Things have not been the same for the San Francisco 49ers after losing Super Bowl LIV. What looked like the start of a dynasty has now turned into an enigma. Entering 2020, the Niners were favorites to repeat as NFC champs, but their roster was decimated by injuries from the get-go. Nick Bosa, Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel were just some of the many players who missed extensive time in 2020. Similar to two years ago, GM John Lynch and company will be tasked with trying to build this team back up into the Super Bowl contenders the Niners were with another high pick. The 49ers hold the 12th pick in the draft, and this will be a big offseason to determine which direction the Niners will be heading for the foreseeable future.
Here is some quick history. The following is a list of first-round picks the Niners have made in the past five years:
2020: Javon Kinlaw (DT) & Brandon Aiyuk (WR)
2019: Nick Bosa (DE)
2018: Mike McGlinchey (OT)
2017: Solomon Thomas (DE) & Reuben Foster (LB)
2016: DeForest Buckner (DE) & Joshua Garnett (G)
Since 2010, the 49ers have spent six first-round draft picks on defensive linemen. They have had 15 first-round picks in that span of time.
Currently, the 49ers have $23,509,627 million in cap space, which gives them the ninth-most cap space in the league. The following is a list of players who could be on the move in order to help the Niners to clear up even more cap space (age in parentheses):
Raheem Mostert (28)
Mark Nzeocha (31)
Laken Tomlinson (29)
Travis Benjamin (31)
Some observers have included QB Jimmy Garoppolo on the list of potential cap casualties, but it’s questionable they would do that unless they had another solid No. 1 QB in place. After finishing with a 6-10 record in 2020, the Niners should be in for a better season just based on the fact that their injury luck can’t possibly get worse than it was this past season. There are still many questions that need answering for this franchise. Can management solve their issues in this draft? Here are four players the Niners could potentially take with the 12th pick in the draft:
Possibility #1: Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater
Career: 38 games played, 37 games started (2020 opt out)
Why: The left tackle position is a big question mark for the 49ers, as veteran Trent Williams is set to hit free agency. Even if the 49ers end up getting a deal done with Williams, they will still need to get younger on this part of the line (Williams will be 33 at the start of next season). Williams brought a lot of versatility to the 49ers, especially with all of the injuries this team sustained last season. If they do not retain him, they will need somebody who can also be as versatile as Williams once was. Enter Rashawn Slater.
Despite opting out for the 2020 season, Slater is still a prospect that is rising up big boards with his incredible mobility and explosive strength. He is somebody who can come in on Day 1, albeit with some learning curves, and succeed in this system. One of Slater’s premier performances in college was against 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young, which speaks to Slater’s potential. If he continues to develop well, this could be a home run pick for the Niners.
Possibility #2: North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
2019 stats: 2,786 yards, 66.9 completion rate, 28 TDs, 0 INTs, 169 carries, 1,100 yards, 14 TDs
Why: Even though there are reports coming out that the Niners like Trey Lance a lot, it is still speculation at this point seeing as Jimmy Garoppolo is still on the roster; however, the Niners would save $23.6 million if they move on from the veteran, so anything is possible. With Garoppolo’s injury history, the Niners could choose a new quarterback for this very reason.
Lance is not a Day 1 starter, but he is still somebody who can very much succeed in this league, especially in Shanahan’s system. He is a great athlete who is explosive in the running game. He is not the most polished passer, and he still has some accuracy problems; however, this can all be fixed in due time. This would be a really intriguing pick if the Niners decide to go down this path.
Possibility #3: Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II
2020 stats: 13 games, 37 total tackles, 22 solo, 3.5 TFLs, 1 INT, 9 PDs, 1 TD
Why: This possibility has a lot to do with what Dallas does with the 10th selection as the Cowboys desperately need help in their secondary. As of right now, it is a battle between Patrick Surtain II and Caleb Farley for being the first cornerback off the board in this year’s draft. The Niners could go Farley if Dallas takes Surtain with the 10th pick, but for this situation, we’ll assume Farley is off the board.
The Niners desperately need to address the cornerback position, as Richard Sherman among others is slated to hit free agency, and their top returning cornerback is Emmanuel Moseley, who lost a lot of playing time down the stretch in San Francisco. With the caliber of passers that are in the NFC West, it is essential that the Niners upgrade their pass defense so that they don’t have to get into a shootout during every divisional game. Surtain was a great cornerback at Alabama who has incredible technique for the position along with being able to play in press coverage at a high level. This is certainly somebody who can step in from Day 1 and boost this secondary.
Possibility #4: USC G Alijah Vera-Tucker
Career: 25 games played, 13 games started
Why: The interior offensive line for the Niners has been solid, but not great, particularly last season. Laken Tomlinson has rejuvenated his career with the Niners, but he could be on the move for cap reasons. Right guard Justin Skule finished the 2020 season with a grade of 45.4, per Pro Football Focus. Neither of these players appear to be long-term solutions at the position, which is why it is certainly possible for the Niners to nab Alijah Vera-Tucker with this pick.
Vera-Tucker offers a lot of versatility for the Niners as he played tackle and on the interior of the offensive line during his time at USC. This also allows him to be a possibility for the Niners to take if they do not bring back Trent Williams. Furthermore, Vera-Tucker is extremely intelligent and plays with a high motor that teams will love at the next level. This is certainly a player to monitor ahead of the draft.
SEE ALSO: On the Clock archive
Sources: Pro-Football-Reference, Sports-Reference, Over The Cap, Pro Football Focus