By John Camera
The San Francisco 49ers have a franchise-changing decision to make at pick number two in the 2017 NFL Draft. Presuming the Cleveland Browns make the right choice and go with All-World Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, the 9ers will have a litany of players worth taking at two but no one is the clear second-best player in the class after Garrett. They could continue to bolster their defense, making it their 5th straight year of adding a first round talent to their defense, with potential stalwarts like Solomon Thomas, Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, and Jamal Adams. Unfortunately their defensive selections haven’t fixed a defense that lost so much, so quickly with a slew of sudden retirements a couple years ago.
Their 2013 1st rounder, Eric Reid, never lived up to his potential at LSU and is still an over-aggressive, poor tackler who isn’t great in coverage. In 2014, they selected Jimmie Ward, who’s been a solid nickel back, a hybrid between slot corner and free safety, but hasn’t been a difference maker. 2015 pick Arik Armstead has been hampered by injuries and may make a move to SAM Linebacker. 2016 pick DeForest Buckner is easily the best of the bunch and looks to be a defensive pillar for years to come. The 9ers could add another one next to him in the young and still-developing DL terror that is Stanford’s Solomon Thomas. Thomas can play the DE spot in the 9ers revamped 4-3 defense and shift inside on passing downs to work next to Buckner.
San Francisco can also look to add reinforcements to a secondary that badly needs it. Starting Corner Traimane Brock is out and the aforementioned underwhelming draft picks the 49ers took in 2013 and 2014 still leave a lot to be desired. San Francisco could look to add Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore who could team with last year’s reclamation project Rashard Robinson, who had a very promising rookie year in his first action since 2014 (he was formerly kicked off the LSU football squad). Lattimore would give San Fran a huge upgrade at CB and create a young Cornerback corp that could be very good in a short time along with Robinson and Ward. They could look to add a play-making ball hawk at Free Safety, adding Malik Hooker to their defense and letting him patrol the middle of the field. Finally, the 49ers could select LSU’s Jamal Adams and bring on a high-character Safety who could ideally play FS, SS, and even a little CB. Most draft pundits seem to pigeonhole him as a SS but I believe he has enough speed to stick at Free.
While defense is likely the pick, San Francisco could also look to add an offensive player to kickstart the struggling unit. Runningback Leonard Fournette would be an upgrade over the injury prone Carlos Hyde and could give the 49ers a formidable tandem that could run over opposing defenses. However, the last pick that is possible but I would highly recommend they don’t make, is selecting UNC Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky is a fine Quarterback, and after some time could very well become a solid NFL starter in the right situation. And while new HC Kyle Shanahan figures to be in the market for a new QB with Colin Kaepernick gone, he shouldn’t take a boom or bust prospect when he can grab a true difference maker from day one with this pick.