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2021 Mock Draft Monday 4.0: 49ers Focus on Secondary in Round 1

A lot is likely to change over the next month as the NFL calendar inches closer to the new league year set to begin on March 17. At that time, the league's free agency period begins and many of the 38 members of the 49ers with expiring contracts can begin seeking employment elsewhere. Contrarily, San Francisco can actively enlist available talent in the open market.

But for now, NFL pundits are continuing to speculate what the 49ers might do with the 12th-overall pick despite the lingering question marks surrounding a number of impending free agents.

Take a look at the latest projections from NFL draft experts on what direction they believe the 49ers could take on April 29.

Daniel Jeremiah, OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

"We'll see what happens with Trent Williams in free agency, but even if the Niners are able to re-sign him, Slater could easily slide inside to guard."

Todd McShay, ESPN: S Trevon Moehrig, TCU

  • TRADE: Chicago Bears trade pick No. 20, No. 52 and a 2022 first-or second-round pick for the 49ers No. 12 pick.

"Remember that we had the Niners trade back to this spot. The Garoppolo decision looms large for the Niners' draft plan, and what happens there might not only keep San Francisco from trading down but might even influence a trade up into the Top 10. For now, though, let's fixate on a secondary losing many pieces. Safety Jimmie Ward is currently the only defensive back on the entire roster under contract beyond next season. Perhaps the 49ers look to cornerbacks Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) or Aaron Robinson (UCF), but the value and need of Moehrig is just too great to miss. He's my No. 13 prospect and picked off six passes over the past two seasons."

Brentley Weissman, The Draft Network: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

"They get who I believe to be the best corner in the draft and that's Patrick Surtain II. Corner is a huge need for this football team, as they currently don't have many corners under contract. Surtain II can step in and be their No. 1 corner from day one."

Drae Harris, The Draft Network: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

"After sitting out for a year, Trent Williams gave San Francisco's offensive line a tremendous boost. While they believe they can and will re-sign him, Slater could be insurance. Plus, kicking him inside to guard is where he could undoubtedly be an elite player."

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

  • TRADE: Cowboys get 49ers No. 12 and No. 108 pick; 49ers get Cowboys No. 10 pick

"The 49ers trade up for the most athletic QB in this class, Trey Lance. Kyle Shanahan said in recent weeks that Jimmy Garoppolo is his QB for 2021, but that doesn't mean the team can't (or won't) plan for the future. 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: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

"Lance could be an All-Pro with Kyle Shanahan as his head coach."

Josh Edwards, CBS Sports: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

"San Francisco's offensive line was a disappointment in 2020. Rashawn Slater has the capability of starting at all five positions and should from Day 1."

Brad Gagnon, Bleacher Report: QB Mac Jones, Alabama

"Considering that practically every established cornerback on their roster is headed toward free agency, the San Francisco 49ers will likely be disappointed to see Surtain II and Farley get snatched up before they go on the clock. But that might mean that one of the draft's five first-round-caliber quarterbacks will be available, as is the case here.

"It's possible San Francisco will do something wild like acquire Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans or Sam Darnold from the Jets or sign Dak Prescott well before the draft, but if they stick with Jimmy Garoppolo on what is essentially a year-to-year contract, this might be a perfect opportunity to bring in a potential successor in Mac Jones.

"The Alabama product doesn't blow you away like the top four quarterbacks in this class, but he's accurate, efficient and smart. That might be all that's necessary to excel in Kyle Shanahan's offense.

"Assuming they bring back left tackle Trent Williams and at least a veteran corner or two, and assuming they can get healthier in general after a season that defined Murphy's Law from that standpoint, the 49ers are talented enough to afford using a pick like this on a signal-caller who may or may not see the field in 2021."

Anthony Treash, Pro Football Focus: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

"Pairing Pitts with George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Kyle Shanahan's brain is an opportunity too good to pass up. That right there would be a scary personnel package to defend. Pitts generated a 96.2 PFF grade this year, more than five grading points higher than any other tight end and well above the previous record set by former FAU Owl and now-Cleveland Brown Harrison Bryant in 2019 (92.5).

"Pitts generated a 96.2 PFF grade this year, more than five grading points higher than any other tight end and well above the previous record set by former FAU Owl and now-Cleveland Brown Harrison Bryant in 2019 (92.5). The 49ers' receiving corps was one of the worst in the NFL in 2020 — the selection of Pitts goes a long way toward changing that.

"The versatile tight end played just shy of 64% of his offensive snaps inline, but he dominated unlike any other tight end we had ever seen when he lined up out wide in single coverage. Pitts went toe-to-toe with press coverage when lined up out wide for 40 receiving snaps this season and came away with seven explosive receptions of 15-plus yards on those opportunities. We have never seen a tight end record more than two of those in a single year before Pitts this season."

Ian Cummings, Pro Football Network: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

"Well, this worked out well for the San Francisco 49ers. Cornerback is one of the most pressing needs for the 49ers this offseason. All of their starters are set to hit the market, and only one — Jason Verrett — should experience some resistance from the 49ers camp.

"There will undoubtedly be a need for more talent on the boundary when the NFL Draft comes around. At No. 12 in this 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, Patrick Surtain II is one of the best potential options. Surtain II had a productive career with the Alabama Crimson Tide, and he has the necessary length, footwork, physicality, and ball skills to be an early starter with upside.

"The 49ers promoted linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans to replace Robert Saleh as defensive coordinator. Given Ryans' experience under Saleh, it's likely he carries over some of the same philosophies. In that scheme, Surtain II has lots of potential."

Nate Davis, USA Today: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

"He's a highly intriguing prospect, perhaps a (slightly) smaller version of Cam Newton given Lance's size (6-3, 224) and ability to make plays with his arm and legs. However, given the level of competition he played against in college, where the pandemic limited him to one game in 2020, sitting behind a steady veteran like Jimmy Garoppolo for a year seems reasonable for all parties."

Luke Easterling, The Draft Wire: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama