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Ranking 49ers' NFL Draft needs is no easy assignment

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AP/USATSI

Ranking 49ers' NFL Draft needs is no easy assignment

Here's the latest edition of 49ers Mailbag with questions submitted to our Facebook page. . . 

What are the 49ers' biggest needs in the draft? (Steven Downs)
This is not an easy excercise. And if you ask me tomorrow, the list might be in a different order. The 49ers have nine draft picks, so here is my subjective list of the 49ers' top draft needs

1. Edge rusher
2. Cornerback
3. Offensive guard
4. Inside linebacker
5. Offensive tackle
6. Wide receiver
7. Tight end
8. Safety
9. Running back

The 49ers have capable players starting – or competing to start -- at every position. Now, they must create more competition and build the back end of their roster.

--There are not many edge rushers who can step in and make an impact, so it's possible this need goes untouched in the draft. The 49ers hope to develop the guys already on the roster – players such as Jeremiah Attaochu, Cassius Marsh, Eli Harold, Pita Taumoepenu – and get more from DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead, too.

--Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon are slated to start at cornerback. The 49ers need a lot more help at this spot because it is rare that both starting cornerbacks remain on the field together for any length of time. The 49ers are still looking to sign a veteran cornerback so that all the competition at the back end of the roster in training camp does not include undrafted rookies.

--Last year through most of training camp, coach Kyle Shanahan did not believe the 49ers had one, let alone two, starting-caliber offensive guards. Laken Tomlinson was acquired just before the start of the regular season. Now, Tomlinson, Jonathan Cooper, Joshua Garnett and, possibly, Erik Magnuson will be competing for the two spots. Plus, the 49ers could add another guard in the draft.

--The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office has not announced whether it will pursue criminal charges against Reuben Foster. With his status unresolved, the 49ers should add to the depth at inside linebacker.

--The 49ers must start looking for a succession plan at the tackle positions. Trent Brown enters the final year of his contract. The 49ers seem unconvinced about making a long-term financial commitment to him. Joe Staley will be 34 when the regular season opens, and it’s uncertain how much longer he can play at a high level.

Do you think the 49ers will trade for OBJ? Possibly for the #9 pick plus more? (James Dizon Masajo)
I do not.

The New York Giants are reportedly asking for two first-round draft picks for wide receiver Odell Beckham. That is a high of a price to pay for a team, such as the 49ers, looking to build something sustainable.

Plus, Beckham will seek a contract worth $20 million a year.

I’m sure the 49ers would do their homework to determine whether Beckham would fit into the team structure, too. If the 49ers pay that kind of money to a player, the rest of the locker room will be sent a message.

At the NFL scouting combine, Shanahan touched on his philosophy:

“Players watch who you pay. And I want to pay guys who do things the right way. And I also want to pay the best guys — not all overachievers who aren't that great. They've got to be good and they've got to do stuff the right way. When you do that, it adds to your team. But if you start paying guys who don't do that stuff, your team starts saying, ‘OK, we don't have to listen.’”

Are Tartt and Colbert the starting safeties going into camp? (Kelly Fielder)
Don’t forget about Jimmie Ward.

The 49ers plan to play Ward at cornerback throughout the nine-week offseason program while Richard Sherman is rehabbing. But when training camp begins, it seems like a reasonable expectation that Ward will be back at free safety to compete for a starting job.

Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert will get the first crack during the offseason program to line up at the safety positions.

Also, the 49ers could add someone, such as Derwin James, in the first round. On the surface, the 49ers appear set at safety this season with three starter-caliber players. But Ward and Tartt have contracts that expire at the end of the season, so there is some uncertainty beyond the upcoming season.

Thoughts on Eric Reid? (Jonathan Austin)
Eric Reid is good enough to be a starter in the NFL. But the 49ers do not consider Reid a starter on their team right now with Ward, Tartt and Colbert on the roster. Reid said the 49ers have not offered him a contract. That should not be considered a surprise.

It would be an insult to Reid if the 49ers were to offer him a one-year contract at “backup money.” And there is no reason at this stage of the offseason for Reid to accept a one-year, prove-it contract from any team.

Perhaps a team will step up – before or after the draft – with a contract offer. Perhaps, there will be an injury in training camp that will prompt a team to get in touch with Reid.

To begin with, the safety market has been soft. And there are enough questions about Reid’s overall game that likely have prevented teams from prioritizing him for a multi-year contract. Of course, it would be naïve to think Reid’s protest against racial inequality has not produced a negative impact, too.

Woman in Reuben Foster case recants domestic violence claim

Woman in Reuben Foster case recants domestic violence claim

The former girlfriend of 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster on Monday said she can prove Foster did not cause her injuries from an alleged February incident in Los Gatos.

Elissa Ennis, the former girlfriend, released a statement through her attorney, Stephanie Rickard, in which she said her injuries came from a fight that did not involve Foster.

“(Foster) did not strike her, injure her or threaten her,” Rickard said in the statement provided first to NBC Sports Bay Area.

Ennis’ injuries were the result of a physical fight with another woman, and that Foster tried to end his relationship with Ennis after he learned of the fight, Rickard said.

There is a video of that fight with another woman, according to Rickard.

“She was extremely upset and told him if he broke up with her she would ‘trash his career,’ ” Rickard said.

Rickard said after Ennis realized what she had done, she went back to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office and tried to recant her previous statement.

When reached Monday by NBC Sports Bay Area, the DA's office declined to comment on the alleged victim's statement.

On April 12, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office filed formal criminal charges against Foster stemming from a Feb. 11 incident involving his live-in girlfriend in Los Gatos. He faces two charges of domestic violence and one felony charge of possession of an assault weapon.

