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49ers 2018 NFL Draft Big Board: looking for an impact advocate to solidify an improvement unit

The NFL's 2018 Draft will not be until next week, but the San Francisco 49ers have already scored their second-round pick. John Lynch sent what ended up becoming the general selection n. 43 against the New England Patriots on last year's trade deadline, receiving Jimmy Garoppolo in exchange. It is hard to imagine that the exchange is better for San Francisco than it already is. Garoppolo looks the same way as a franchise quarterback, and after making some additional moves this offseason, the Niners look like an upward threat in the NFC West.

San Francisco's free agent spending spree helped plug several holes that seemed to need filling before the draft. Weston Richburg was brought to the man as the pivot in the offensive line. Richard Sherman gave them a high corner. Jerick McKinnon added another flexible piece to the offensive backfield. Even Jonathan Cooper and Jeremiah Attaochu, although not exactly stellar players, were wise additions to positions of need.

Still, it's not like the 49ers are a perfect team. Even after adding Sherman, they could still use help in high school. They were the No. 28 pass defense of the league last season, by Football Outsiders, and safety Eric Reid still seems likely to sign elsewhere at some point. The 49ers have used three first-round picks for defensive linemen in recent years (Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas), but their passing speed was pretty poor last season as well. And after losing Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement, Na Bowman to injury and free agency, and possibly Reuben Foster to suspension or release, they could definitely use some help as linebacker.

In other words, the 49ers need an impact defender at any of the three levels. By building our big board for the team, that was our thought process. That said, there is an offensive perspective that, if it somehow fell to No. 9, would be a perfect choice for Kyle Shanahan's offense.

The Dream Targets

Bradley Chubb, DE, State of North Carolina; Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

Chubb is the best defensive player in this draft. Some argue that it is even better than last year's No. 1 pick, Myles Garrett. Adding to the defensive front Armstead-Buckner-Thomas would give the 49ers many options and many advantages. There are two universally recognized ways to improve a pass defense: add talent in high school and add pass accelerators. It could do much worse than throwing Chubb into the mix. If he reached No. 9, the 49ers practically rushed to the podium with his name on a card.

The same is true of Nelson. Even after signing Richburg, the 49ers could still use high-level talents inside the offensive line. Nelson is practically a perfect guard prospect, and while he's not necessarily the agile and prototypical athlete who works best in Shanahan's running game, the way he knocks down defensive linemen would make up for it. Protecting Garoppolo is the most important thing the 49ers can do for their future, and Nelson would also be a solid investment on that front.

Big Board

1. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

The 2017 season of Smith in Georgia was, in a word, ridiculous. He posted 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss, and both numbers really feel low if you watched him play. He published very good (if not necessarily elite) athletic test numbers on the combine, ranking at the 68th percentile for linebackers. Smith plays even faster than his timed speed (4.51 seconds in the 40-yard run), making plays from the sideline to the sideline against the run and the pass. If you are looking for a full field talent to connect and play on the second level of your defense, this is the ideal man. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is a former linebacker coach and would definitely love to work with a talent like Smith, discovering creative ways to put him in position to succeed.

2. Derwin James, S, Florida State

Yes, the 49ers have a young security tandem who seems to like them. No, none of them is as good a player as James. (And none of them is still signed in the long term.) However, with the teams now using three securities on many snaps, there is still plenty of room in this defensive backfield for James, whose bet is his versatility anyway. He can play high. He can play in the box. He can play in the slot. He can cover closed wings. He is a superior athlete. He is a great tackler. He is a potentially transforming player in defense; and if you can get that in n. 9, take it.

3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB / S, Alabama

Fitzpatrick is more of a pure corner than James, but he also has the versatility to play with safety. The 49ers have a pretty good corner in K & # 39; Waun Williams, but Fitzpatrick would be a much better player for them because of their ability to move through the formation. Fitzpatrick is also a high level player, recording 5.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for defeats, nine interceptions, two interceptions and losses, two forced fumbles and 24 passes defended during his three seasons in Alabama. Do not pass a player like that because you have K & # 39; Waun Williams signed for a couple of years more with an economic offer.

4. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Edmunds is taller, heavier, longer and a little more athletic than Smith. He even has better sacks and tackle-for-loss numbers, with 10 sacks and 30.5 tackles to lose in his last two seasons at Virginia Tech. He does not seem to cover as much field as Smith (Smith is a bit more instinctive, helps him compensate some of the natural advantages Edmunds has over him), so he registers here as the second linebacker on the list for the Niners. Still, he would be an excellent candidate for the defense of San Francisco.

5. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Ward is a prototype out of the corner and could pass Richard Sherman from the start, but sits behind the two linebackers, James and Fitzpatrick due to his (relative) lack of flexibility compared to those four players. He is a little short and light at 5-10, 183 pounds, but he is an incredible athlete (the first in all corners in SPARQ, who is in the 99th percentile in the position) with a great ability to turn and run and elite speed to compensate for the relative lack of size. The corners of Ohio State almost all fight for the position in the line of scrimmage, which augurs well for Ward's ability to translate also as a press corner.

6. Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

7. Harold Landry, DE / OLB, Boston College

If Chubb, as expected, does not appear in the board before n. ° 9, there are worse options than choosing one of the following two defenses. Davenport (ninth) and Landry (fourth) published elite SPARQ numbers on the combine. Davenport is ahead of Landry on this board because he followed his excellent junior season at UTSA (6.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss) with an even better senior campaign (8.5 and 17.5), while Landry struggled with injuries in his senior year and saw his numbers are bathed Landry tested as a slightly better athlete (87th percentile compared to 80th for Davenport) but Davenport has an advantage in size (6-6, 264 compared to 6-2, 252), length and quickly, which makes it a better fit as a pure edge defender.

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