ORLANDO, Fla. – The 2018 NFL Draft is exactly one month from Monday, and we are still yet to have any clarity on which direction the San Francisco 49ers might go in the first round. That's probably because the 49ers themselves are still very unsure.
Last year, with the 49ers sitting at No. 2, things were fairly straightforward. Myles Garrett was a lock to the Cleveland Browns with the first-overall pick. That made things easy to project for San Francisco. The 49ers ultimately traded back one spot and selected Solomon Thomas with the third pick.
There's far less clarity this time around for John Lynch and Co. Some of that goes without saying as the 49ers are picking seven spots lower in 2018, but there's also an overall ambiguity to how the first round will play out.
"This one could maneuver so many different ways," Lynch said on Monday from the NFL's annual meetings. "It's really intriguing with these quarterbacks. Everyone's got a different favorite quarterback. There are so many different possibilities. Fortunately for us, there are a lot of good football players."
USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen and Wyoming's Josh Allen appear certain to go in the top five. Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Louisville's Lamar Jackson are the wild cards. The jury is still out on both prospects. Some analysts seem confident that Mayfield will go in the top 10. Conversely, NFL Network's Peter Schrager said last week on the 49ers Studios Podcast that he's yet to hear from a team who believes Mayfield is worthy of a top 10 pick.
And that's what makes things so unpredictable. All it takes is one team to fall in love with either QB in order to change the entire complexion of the first round. That could happen before the 49ers go on the clock. It also means that San Francisco might end up fielding trade offers should Mayfield or Jackson remain on the board at pick No. 9.
That's why the 49ers are preparing for all possible scenarios.
"That process has begun, but it will really develop in earnest over the next month," Lynch said. "We'll start to get a better feel for these guys. There are a lot of options at our disposal. That's the good thing. But we're going to have to be well versed because this thing could go in so many different directions."
Recent mock drafts reflect that sentiment. Expert predictions remain all over the map, ranging from Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson to Ohio State's Denzel Ward to Georgia's Roquan Smith. Don't expect analysts to hone in on one prospect in the coming weeks, either. It should be noted that draftniks have been on point the last three years, pegging Arik Armstead in 2015, DeForest Buckner in 2016 and Thomas in 2017.
But that feels unlikely this year. There are simply too many possibilities, and you can't definitively rule out any of them. That should make for an entertaining night on April 26 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.