The San Francisco 49ers plans heading into next month's draft could change course over the next two weeks with free agency set to begin on March 17. Whether through retaining key veteran talent, free agents looking to explore employment elsewhere or the 49ers potential to add available players on the open market, it's likely San Francisco's decisions will impact their direction with the No. 12 overall pick in the draft.
Continuing the bi-weekly round up of mock draft projections, as it stands, here's what media analysts forecast the 49ers to do heading into Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Chad Reuter, NFL.com: EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
"The 49ers defensive line was decimated by injury in 2020 and will be hit hard again in free agency. Picking the long and strong Rousseau would allow Arik Armstead to move back inside, where he can be more disruptive."
Seth Galina, ProFootballFocus.com: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
"With the 49ers most likely losing Richard Sherman in free agency, it's time to get younger at the position. Farley is young and extremely athletic. Left on islands a lot in Virginia Tech's system in 2019, he performed at an elite level, allowing a passer rating of just 26.8 on throws into his coverage.
"Key Change: Richard Sherman was born in 1988. Caleb Farley was born in 1998."
AJ Schulte, Pro Football Network: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
"Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, K'Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon, Dontae Johnson, Jamar Taylor, Emmanuel Moseley, Ken Webster
"That's the list of every San Francisco cornerback set to become a free agent this offseason. Every corner that took a defensive snap for the 49ers is set to be a free agent. Even if the 49ers bring a few of them back, that's plenty of turnover to experience. The 49ers catch a lucky break with Patrick Surtain II falling to them, as he'll be a mainstay at corner for them for a long time."
Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
"Kyle Shanahan said earlier this year that Jimmy Garoppolo is his QB for 2021, but that doesn't mean the team can't (or won't) plan for the future. And with Matthew Stafford headed for L.A., San Francisco turns to the draft. Trey Lance has the athleticism and arm strength to be a legit NFL QB, he only lacks experience. But if anyone can get the most out of his abilities it's Shanahan, who did just that with Robert Griffin III during his rookie year in Washington back in 2012."
Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
"Surtain II is a high-floor cornerback who steps into Richard Sherman's role immediately."
Josh Edwards, CBS Sports: OL Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
"Rashawn Slater can play left tackle in the event that Trent Williams leaves or slide inside to uplift a struggling interior offensive line."
Trevor Sikkema, The Draft Network: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
- TRADE: 49ers trade 2021 1st (No. 12), 3rd, 5th, 5th, 2022 1st, 3rd and 2023 2nd for Dolphins 2021 1st (No. 3) and 2021 6th.
"San Francisco giving up the necessary capital to trade up from No. 12 to No. 3 to get a quarterback may be too rich for some—again, I get it. They'll tell you the 49ers can succeed with Jimmy Garoppolo, and they technically wouldn't be wrong. But I would tell such people that the 49ers won't win a Super Bowl with Garoppolo, and their current roster's winning window is closing before some big turnover and new contract cores take hold.
"I don't think Deshaun Watson will get traded before the draft. Spacing out the package for the trade-up is advantageous to both Miami and San Francisco. For San Francisco, they can still make enough big picks over the next year or two to make a run, and for the Dolphins, they get future draft capital to keep themselves in the driver's seat for a Watson price down the road, if it truly comes available."
Jordan Reid, The Draft Network: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
- TRADE: 49ers acquire Detroit Lions 2021 1st (No. 7); Lions acquire 49ers 2021 1st (No. 12), 3rd (No. 102), 4th (No. 117) and 2022 1st.
"The 49ers seem poised to move on from the Jimmy Garoppolo experiment as he just can't seem to stay healthy. Wanting an upgrade, the John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan duo seek his heir apparent as Lance is likely not ready to start from Day 1. Lance can sit and develop behind Garoppolo as the latter plays out the second-to-last year of the five-year, $137.5 million extension that he received in 2018."
Dalton Miller, Pro Football Network: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
- TRADE: 49ers move up two spots with the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for the No. 10 overall pick.
"The situation in San Francisco is perfect for a developing Trey Lance. First, he doesn't have to start immediately. As long as the relationship between him and Jimmy Garoppolo hasn't deteriorated to the point of no return, head coach Kyle Shanahan can start Garoppolo for a year as they develop Lance.
"But the bigger plus to this selection is that the offense is a great fit for Lance. He comes from a heavy personnel, play-action dominated passing attack. His high-end athleticism will be a treat for Shanahan, who has dealt with immovable objects in the pocket for years now."
Charley Casserly, NFL.com: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
"The 49ers need another outside presence opposite Nick Bosa, and Paye is my top-rated pass rusher in this year's class."
Todd McShay, ESPN.com: QB Mac Jones, Alabama
- TRADE: Denver Broncos acquire 49ers No. 12, 2nd rounder (No. 43) and 2022 1st or 2nd in exchange for No. 10 overall.
"Five quarterbacks in the opening nine picks would beat the previous record of five in the first 12 selections (1999). Jones doesn't have the rushing ability of the other four QBs, but he processes quickly, has excellent ball placement on short-to-intermediate throws and shows the ability to anticipate. He'd mesh nicely with the Niners' quick game and could bring more balance to an offense that has run on the sixth-highest percentage of plays in the NFL since coach Kyle Shanahan took over in 2017."
Eric Eager and George Chahrouri, Pro Football Focus: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
- TRADE: 49ers trade back seven spots with the Washington Football Team.
"The 49ers could have taken Mac Jones, but they opt for another year of Jimmy Garoppolo and grab a few more picks along the way.
"After trading back, the 49ers acquire Horn, who should step right in for the departed Richard Sherman. Horn has the third-lowest projected adjusted completion percentage allowed in the draft class in addition to the fifth-best projected playmaker rate (rate of passes broken up or intercepted)."