49ers

Four important questions about 49ers' first-round pick

nelson-quenton-notre-dame.jpg
AP

Four important questions about 49ers' first-round pick

The 49ers do not control their own draft destiny.

With the No. 9 overall pick, the 49ers’ selection will, in part, be based on what happens in the first eight draft slots. Of course, they could move up or back. But that would involve finding a trade partner.

The answers to these questions will shape the 49ers’ actions on Thursday in the first round of the NFL draft:

Will a linebacker be best on the board?
Reuben Foster’s time with the 49ers might not be over, but it is unclear how much time he is going to miss or how much the 49ers can rely on him to be a long-term member of the organization.

Roquan Smith (Georgia) and Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech) are considered the top two options at linebacker, and either one of them could be the best available player on the board when the 49ers select.

Smith is a high-character, instinctive, athletic player who can step in and immediately become the team’s leading tackler. Edmunds is big, young and raw. Smith is close to a sure thing. Edmunds’ upside is unlimited.

Could Chubb or Nelson be around?
The 49ers have struggled to find a pass rush since Aldon Smith’s departure. Bradley Chubb (North Carolina State) is the best edge rusher in the draft, and would be a nice fit for the 49ers’ scheme. But the 49ers should not hold their breath. Chubb and running back Saquon Barkley (Penn State) are expected be the first non-quarterbacks selected.

Although unlikely, it is possible guard Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame) could still be on the board when the 49ers select. The 49ers believe they have strengthened their guard positions – or at least strengthened the competition – with the signing of Jonathan Cooper. Laken Tomlinson and Joshua Garnett are slated to compete, along with Cooper, for the starting jobs.

Nelson is big and powerful. He is also athletic enough to fit into Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, which places a lot more responsibility on the shoulders of the guards that most systems. Nelson could be chosen at any of the three spots (Indianapolis, Tampa Bay or Chicago) before the 49ers are scheduled to go on the clock. If he remains there at No. 9, the guess is the 49ers would gladly call his name.

Who is the best fit in the secondary?
There are some very good defensive backs who will be drafted within the first dozen picks. But which of those players gives the 49ers what they need or want?

Cornerback Denzel Ward (Ohio State), and safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) and Derwin James (Florida State) are the consensus top defensive backs available in this draft.

Ward’s speed and coverage skills are outstanding. But his size (5-11, 183) and non-physical style do not match what the 49ers want from their cornerbacks.

Fitzpatrick can play just about anywhere in the secondary. James is tough and aggressive. Strong safety is his best fit.

Fitzpatrick is good in the slot, where the 49ers already have K’Waun Williams at nickel back. At cornerback, the 49ers have presumptive starters Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. Safety Jimmie Ward will play on the outside in the offseason program.

At safety, Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are scheduled for unrestricted free agency next offseason, so the 49ers could look ahead to what might be a need a year from now. Adrian Colbert looks to be a keeper.

Will a surprise really be a surprise?
So who is the second-best pass rusher? Who is the second-best offensive lineman? And would the 49ers consider either of those players worthy of a top-10 selection?

The 49ers must look to address their looming issues at offensive tackle, and Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame) could be considered. Joe Staley might have a couple of good seasons left in him. But right tackle Trent Brown couild be gone after this season.

And how about the need for an edge rusher? It would not be much of a stretch for the 49ers to consider Marcus Davenport (Texas-San Antonio) or Harold Landry (Boston College).

Cornerback is also a position the 49ers could consider. Isaiah Oliver (Colorado) and Josh Jackson (Iowa) are the best fits for the 49ers’ scheme.

The 49ers were not willing to spend money for a wide receiver in free agency, so they can be expected to add someone in the draft. But a top-10 pick would seem too high to go target any of the top guys: Calvin Ridley (Alabama), D.J. Moore (Maryland) or Courtland Sutton (SMU).

49ers sign OL Laken Tomlinson to three-year extension

49ers sign OL Laken Tomlinson to three-year extension

Guard Laken Tomlinson appears to have wrapped up a starting position on the 49ers’ offensive line, as the club signed him to a three-year extension on Thursday.

Tomlinson, who started the final 15 games of last season at left guard, is now signed through the 2021 season, the 49ers announced.

“Laken is a very talented player who has improved consistently since joining the team one week before last year’s season opener,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement. “This offseason, his hard work and dedication paid off as he continued to progress and performed at a high level. We were confident we could work out a contract extension with Laken and we are fired up to get that done before training camp.”

The 49ers acquired Tomlinson in a trade from the Detroit Lions for a 2019 fifth-round draft pick shortly before the start of last season. The Lions selected Tomlinson with the No. 28 overall pick from Duke in 2015.

The 49ers did not pick up the fifth-year option on Tomlinson for the 2019 season, which would have cost $9.625 million. Instead, the 49ers and Tomlinson agreed to a three-year extension worth up to $18 million with $10 million guaranteed, reports the NFL Network.

Tomlinson, 26, started 24 of 30 games in his first two seasons with Detroit. He entered the 49ers’ starting lineup in Week 2 and every game for the remainder of the season.

The 49ers appear to have four starting positions set along the offensive line, with Tomlinson and tackle Joe Staley on the left side. Veteran center Weston Richburg is slated to start at center, while rookie Mike McGlinchey is settling in at right tackle.

Joshua Garnett, Jonathan Cooper and Mike Person will compete at right guard during training camp, which opens on July 25.

Rookie LB Fred Warner is setting the tone for 49ers, but he might be a little too loud

fredwarner49erscampap.jpg
AP

Rookie LB Fred Warner is setting the tone for 49ers, but he might be a little too loud

When the 49ers selected inside linebacker Fred Warner of BYU in the third round of the draft, it was easy to see how he fit into the team's plan with the degree of uncertainty surrounding Reuben Foster.

While Foster remained away from the team’s offseason program for five weeks, Warner felt a need to get up to speed quickly if he was needed to be a starter for Week 1 of the regular season. