These top prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft have been connected to the San Francisco 49ers in recent mock drafts.
Although Justin Smith has yet to announce his plans for the 2015 season, many experts believe the San Francisco 49ers will look to this year's draft to find his replacement – whether that be eventual or immediate.
The player most frequently connected to the 49ers should they address their defensive front with the 15th overall pick is Oregon's Arik Armstead.
A physical freak, Armstead stands 6-foot-7, weighs 292 pounds, owns a massive wingspan and has the potential to get even bigger as a pro. At the NFL Scouting Combine in February, he ran a 5.10-second 40-yard dash, recorded a 34-inch vertical jump and tallied 24 reps at the bench press.
Ranked by NFL.com as the 15th overall prospect and second among defensive linemen, Armstead has drawn comparisons to Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowler Calais Campbell.
Still, despite his pro-ready stature, Armstead is considered a raw prospect whose high ceiling will dictate where he's drafted.
"Projection-based prospect with elite size and the traits to become a dominant run-stuffing defensive end in an odd front," NFL analyst Lance Zierlein wrote in a recent scouting report. "Armstead has the explosiveness off the snap and in his jarring punch to gain early advantages and control offensive linemen."
"Armstead is a fast riser but is still very raw. He will need patience and coaching and must become a more effective pass-rusher at some point."
Part of the reason that Armstead is not a finished product is because he spent his first two years at Oregon as a two-sport athlete (basketball).
In his first season as a full-time football player last fall, Armstead finished the year with 16 quarterback pressures, 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. He missed the better part of four games with an ankle injury.
At the combine, Armstead said that he believes his versatility will benefit him greatly at the next level. The lineman played all over the defensive front for Oregon and, if drafted by the 49ers, would likely serve in a similar role as Smith in San Francisco's 3-4 defense – playing outside on running downs and moving inside on passing downs.
With former defensive line coach Jim Tomsula now at the helm in San Francisco, drafting an impact player up front could be an attractive option for the 49ers.
"I feel I'm the best defensive lineman in this draft," Armstead said. "I have a unique skillset, and with coaching, I can develop a lot more and turn myself into one of the best defensive linemen in the league."
For more on the Oregon product, enjoy these recent social media posts.