49ers deserve credit for moving up from No. 31 to No. 18 to take Reid in last year's NFL draft. It looks like there may be many more Pro Bowls to come for him.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As he dressed alongside NaVorro Bowman, after another dominant San Francisco 49ers defensive performance that propelled the team to its third straight NFC Championship Game, Patrick Willis looked up.

“This is the greatest sport there is,” the perennial Pro Bowl linebacker said. Bowman smiled and nodded.

[+] EnlargeNaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezLinebackers NaVorro Bowman (53) and Patrick Willis anchor a 49ers defense that has the team competing for the NFC championship on Sunday.
They are arguably the greatest pair of position players in the NFL.

As the 49ers have revisited their glorified past this season under coach Jim Harbaugh, it has been cemented by fierce, take-over defensive play. The team's five Super Bowl trophies may have been won by players like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young, yet their latest run at a dynasty is being paved on the other side of the ball.

It starts with Willis and Bowman.

“They are like two machines in the middle of our defense,” San Francisco rookie safety Eric Reid said.

The two inside linebackers are the heartbeat of the 49ers’ defense, which has shut out opponents in an NFL-high 35 of 78 quarters this season.

The defense is loaded with stalwarts such as outside linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, defensive tackle Justin Smith, and safety Donte Whitner, but the personality of this unit starts with Willis and Bowman.

In fact, some believe the duo might be among the best linebacker tandems ever to play.

“They are historically good,” ESPN analyst Matt Williamson said. “They are there with [Jack] Ham/[Jack] Lambert, [Brian] Urlacher/[Lance] Briggs, [Willie] Lanier/[Bobby] Bell. [Willis and Bowman] are a truly rare and elite pairing.”

The 49ers came across this historic pairing unexpectedly. They drafted Willis, who will turn 29 later this month, with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He was considered a can’t-miss prospect out of Mississippi and has been first- or second-team All-Pro in his first six NFL seasons.

When the 49ers drafted Bowman three years later, they were just hoping to get a capable potential starter. He was taken in the third round out of Penn State in 2010. Running back Frank Gore recalls seeing Bowman as a rookie in camp and knowing the 49ers might have found the perfect complement to Willis.

“Even in training camp, OTAs, I just saw how fast he was,” Gore said. “How he could read and get to the ball. We have the same agent (Drew Rosenhaus) and I called my agent and I said, 'Man, you've got somebody right here, man. That’s a good pickup for you to represent.' "

Still, Bowman’s success was not instant. Harbaugh's staff came in 2011. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio told his new defense that only Willis and Justin Smith were guaranteed a spot. Everyone else had to go earn it. Bowman listened.

“No, because he really didn’t play much the year before,” Fangio said, when asked if he had big expectations for Bowman in 2011. "And all through that offseason, that was the lockout year, there was kind of an assumption that Takeo Spikes was going to come back here. And NaVorro probably would have been in the same role. In retrospect, it’s a good thing that Takeo didn't come back here because he would have been beaten out by NaVorro.”

Once Bowman, 25, got on the field, he and Willis instantly clicked. Both have been among the league leaders in tackles, and they have a unique chemistry. While Bowman was an All-Pro last season, he has taken his game to the next level as Willis dealt with hand and hamstring injuries early in the season.

Bowman, who came up with the 49ers' play of the year when he saved the final game at Candlestick Park in Week 16 by returning an interception 89 yards for a touchdown against Atlanta, is a candidate for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Willis fully supports his younger teammate. Asked about Bowman's candidacy, Willis said “he has my vote.”

Perhaps what makes this combination so strong is that they are as in sync off the field as they are on it. They each had 11 tackles, tying for a team-high (Willis also had an interception), in the 23-10 win Sunday against Carolina that sent the 49ers to the NFC title game against Seattle. They conducted their postgame news conference together. Willis, a country kid from Tennessee, and Bowman, who hails from a high-crime area in Maryland just outside Washington, D.C., both are quiet by nature, and neither is overly flashy off the field. Bowman said the key to their success is discipline in the study room.

“We are students, we are in school,” Bowman said. “We learn every day.”

The 49ers will be counting on them for the long haul. Willis is signed through 2016 and Bowman through 2018, and Harbaugh knows these two are a key to the team’s success.

“The teamwork, the respect that they have for each other, the love, is shared by many people on the team,” Harbaugh said. "And that, as a coach, there’s nothing that makes you feel as good as to hear that. That’s the team, the team, the team. And it’s genuine. It’s not talk."

Neither is the impact of Willis and Bowman on the 49ers' success.
The San Francisco 49ers landed five players on the first and second teams of the coveted Associated Press All-Pro list.

Bowman
The number was tied for the most in the NFL with Kansas City and Cleveland. However, only inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman was named first-team All-Pro for San Francisco.

It was no surprise Bowman was named to the first team. He was dominant all season and is a NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. The 49ers named to the second team were defensive tackle Justin Smith, linebacker Ahmad Brooks, tackle Joe Staley and tight end Vernon Davis.

Meanwhile, the 49ers announced their own annual awards. Here is the release from the team:

Len Eshmont Award: LB NaVorro Bowman

The Len Eshmont Award is voted on by the players and is given to the 49er who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team. Eshmont, who coached at Navy and Virginia following his career in San Francisco, died in 1957. The award was established that year.

Bill Walsh Award: WR Anquan Boldin

The Bill Walsh Award was established in 2004 in honor of San Francisco's Hall of Fame head coach. Walsh served as the team's head coach for 10 seasons from 1979-88. In that time, he compiled a record of 102-63-1 and led the team to three Super Bowls. He was twice named Coach of the Year (1981, 1984) and was later named Coach of the Decade for the 1980s. The award, which is voted on by coaches, is given to the 49ers team MVP, honoring his outstanding individual performance.

Bobb McKittrick Award: G/T Alex Boone

The Bobb McKittrick Award is given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the longtime offensive line coach, during his 21 years of service to the 49ers. The award was established by the 49ers in 1999, and is voted on by the offensive line.

Hazeltine Iron Man Award: DT Justin Smith

The Hazeltine Iron Man Award is named for former linebacker Matt Hazeltine, a 13-year performer who played more seasons at linebacker than any other 49ers player. Known for his durability and dedication, Hazeltine passed away in 1987 from ALS, and Bill Walsh established the award in his honor that year. The award is given annually to the most courageous and inspirational defensive player as voted upon by the defensive coaches.

Thomas Herrion Memorial Award: S Eric Reid

Thomas Herrion Memorial Award was established in 2005 by 49ers owners Denise and John York and is presented to a rookie or first-year player who best represents the dream of Thomas Herrion. The recipient has taken advantage of every opportunity, turned it into a positive situation and made their dream turn into a reality. The award is voted on by the coaches.

Blue Collar Players of the Year: As voted on by the players and coaches:


Defense: Glenn Dorsey
Offense: Frank Gore
Special teams: Bubba Ventrone
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

At first glance, it looks as though the 49ers got shortchanged on the All-NFC West list, especially on defense. After all, the San Francisco defense is clearly one of the NFL's best.

So, to see only defensive tackle Justin Smith and inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman represented could raise eyebrows. However, one must consider that the NFC West is a fantastic division for defensive play. Try to find a more talented group; it'd be difficult.

The 49ers did well in total. They placed eight players on the 26-man All-NFC West first-team (as voted on by the four writers who cover the teams in the division). Seattle had eight on the first team, Arizona seven and St. Louis three.

So the 49ers were represented. Arguments certainly could have been made for linebackers Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks, as well as safeties Donte Whitner and rookie Eric Reid. But again, the players on this team are solid.

The 49ers were recognized for their strong offensive line -- the list includes three-fifths of the group with tackles Joe Staley and Anthony Davis and guard Alex Boone. No argument there. This is a physical group that sets the tone.

