With the rush of free agency in the rear view mirror it is time to focus in on the NFL Draft, specifically on team needs. In this aerticle we look at the San Francisco 49ers draft needs for 2016 as we move towards the April 28th first round from Chicago. It has been a tumultuous 2 years in the San Francisco Bay area as the messy divorce from John Harbaugh lingered much longer than the team would have hoped. Striving for some continuity the team hired Jim Tomsula as their HC andthen fired him following just one season (in which it can be argued he did a good job given the roster turbulence and talent he was given). Now the 49ers look to build again with a new vision, and new direction, under HC Chip Kelly. The holes in the roster still remain though and a good draft is needed if the 49ers are going to return to relevance in the NFC West.
Biggest Need: Quarterback
Regardless of any protestations to the contrary, Chip Kelly needs a competent QB to run his offense – many thought that Kelly could be the right fit to resurrect the career of Colin Kaepernick as, ostensibly, the dual threat QB is a good fit for the system. It seems however, that divorce is coming for Kaep and the 49ers, with the player already seemingly having checked out and desiring a change. That leaves Blaine Gabbert as the unchallenged starter in the Bay Area and, despite some good showings last year, Jacksonville Jaguars fans will tell you that is not a good situation to be in! Trent Baalke may have to be aggressive early on in the draft to move up to a position to grab either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff.
Joe Staley is getting up in years, Alex Boone has left town and the rest of the 49ers O-Line is patchwork at best. There is a strong need to make a move in this area in the draft, likely on the second day. If they are unable to move up for a QB, a strong argument could also be made for drafting an OL in the first round to help provide Gabbert more time to pass – a position from which he can be effective, most of his struggles in the pros can be traced to having difficulty under pressure. The team is likely to get Anthony Davis back this season as the player returns from his hiatus but more reinforcements in this area are needed.
With Anquan Boldin still on the outside looking in, the Wide Receiver cupboard in San Francisco looks very bare. The only receiver of note is the speedster Torrey Smith but he is best suited as a complimentary piece, a vertical threat to open up space underneath for others. They have signed the promising Eric Rogers, the leading WR from the CFL last season, but it remains to be seen if he can make the transition to the NFL game. Based on the needs above it is clear to see why the 49ers were, statistically, the worst offense in football last year, a clear indicator as to why Kelly, an offensive guru, was hired. The 49er defense is still a solid unit so a good draft could vault San Francisco up the rankings.