The DA’s office charged him with domestic violence with an allegation that he inflicted great bodily harm. The DA’s office said Foster bruised the alleged victim and ruptured her eardrum. She told investigators at the scene that Foster hit her eight to 10 times in the head.

He is also charged with a felony of attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime.

The criminal charges against Foster are based on lies, Ennis now says, according to Rickard.

According to Rickard, “Ennis apologizes to everyone that may have been harmed in this case, especially Mr. Foster."

The 49ers declined to comment Monday because it is an ongoing legal matter, a team spokesman said. 

On Monday, 49ers general manager John Lynch said the club would release Foster if the allegation that he struck the alleged victim proved to be true. Foster remains a member of the team but is not participating in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“We do feel like patience is the right approach right now, that we are going to learn things through this legal process,” Lynch said. “But I do want to be very clear, abundantly clear, that if these charges are proven true, that if Reuben did indeed hit this young lady, he won't be part of our organization going forward.”

Foster’s next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, 9 a.m.

49ers Insider Matt Maiocco's first-round NFL mock draft

49ers Insider Matt Maiocco's first-round NFL mock draft

1, Cleveland: QB Sam Darnold, USC
New Browns GM John Dorsey has done a nice job of creating some intrigue, but all the names you've heard within the past week are probably only smokescreens.

2, N.Y. Giants: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Eli Manning is 37, and the strong-armed Allen will spend a year as his understudy.

3, N.Y. Jets: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater can step aside for the new guy to take over sooner than later.

4, Cleveland: DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
Chubb teams up with Myles Garrett on the other side to provide a lethal pass rush.

5, Denver: RB Saquan Barkley, Penn State
If Barkley is not here, they will gladly go with Denzel Ward to shore up the secondary.

6, Indianapolis: G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
The Colts finally supply Andrew Luck with a bodyguard . . . assuming he ever gets healthy enough to benefit from the presence of the draft’s best O-lineman.

7, Tampa Bay: DB Derwin James, Florida State
The Bucs add a defensive back who also gives their poor run defense a lift with his play close to the line of scrimmage.

8, Chicago: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The Bears have a lot of options for providing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio with some help, but settle on the best cover man.

9, 49ERS: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Versatile. High character. Great leader. Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are both entering the final year of their contracts. He fits an immediate need, too. What’s not to like about this pick? With Reuben Foster’s status being uncertain, either Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds would make a lot of sense, too.

10, RAIDERS: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The Raiders have a hole in the middle of their defense as NaVorro Bowman remains a free agent. The Raiders finally address what has been a need for several seasons.

11, Miami: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Coach Adam Gase has no issues taking a QB who is strong-willed enough to ask a lot of questions and flash some attitude from time to time.

12, Buffalo: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
If the Bills do not move up to get a quarterback, they can remain right here and get a player who is easily a top-10 defensive talent.

13, Washington: DT Vita Vea, Washington
Oh, Jim Tomsula is going to love working with this huge, athletic presence in the middle of the line.

14, Green Bay: DE Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio
He's a unique personality with unique size and athleticism. But he’s going to have to develop more than just a bull rush to get to QBs in the NFL.

15, Arizona: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
The Cardinals might have a need at quarterback, but the Jackson they select is the guy who led the nation in interceptions last season.

16, Baltimore: WR D.J. Moore, Maryland
This is a tough call, but the Ravens remain local instead of selecting the pass-catcher from Alabama.

17, L.A. Chargers: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
His versatility to play both interior positions and rush the passer should fit well in Gus Bradley’s scheme.

18, Seattle: DE Harold Landry, Boston College
He might be undersized, but he fits in the scheme as the Seahawks try to replenish their pass rush.

19, Dallas: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
This is a tough call, but the Cowboys remain local instead of selecting the pass-catcher from Alabama.

20, Detroit: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Hey, the guy played eight-man football in high school, so he knows how to cover some ground to make plays.

21, Cincinnati: T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Don’t be surprised if McGlinchey, the best offensive tackle available, goes much earlier than this – like within the top 12 picks.

22, Buffalo: G/C James Daniels, Iowa
After the retirements of Eric Wood and Richie Incognito, Daniels represents the intersection of need and best-player available.

23, New England: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Bill Belichick needs a linebacker and his old buddy, Nick Saban, has just the man for him.

24, Carolina: CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
The Panthers agreed to a deal with free-agent Bashaud Breeland but he failed the physical. Alexander steps in to fill a hole.

25, Tennessee: DT Taven Bryan, Florida
Bryan takes the spot the Titans tried to fill with Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the L.A. Rams, instead.

26, Atlanta: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
Hurst and Dallas Goedert are first-round talents at TE, but Hurst gets his name called here.

27, New Orleans: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
The Saints stop the fall of the guy whom many considered to be the top receiver in the draft.

28, Pittsburgh: TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
The Steelers traded for Vance McDonald last year and, obviously, they remain in the market for a playmaker in this spot.

29, Jacksonville: G Will Hernandez, UTEP
The Jags broke the bank to land Andrew Norwell in free agency, and they bring in another powerful presence to open holes for Leonard Fournette.

30, Minnesota: T Kolton Miller, UCLA
If they’re going to guarantee Kirk Cousins all that money, they better bring along someone to protect their investment.

31, New England: QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
There are still a lot of questions why Belichick gave away Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for just a second-round pick. In Lauletta, they’re getting the closest thing in this draft to Garoppolo. Just to bring it full circle, they could just wait until No. 43 – the pick acquired from the 49ers for Garoppolo – to make this selection.

32, Philadelphia: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Kirk is a perfect fit for this offense and gives Carson Wentz a nice welcome-back gift upon his return to the playing field.