Tight end Vernon Davis, receiver Anquan Boldin and punter Andy Lee were all worthy picks.

It was a tough call between Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore at running back. We went with just one. Lynch has 1,160 rushing yards and Gore has 1,114. Gore is a big part of what the 49ers do, but Lynch is vital to the Seahawks' offense.

A major argument could be made for San Francisco kicker Phil Dawson to be on the first team. He has been a major cog this season. But again, in total, the 49ers fared pretty well on this list.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When great plays happen, they get talked about for days.

Thus, it was no surprise that "The Pick" was still the first topic Thursday when the San Francisco 49ers met the media.

Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman caught a deflected pass and took it 89 yards for a touchdown to seal the 49ers' 34-24 victory over Atlanta in the final regular-season game at Candlestick Park. Bowman started the play as a pass-rusher and then shot back to the ball to try to make a tackle.

Thursday, San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said the entire defense was perfect on the play.

“Everybody on that play did their job exactly correct, all 11 guys,” Fangio said. “Luckily it worked out. But it just goes to show when you execute, all 11 guys doing the right thing at the right time with the right amount of energy, good things can happen. And everybody was right on point on that play. And it’s something that we don’t call very often, don’t practice very often, but it’s always on the plan every week, and that was the time to use it.”

Fangio said it was an all-out blitz. He said he’s probably called the play three times this season.

“Just felt like it was the time based upon the situation and the way things were going,” Fangio said. “Obviously to get a pick-six is far-fetched, but we had a good down.”

Besides Bowman, cornerback Tramaine Brock and safety Eric Reid were particularly good on the play. Brock deflected the pass into the air, and Reid made great penetration on the blitz.

“It feels good to be part of it,” Brock said Thursday.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – There is no doubt the San Francisco 49ers will miss fullback Bruce Miller, who is out for the season with a broken scapula.

Dixon
However, coach Jim Harbaugh made it clear Thursday the team is confident that Miller's backup, Anthony Dixon, will perform well in the role.

“Anthony Dixon will step up and do a great job, as he has been doing in that backup fullback role,” Harbaugh said. “You never have to worry about AD’s effort, and I look forward to watching him compete.”

Harbaugh said the newly signed Will Tukuafu will primarily be a fullback, but added that he can play defensive line in am emergency. When Tukuafu was previously with the 49ers, over the past three years, he was primarily a defensive tackle who dabbled as a fullback.

In other 49ers notes:
  • Harbaugh had high praise for quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s ability to throw to his left. High praise. Check it out: “I’ve never seen anybody throw to their left on the run better than Colin. Comparative to the universe of quarterbacks. It’s a rare comparison.”
  • Here’s Kaepernick, a native of Wisconsin who moved to California as a child, on memories of Candlestick Park: “I was a Packers fan growing up, so don’t quite have the same memories.”
  • Mel Kiper Jr. believes 49ers safety Eric Reid has been the 11th-best rookie Insider in the NFL this season. There is no question, Reid has become a vital part of a great defense.
  • Can Michael Crabtree be trusted as a Week 16 fantasy play?
In the first of what promises to be many, many of these things, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay offers his first mock draft for the first round Insider of the 2014 draft.

This mock is based on projected finishes for each team. While it is very early in the draft process, I think this is a worthwhile exercise to keep a tab on team needs.

McShay projects the 49ers to have the 28th pick in the first round. And his first choice for the 49ers is Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman.

My take: I can see the pick. The 49ers could use a dominant force in the middle of their line. So, this isn’t a bad first choice. But the team is deep on the line with plenty of alignment options. Their biggest need, as of right now is receiver. Cornerback could also become a need depending on what happens in free agency. I’ve long maintained the 49ers (who are set to have at least 13 picks) should move up in the draft as they did last year when they went from No. 31 to No. 18 to take LSU safety Eric Reid. That pick has worked out beautifully. The 49ers are deep and they can’t find room for all of their healthy players now on the 46-man game-day roster. I think they should pool picks and go get a star. My target would be Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins at this point.

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