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Sports Illustrated Identifies 4 Draft Needs and Targets for 49ers

As expected, the first few days of free agency was indeed a "frenzy" that featured several blockbuster trades, surprise signings and a few jaw-dropping releases of franchise talent. However, it was relatively quiet on the home front for the San Francisco 49ers. The biggest news coming out of Santa Clara was the DeForest Buckner trade that, in exchange, provided the 49ers more capital heading into next month's draft as well as more flexibility in regard to salary cap space and the return of key contributors from last season.

In addition to Buckner heading to Indianapolis, veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders packed up to team with Drew Brees in New Orleans. While replacing Buckner is no simple task, it's almost a sure bet the 49ers will seek a game-changing wideout in what's been referred to as the deepest receiver draft class in recent memory.

With the majority of splash free agency moves in the rearview, Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated broke down roster needs and targets for all 32 teams heading into the draft. The 49ers already have a deep talented roster. Now they'll aim to add valuable, cost-effective young talent through the draft. According to, "when you reach the Super Bowl, your 'needs' are usually more about handling logistics than correcting prior weaknesses."

Here are four positions the reigning NFC Champions could target with the 13th and 31st picks in the first round of the NFL Draft:


Benoit: "The Niners need a guard because their 2019 starter, Mike Person, was released."

Top Targets: Iowa's Tristan Wirfs (can play tackle or guard) and Michigan's Cesar Ruiz (center or guard)

Wide Receiver

Benoit: "They also need a wide receiver since successful rental starter Emmanuel Sanders is now in New Orleans. Kyle Shanahan values wideouts who have the change-of-direction quickness to run routes precisely and to separate."

Top Targets: "Alabama's Jerry Jeudy is a perfect schematic fit, though they can't go wrong with Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb at 13, with LSU's Justin Jefferson a solid option if the top two are gone."

Defensive Tackle

Benoit: "On defense, the loss of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is obviously significant, and Buckner's dark horse replacement candidate, 2018 seventh-round pick Jullian Taylor, is coming off a late December ACL tear. Even if Taylor is back by September, it's unreasonable to assume he will automatically play with the same outstanding leverage and short-area quickness that he showed in 2019. With unheralded nose shade tackle D.J. Jones also in a contract year, the Niners might invest multiple picks at defensive tackle."

Top Targets: "They're a prime candidate to trade down with one of their first-round picks considering they have no selections between 31 and 156. If they stay at 31, they'll have a good shot at a disruptive DT (TCU's Ross Blacklock or Texas A&M's Justin Madubuike)."

Defensive Back

Benoit: "Other players in contract years include cornerbacks Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, K'Waun Williams and Emmanuel Moseley (RFA in 2021), as well as strong safety Jaquiski Tartt. Or, to put it more succinctly: the secondary. Re-signing versatile DB Jimmie Ward was very wise; the next move is finding young guys for Ward to play with in the coming years. San Francisco's secondary aligns in a lot of subtly blurry looks, but once the ball is snapped, the scheme is pretty straightforward. That's because the Niners want to play fast. Whoever they draft in the early rounds will almost certainly have above average speed."

Top Targets: "If they stay at 31, they'll have a good shot at a long, fast cornerback (Alabama's Trevon Diggs, Clemson's A.J. Terrell or LSU's Kristian Fulton)."