Niners add pass-rush depth, explosive RB, QB steal in seven-round mock draft
The San Francisco 49ers have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, so rookies coming in and making the 53-man roster during training camp will be an uphill climb.
The 49ers have 11 picks draft this year, but none in the first and second rounds. San Francisco gave up the team’s first-round selection as part of the compensation package to move up to take Trey Lance at No. 3 overall in the 2021 draft and traded their second-rounder in the deal with the Carolina Panthers last year that brought dynamic RB Christian McCaffrey to the Bay Area.
It’s the second straight year in which the 49ers don’t have a pick in the first round. However, San Francisco has an NFL-high seven compensatory picks. Three of those were awarded for having minority candidates hired by other teams as a head coach or general manager.
With a stacked team, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch could look to take more developmental prospects with upside to improve on the back end of the roster, along with adding depth that could contribute in a pinch due to injury or on special teams.
And like the rest of the NFL, the 49ers always look to add athletic players who can run on both sides of the football.
Because they do not have a pick in the first two rounds, the 49ers will lean on the diligent work of college area scouts over the past year to make sure they find the best players that fit their scheme and culture.
“The scouts are the heroes really in my mind when it comes to the draft process,” Lynch told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. “We’ve got a great group that I can’t take a lot of credit for because they were here before I arrived, and I feel blessed all the time when we get in that process. Kyle does, too. We really trust these guys. We’ve had a lot of continuity, and they are the guys that really drive the bus when it comes to draft.”
Let’s take a look at whom those scouts might recommend in a seven-round mock draft for San Francisco.
Round 3, Pick 99 : Oregon DE DJ Johnson
The 49ers signed defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to big money in free agency, adding much-needed juice to the team’s interior pass rush. However, San Francisco lost two productive edge rushers, with Samson Ebukam (Indianapolis Colts) and Charles Omenihu (Kansas City Chiefs) moving on in free agency, and will look to add more depth at that position through the draft.
At 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, Johnson ran a 4.49 40 and bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times at the combine, so he’s a strong, explosive athlete. He had a productive year his final season at Oregon, finishing with 39 combined tackles — including 8.5 tackles for loss — and six sacks.
Johnson is a high-energy player who could fit in as a rotational guy for San Francisco.
On the downside, Johnson is older than a lot of prospects at age 24, and the 49ers will have to do their homework on an incident in which he threw a punch at an Oregon State fan after a loss to the Beavers in the Civil War.
Round 3, Pick 101: Old Dominion OL Nick Saldiveri
Versatility is Saldiveri’s strong suit, as he can play guard, tackle and even showed he could play center at this year’s Senior Bowl.
Saldiveri would be a valuable addition for the 49ers as they search for a replacement at right tackle with Mike McGlinchey joining the Denver Broncos on a lucrative free-agent deal.
Round 3, Pick 102: Tulane RB Tyjae Spears
The explosive playmaker finished with 1,581 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns in his final season for Tulane. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound back ran a 4.47 40 at his pro day.
Spears did have a serious, season-ending knee injury in 2020. However, based on his production and ability to make defenders miss in space, he would be an intriguing addition for a San Francisco offense that values running backs.
Round 5, Pick 155 (from Miami): Pittsburgh OT Carter Warren
Warren started 40 games at Pitt, including 39 at left tackle, and would add depth to an area of need for San Francisco.
An able pass-blocker who needs work as a run-blocker, Warren was a team captain at Pitt but played only four games in 2022 due to a meniscus tear.
Round 5, Pick 164: Fresno State QB Jake Haener
The efficient Haener completed 72% of his passes for 2,892 yards, with 20 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in 10 games last season for the Bulldogs.
At 6-foot and 207 pounds, Haener is undersized but throws with good anticipation. He would give the 49ers another option in the quarterback room as Brock Purdy and Trey Lance work themselves back from injuries. Haener made FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt’s NFL Draft Steal Watch.
Jake Haener on 2023 NFL Draft Steal Watch
Joel Klatt presents his QB and RB 2023 NFL Draft steals, including Fresno State’s Jake Haener.
Round 5, Pick 173: Clemson TE Davis Allen
Allen could develop into a solid red-zone target with his size (6-foot-6, 245 pounds) and ability to high-point the football. He had 39 receptions for 443 yards and five scores in his final season for the Tigers, earning third-team All-ACC honors.
Allen ran a 4.84 40 at the combine, so his downfield speed to threaten the middle of the field is a concern. But he’s a solid blocker in the run game.
Round 6, Pick 216: Florida DT Gervon Dexter Sr.
The versatile defensive tackle finished with 55 combined tackles, two sacks and an interception in his final season for the Gators.
Round 7, Pick 222 (from Denver): Ohio State S Ronnie Hickman Jr.
A two-year starter for the Buckeyes, Hickman is a physical defender close to the line of scrimmage with an ability to guard tight ends.
Round 7, Pick 247: Maryland K Chad Ryland
The 49ers moved on from longtime kicker Robbie Gould and traded for Zane Gonzalez, but they could look to add a young kicker to the competition through the draft.
Ryland made 19 of 23 field goals (82.6%) in his final season for Maryland, including three of six from beyond 50 yards, and had a 69% touchback percentage on kickoffs.
Round 7, Pick 253: USC CB Mekhi Blackmon
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Blackmon can play inside at slot defender or on the perimeter as a corner. He finished with 66 combined tackles, three interceptions and 12 pass breakups in 14 starts for the Trojans in 2022.
Round 7, Pick 255: Indiana LB Cam Jones
A three-time team captain, Jones played in just five games of his final season for the Hoosiers because of a foot injury. He’s a tone-setter and could develop into a good special-teams player due to his instinctive play.
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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