NFL draft: 49ers bolster CB depth, add TE, pick RB in 3rd round in ESPN 7-round mock
The 49ers are one of the 2023 draft’s most interesting teams. Not only is their roster very strong with a handful of weaknesses the need to shore up, but they also hold 11 picks without selecting until No. 99 overall.
A seven-round mock draft from ESPN laid out how the 49ers could go about addressing their needs while also utilizing all 11 of their picks.
We went through all seven rounds and did some recon on San Francisco’s picks to see how they fit and whether they’d make a real impact in the scenario where they wind up wearing red and gold.
A warning: the 49ers do pick a running back in the third round of this mock. We recommend reading while sitting down:
Round 3, Pick 99 | CB Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M
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Jones started for three years with the Aggies and has the size to be an impact player in the NFL. He measured in at 6-2, 200 pounds at the combine. His physical tools and experience should help him push for a starting job in a 49ers’ secondary that doesn’t have surefire starter opposite Charvarius Ward. In 29 games at Texas A&M Jones posted 72 tackles, three interceptions and 12 pass breakups.
Round 3, Pick 101 | OL Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion
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Saldiveri has legitimate NFL tackle size at 6-6, 318 pounds, and he put together a really nice performance at the NFL combine. If he doesn’t compete right away at right tackle where the 49ers have a starting job open, it’s not inconceivable that his athleticism would allow him to make a move to the interior. He started 35 of the 38 games he played in college with 34 of the starts coming at right tackle. He also started a game at right guard in 2022 and played some there during the 2021 season.
Round 3, Pick 102 | RB Devon Achane, Texas A&M
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Third-round running backs have been such a roaring success for Kyle Shanahan that it makes sense the team would take another one. Achane can fly and posted a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. His speed is unique and his versatility would certainly fit in the 49ers’ offense. He caught 65 passes for 554 yards and five touchdowns during his three years with the Aggies. He also averaged 6.4 yards per carry on 369 attempts. Achane would fit the bill as a versatile RB, but with Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell atop the depth chart and backed by 2022 third-round pick Tyrion Davis-Price and 2022 undrafted free agent Jordan Mason it’s hard to imagine the 49ers go this route again.
Round 5, Pick 155 | S Daniel Scott, Cal
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There’s a strong chance Scott’s age is one of the reasons he’s projected to fall this far. He spent six seasons at Cal and turns 25 at thee end of October. However, there’s an argument to be made for his experience, which spans five years, 49 games and 28 starts. He intercepted seven passes, accounted for 14 pass breakups and totaled 207 tackles. He’s a tremendous athlete who can handle free safety responsibilities in the 49ers’ defense while also making the trek down into the box and playing near the line of scrimmage. It would be fine for the 49ers wait this long to check off their need at safety if it means winding up with a player like Scott.
Round 5, Pick 164. | DE D.J. Johnson, Oregon
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The 49ers badly need some edge depth, and where they’re at in the draft will force them to take some flyers on high-end tools. Johnson is a big edge rusher at 6-4, 260 pounds – which means he may be able to work his way into some work as interior pass rusher on a defensive line room that’s specialized in developing players to do just that. He’s a good mover for his size and he put it all together in his final season with the Ducks where he posted a career-highs with 8.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks. His 25 games played across four years leave the door open for him to reach a new level with real playing time.
Round 5, Pick 173 | TE Payne Durham, Purdue
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Tight end is another position where the 49ers may want to look earlier since they could use a legitimate receiving option alongside George Kittle. Durham offers some upside as a pass catcher though with his 6-6, 253-pound frame and plenty of functional athleticism. He’s a willing blocker who posted big-time receiving numbers over his final two seasons with the Boilermakers. In 2021 and 2022 he hauled in 101 balls for 1,027 yards and 14 touchdowns in 23 games.
Round 6, Pick 216 | LB Ventrell Miller, Florida
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Miller is an interesting choice for the 49ers because he doesn’t really fit their type at LB. Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw and previously Azeez Al-Shaair are all very good athletes capable of staying on the field for all three downs and succeeding in coverage. His tape doesn’t include a ton of the sideline-to-sideline plays that make the 49ers’ linebacking corps special. However, his role in Year 1 would likely be as a Sam LB who isn’t asked to do much in coverage. He hits like a truck and fits the mold of a more traditional downhill, run-stuffing LB. If he can contribute on special teams though he’d be a fine selection this late in the draft.
Round 7, Pick 222 | OL Sidy Sow, Eastern Michigan
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Sow is right up the 49ers’ alley for an offensive lineman. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s one of their picks even earlier than this. He’s 6-5, 323 pounds and a tremendous athlete who started his career at left tackle before settling in as a guard and earning First-Team All-MAC honors there. A multi-positional, highly-athletic offensive lineman could definitely push for a starting job or work in as a reserve right away for the 49ers.
Round 7, Pick 247 | WR Andrei Iosivas, Princeton
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If the 49ers are going to take a flyer on a wide receiver, Iosivas is a great place to go looking. He’s 6-3, 205 pounds and brings ridiculous athleticism. He ran the heptathlon for Princeton to go along with his football exploits. Iosivas was an All-American heptathlete and his 60-meter dash time of 6.71 in the heptathlon was the fastest ever per the Princeton athletics site. Over the last two seasons he turned in 107 receptions for 1,646 yards and 12 touchdowns in 20 games for the Tigers. He may require a year on the practice squad to refine some of his receiving skills, but his ceiling is very high.
Round 7, Pick 253 | CB Lance Boykin, Coastal Carolina
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Boykin’s size and arm length both jump out at first glance. He’s 6-2, 200 pounds and his arms measured at 32 3/8 inches. Those traits alone are worth a shot in the seventh round. He began his career at Old Dominion before transferring to Coastal Carolina for the 2021 and 2022 campaigns. At Coastal Carolina he played in 24 games and posted three interceptions with 15 pass breakups. His athleticism leaves something to be desired, but his size and ball skills make him an intriguing late-round add for a team that can afford to add some competition at CB.
Round 7, Pick 255 | TE Elijah Higgins, Stanford
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ESPN listed Higgins’ position as WR/TE, and NFL.com gave him Jordan Reed as a player comparison. If he’s truly going to be a Reed-like player, the 49ers would be wise to use one of their 11 picks on him. He never played TE at Stanford so it would require some development on that front, but a physical athlete who measures in at 6-3, 235 pounds certainly fits the mold of a do-everything TE in the vein of a Reed or former 49ers TE Delanie Walker. Of all the picks in this mock, Higgins is probably the most intriguing. In 40 games across five seasons at Stanford he had 119 catches, 1,380 yards and six touchdowns. He also added some rushing work to his game as a senior and carried four times for 48 yards.