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NFL draft: Will the 49ers try something other than OL in Round 1?

All signs point toward the 49ers taking an offensive lineman with their first-round pick in this year’s draft. It’s a key position of need now and in the future, and the draft class is supposed to be deep enough that even at No. 31 San Francisco should be able to find a starting-caliber offensive tackle. However, a couple different mock drafts have laid out an alternate route where they address a different need in Round 1, and then take advantage of the OL depth in the class by taking one in Round 2.

One example of this came from Draft Wire, which had Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson going to the 49ers at No. 31 overall in a two-round projection. At No. 63 they snagged Notre Dame OT Blake Fisher.

Another example came via ESPN’s Jordan Reid, who mocked Missouri cornerback Ennis Rakestraw Jr. to the 49ers in the first round, with Houston OT Patrick Paul going to San Francisco in the second round.

This would be a fascinating way for the 49ers to attack this year’s draft. Their need on the offensive line is immediate and it would seem inconceivable that they’d pass up a high-end talent at that spot in the first round. However, they also need upgrades in the secondary and at defensive end so it would be completely justifiable if their best player available is one of those two positions. Bolstering a defense that wobbled a couple times this season and could see a significant exodus of depth this offseason would certainly make a lot of sense in their return to the first round.

On the other hand, there are potential pitfalls with this plan.

The most notable one is that the further down in the draft they go the more likely it is they wind up with an OL who’s not necessarily ready to start right away. While a first-round OL might be a Day 1 starter, a second-round OL may have some flaws that require ongoing development before that player can slot in as a starting offensive lineman. We saw something like this with left guard Aaron Banks. He was a second-round pick in 2021, but didn’t play any kind of significant snaps until he became the starting LG in 2022.

This will be an assessment the 49ers’ front office has to weigh heavily when they’re on the clock in the first round. Can they afford to neglect the offensive line with their most premium draft capital, or can they find an adequate addition at some point on Day 2?

For now we can expect mock drafts to continue heavily leaning toward an offensive lineman going to the 49ers, and that’s they way we’d expect the team to pick on Draft Day.

There are definitely available routes in a different direction though where they can address that top need later on. It just comes with the risk that San Francisco goes into 2024 with some of the same quality and depth issues that has plagued them at times throughout Kyle Shanahan’s tenure as head coach.

 

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire