With the 2021 NFL Draft just two days away, national pundits and fans alike are buzzing about what John Lynch and Co. are doing with the third-overall selection. Like those inquiring, we may not have all the answers just yet, however, 49ers.com was joined by veteran NFL reporter and 49ers contributor Scott Bair to answer fan questions surrounding San Francisco's options at No. 3, other NFL hopefuls that could land in the Bay Area, the future of Jimmy Garoppolo and much more.
You can hear the full audio where Bair dives deeper into the 49ers recent additions, including Maurice Hurst and Arden Key, why the 49ers brass are keeping their options open heading into Night 1 and the biggest offseason move within the NFC West (which is likely not who you think it is) on 49ers.com/audio or on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Without further ado, here are four questions from this week's pre-draft mailbag.
Armando Correa, San Antonio TX: Have we found a replacement for Richard Sherman yet?
@KeianaMartinTV: "As of now, Sherm still a free agent. The 49ers were able to re-sign Jason Verrett, they were able to re-sign Emmanuel Moseley and Dontae Johnson. The 49ers have some pieces there. Do I necessarily think they're considered a 'replacement' for Richard Sherman? No. But I do think that cornerback is the next closest position of need for the 49ers (outside of quarterback). They're not necessarily his replacement, but they have pieces there and they're clearly comfortable enough with both Verrett and Moseley that they didn't necessarily dip too much into the free agency pool to bring in talent.
"But, if you talk to some of these draft analysts, they're saying that sweet spot in the draft for potentially a starting caliber cornerback is the back end of the first round through Round 2. So, the second round, that's your sweet spot and the 49ers have that 43rd-overall pick. But having that pick right there is very valuable and a prime spot to maybe get somebody to compete with an Emmanuel Moseley or a Jason Verrett. It will be really interesting to see what happens and what transpires over the next few months. But Scott, what's your take on the cornerback position for the 49ers?
@ScottBairNFL: "I don't know if you ever replace a guy who's one of the best to ever do it. There's no, 'oh well, we lost Ronnie Lott,' and we go pluck another Ronnie Lott out of the free agent pool. I mean, that type of thing doesn't happen, nor does it happen where you can get rid of Richard's presence and locker room leadership and his ability to, from a selfish media person's perspective, his incredible ability to sum everything up in a logical, passionate and entertaining way, that stuff can't be replaced.
"But I think they found a guy that they felt comfortable starting last year. Keiana mentioned Jason Verrett. I saw him play when he was with the (Los Angeles) Chargers and I've seen him play at a really high level. Problem is, only two times in six seasons has he played 13-or-more games. (He's had) lots of injury history. That was the big knock on him coming out of TCU when he was a first-round draft pick. But 49ers fans saw firsthand how good this guy can be. In the history of his career, no one's said that he's really not that talented. He is supremely talented when he's healthy. So, I think that's a good spot. And I think if you look at it, they have Moseley and they have K'Waun Williams – that starting cornerback core – and you're like, 'all right, I can go to Sundays with this.' But yeah, replacing Richard Sherman, that's really tough."
Bob Coles via Twitter: What are some other needs the 49ers will be addressing in the draft?
@ScottBairNFL: "As productive and successful as the 49ers front office was at keeping their own – a very underrated skill for a lot of NFL teams, keeping the guys that they want, the one that got away was Kendrick Bourne. That's a guy who on 3rd-and-8, always seemed to get nine yards. It's an invaluable commodity to have. And to not have him around anymore makes me think they could really use some wide receiver help and some wide receiver depth. Then when you look at their depth chart, it seems a little thin to me. You obviously like Deebo Samuel, you obviously like Brandon Aiyuk. After that, you also like Mohamed Sanu Sr., who is a vet. But I think to get some more guys in the mix there, that could be key. Kyle really seems to like versatile players. Running backs that can do wide receiver things. Wide receivers that can do running back things, like Deebo Samuel literally running over people. Maybe there could be somebody who could play inside, play outside (and) do some of those versatile things that work well within his scheme. Offensive line depth can't hurt, even though they seem set at tackle with Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey's his fifth-year option picked up, so there's more security there.
"Keiana, where do you think edge rusher sits here? I can't seem to wrap my head around ia priority list, in terms of that need. What are your expectations of the 49ers trying to get some help off of that defensive front, especially off the edge?
@KeianaMartinTV: "So, I actually got to do a sit down with John Lynch, which is debuting on 49ers.com this week, and one of the questions I wanted to ask was 'which edge rusher are you getting with No. 3 overall,' because looking at the history of the 49ers past drafts. Every year they are always trying to beef up that defensive line. I remember I talked to John a while ago and he said one of the most important positions on the field is quarterback. So, your job, as a general manager, is to figure out is how do you counter that position? And you do that with that pass rush.
"So, the 49ers always put an emphasis on that position. I would not be surprised (not saying at third overall) to see the 49ers trying to beef up that position in some fashion. We're currently in a state of unknowns. We see how Nick Bosa has looked on social media. He's looked incredible, he looks like he's ready to hit the field tomorrow. But still, he's working his way back from injury. And the same thing with the Dee Ford. We're still waiting to get that update on him. But I think you want to be sure at that position. And that's one place that John Lynch really likes to put a point of emphasis on.
"It's not one of their greatest needs. I don't see it as quarterback and wide receiver, because you brought up a fantastic point of the 49ers being relatively thin beyond Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, a lot of unproven talent, not including Mohamed Sanu Sr.. But I think that I would put edge rusher in maybe a Top 4 or Top 5 need heading into the draft."
Steven Charles, Charlotte NC: Everyone thinks the Niners are looking for another QB in the first round, but the remaining choices don't seem that appealing. What if they take Penei Sewell instead and then take a QB prospect later? Sewell at right guard or tackle would turn a good offensive line into a great one.
@KeianaMartinTV: "I'm going to change this question a little bit because I'm going to be honest, I don't see that happening for the 49ers to move up and give up everything that they have. For this No. 3 overall pick to grab a guard or a tackle when they're pretty much set on the O-line. It does not make sense in my mind. So, I'm going to switch this question and I'm going to throw out one of the flashier names in the draft, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. Behind Trevor Lawrence, people are saying Pitts is the next best player in this draft. But Scott, do you see any surprises happening with this No. 3 overall pick?
@ScottBairNFL: "If it's not a quarterback, you'd be able to knock me down with a feather. Somebody would have to rub smelling salts on me because I'd be knocked out from sheer surprise. And it would be the best ruse in the history of the NFL for Kyle and John to come out during the pre-draft press conference and say we're looking for a starting quarterback, and then they don't take quarterback. That would be quite something. So, that's not something that I would anticipate, despite the fact that pairing George Kittle and Kyle Pitts together would drive opposing defensive coordinators literally insane, like break up the straight jackets type of thing.
"But this was a play for a quarterback. This was a trade for a quarterback. This was a trade for an element of control that the 49ers have given their unique circumstances, what they need, who they want. And they're in a position, more than most, to control their own destiny in a way that few get unless you're the absolute No. 1 overall pick. So, I think for that reason, they did what they had to do."
@KeianaMartinTV: "When you think of Kyle Shanahan and the position in particular he loves to have fun with and is so masterful with, what comes to mind? I feel like the running back position could be a wild card in this draft. They have Raheem Mostert and Wilson Jr., Austin Walter and JaMycal Hasty, but they bring in Wayne Gallman II this offseason and that adds a little bit of depth. And I just, I really believe that if Kyle Shanahan has his eye on a guy – it might not be one of those first round flashy talents, but you've got to look at what Kyle Shanahan can do with that running back position. I go back to looking at (Buffalo Bills running back Matt Breida ) and how he excelled under Shanahan. I look at Jeff Wilson Jr. and how he's developing and exceeding expectations.
"But going back to the question, Shanahan doesn't run his offense with just one lead back. He likes to mix them in. He likes to play chess, not checkers. And I think he does that with the running back position, too. So, I'm not surprised by the signing as added depth. But also, I do think that the 49ers could look to the draft to bring in some young talent. Again, no spot is secure on this roster. You're going to have tons of training camp battles. And if the 49ers have a way to upgrade at that position, they'll have another opportunity to do so this week."
@ScottBairNFL: "Yeah, and I think that, while every fan and everybody wants to help the 2021 49ers excel, especially with those later round picks, true good playoff teams and playoff front offices hit in Rounds 3, 4 and 5 on draft day. Dre Greenlaw, George Kittle and Fred Warner are in those middle rounds. Every one of those guys may not be immediate impact players. As successful as the offseason was and everything that we talked about in re-signing people, how many one-year deals are there? How many guys are going to go back into the free agent pool next year? So, I think that with all that added into, you can't help but look like even if a running back might not be the pressing need that maybe some other positions are, you've got to look to the future a little bit too and find somebody who is under a rookie deal, who's going to be relatively cheap and could still fit into what they like to do. So that's why I really liked it. I think it's a really interesting concept and something for fans to keep in the back of their mind, especially once we get into Day 3 and we get down to maybe names that we don't know anymore. Just having that in the back of your mind might be a fun Saturday exercise for 49ers fans, who will already know three draft picks and will have several more coming on Saturday."