49ers

First round complete: Re-ranking 49ers' top 2017 draft needs

First round complete: Re-ranking 49ers' top 2017 draft needs

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers begin Day 2 of the NFL Draft without a second-round draft pick.

The team’s second-round selection turned into a first-rounder late Thursday evening.

General manager John Lynch packaged the 49ers’ second-round pick at No. 34 and a fourth-round pick acquired earlier in the day to move up to No. 31 for Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.

The 49ers are scheduled to have back-to-back picks early in the third round at Nos. 66 and 67 on Friday.

Here’s a look at the 49ers remaining top needs:

Defensive back
During the 49ers’ voluntary minicamp, Jimmie Ward was at free safety with Eric Reid at strong safety. Jaquiski Tartt is next in line.

The 49ers parted ways with a projected starting conerback Tramaine Brock after his arrest for an alleged domestic incident. The 49ers’ first-team cornerbacks are currently Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. Will Redmond and K’Waun Williams worked in at nickel back.

Ward’s versatility makes it possible the 49ers could go with either a cornerback or safety. There is some young talent already on the roster at cornerback, but most of it is completely unproven at this level. All things being equal, it would seem the 49ers’ next pick would be a defensive back.

Quarterback
Write it in ink: Brian Hoyer will be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2017.

The 49ers have two quarterbacks under contract – Hoyer and Matt Barkley – and they are certain to add a quarterback at some point. But regardless of whom they add at this point, Hoyer will be the starter. The top quarterbacks still available are Davis Webb (Cal) and DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame).

Two players to watch are Nathan Peterman (Pittsburgh) and Brad Kaaya (Miami), who come from pro-style offenses. Both could still be available when the 49ers go on the clock in the third round.

Running back
Oft-injured Carlos Hyde is entering the final year of his contract, and he has something to prove to the new coaching staff. Veteran Tim Hightower is the only other proven NFL back on the roster.

There will be plenty of solid options at running back in the final two days of the draft.

Coach Kyle Shanahan has a knack for identifying unique traits in running backs and scheming his offense to put those players in advantageous spots to make plays on third downs.

Supply is greater than demand at running back in the draft, so Shanahan is certain to identify someone capable of making an impact in a specific role.

Wide receiver
The 49ers parted ways with Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton, while adding Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson. Big-bodied receiver Eric Rogers, who dominated in the CFL, is still rehabbing from a torn ACL sustained last summer.

The 49ers have room on their roster to develop a young receiver who can learn the ins and outs of the professional game from Garçon. It’s part of the reason the 49ers made him their most-lucrative free-agent acquisition.

Edge rusher
Sure, the 49ers already selected a defensive lineman. And while the 49ers believe Solomon Thomas can play the pass-rusher spot in the team’s new defense, his best attribute is his versatility.

Teams can never have too many pure pass-rushers, and the 49ers still have a shortage in that area. They can still use an edge rusher to compete with and push Arik Armstead, Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks to fight in order to hold onto their jobs.

Kicker
The 49ers signed veteran Robbie Gould in the offseason and awarded him a $500,000 signing bonus. Gould, 35, was targeted to replace ultra-reliable Phil Dawson. Gould signed with the Giants in October of last year. He made all 10 field-goal attempts but missed three of his 23 extra-point tries.

It’s not a huge priority, of course, but it remains possible the 49ers add a kicker on Day 3. They could draft someone, such as Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez, or bring Stanford’s Conrad Ukropina to camp to compete as an undrafted rookie.

49ERS 2017 DRAFT PICKS
1. First round, No. 2: DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford
2. First round, No. 31: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama

3. Third round: No. 66 overall
4. Third round: No. 67 overall (from Chicago for No. 2 pick)
5. Fourth round: No. 109 overall
6. Fourth round: No. 143 overall (compensatory)
7. Fifth round: No. 146 overall
8. Fifth round: No. 161 (from Washington in 2015 trade for TE Derek Carrier)
9. Sixth round: No. 198 overall (from Baltimore in trade with C Jeremy Zuttah for No. 186)
10. Sixth round: No. 202 overall (pick acquired from Denver in 2015 trade for TE Vernon Davis)
11. Seventh round: No. 219 overall (pick acquired from Cleveland in 2015 trade for Andy Lee)

Four 49ers players to watch in Saturday's preseason game vs. Texans

Four 49ers players to watch in Saturday's preseason game vs. Texans

HOUSTON – When the 49ers face the Houston Texans on Saturday night in the second preseason game for both teams, it will represent the final setting of three important days of work in the Lone Star State.

The starters for both teams will play as much as a quarter. It's another opportunity to make favorable impressions after two fruitful joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We just ran about 150 plays in two days (of practices) in 100-degree heat,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “Most of those guys got probably 50 reps in two days. So that’s just really good work.”

Still, the game under the lights will serve as an important evaluation for both teams. Here are four 49ers to watch...

RB Jeremy McNichols

The 49ers expect to be without their top two running backs until Week 1 of the regular season. Jerick McKinnon is out with a calf strain, while Matt Breida sustained a separated shoulder. That will provide a big opportunity for the other running backs in camp.

McNichols tops the list. He was a fifth-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Boise State last year. He opted to turn down the Buccaneers' offer of the practice squad to join the 49ers' practice squad. McNichols will get a lot of playing time on Saturday after gaining 15 yards on three carries against the Dallas Cowboys last week. He ran with the starters this week in practice.

McNichols is competing for a roster spot, along with Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert and veteran free-agent pickup Alfred Morris. Although Mostert appears to have an advantage to make the team, based on his play on special teams, the door is open for one of the others to make his mark. McNichols has put himself into position -- based on his running and receiving skills -- to get an extended opportunity to show what he can do.

CB Jimmie Ward

Ward had a short day of practice on Wednesday when he and Texans All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins got into a fight and were ejected. Ward should get plenty of playing time as he makes the transition from free safety, where he opened last season as the starter.

Ward will again start at left cornerback in place of Richard Sherman, whom the 49ers are bringing along slow after a hamstring strain. Ward struggled, giving up a touchdown, against the Cowboys last week. He figures to be be tested against Hopkins.

RG Joshua Garnett

Garnett returned to practice this week and appears to be moving well after sitting out two weeks of practices after banging his surgically repaired right knee against a teammate early in training camp.

The onus is on Garnett to prove he has what it takes to earn a starting job. Currently, the 49ers believe they can trust veteran offensive lineman Mike Person. Garnett needs to earn his way into the good graces of the coaching staff. Veteran Jonathan Cooper has also been slow to work his way into the competition, as he is coming back slowly from a knee injury of his own.

LB Fred Warner

The door is open for Warner to open the regular season as the starter with Reuben Foster set to serve a two-game suspension. Warner, a third-round draft pick, has played with a great deal of physicality. He also has the skillset to be a standout in coverage.

Warner did not play in the exhibition opener due to a chest injury. He practiced fully against the Texans this week and should be able to gain the kind of experience in this game that will help him in his quest to be Foster’s fill-in.

How Dwight Clark's idea for 'Letters to 87' caught on with 49ers fans

How Dwight Clark's idea for 'Letters to 87' caught on with 49ers fans

Dwight Clark considered it a shared experience.

He came down with the most improbable, important and well-timed pass reception in 49ers history, but the impact of the play was more than he could have ever imagined.

The story of the NFL would be incomplete without a large section devoted to “The Catch.” But Clark always seemed to feel he was not alone as he leaped and fully extended his 6-foot-4 frame to make a finger-tips grab of Joe Montana’s pass on Jan. 10, 1982.

And, sure enough, the story of many lives would be incomplete without mention of Dwight Clark, too.

“The way he connected with the fans, personally, really brought them together,” Montana said. “Once you met Dwight, it was hard not to like him. His personality was fun, upbeat and jovial -- always.”

Through the years, Clark enjoyed hearing the perspectives and stories of fans -- many of whom had not yet been born when the 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game and went on to the organization’s first Super Bowl.

As Clark battled ALS, he made a request during the final interview of his life.

“I’ve often thought if I could get the word out somehow to get the stories, I should put a book together of the stories that these 49ers fans lived through at that moment,” Clark said on The 49ers Insider Podcast on Feb. 27. “Hopefully, long after I’m gone, 49ers fans will still enjoy that play and that year, that team that started it all off.”

The word got out that Clark wished to receive letters from the public, and his fans did not disappoint. The letters poured in. Some were hilarious. Some were emotionally moving. Some recounted the personal experiences of that day. Others described the wide-ranging impact that Clark’s play had on a life, a family.

Each of the letters conveyed a sense of love and appreciation for Clark as a player but, mostly, as an individual.

Clark died on June 4, 2018. Two weeks before that, a group of friends visited him at his ranch in Whitefish, Montana. The group sat around Clark’s bed and read letters to him for nearly two hours.

“Letters to 87,” a documentary that explores Clark’s unique bond with his fans, will premiere on NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at approximately 8 p.m. (following Giants Postgame Live).

“He really seemed to understand from a fan’s perspective how it felt, what it was,” former 49ers teammate Keena Turner said. “And he seemed to really want the fans to walk away feeling good about the interaction in the moment.

“He felt a genuine love that came, and he wanted to reciprocate. He wanted the fan to understand that it was a shared feeling.”

The impact of listening to the letters was something Clark carried with him. Former 49ers owner and close friend Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. was not in the room that day, but he heard plenty about it from Clark himself.

“He was thrilled,” DeBartolo said. “Getting the letters made him very, very happy. He was sick, but he was just thrilled to know he wasn’t forgotten.”

Ronnie Lott was among the people in Clark’s bedroom on Sunday, May 20, when the letters were read to Clark.

“When he wanted fans to express their feelings, he was trying to capture the same feeling that he had when he did it and how did they feel?” Lott said. “Were they as excited as he was?

“When fans write their letters, there’s a spirit there. There’s a connection. That connection was something we can take for granted.”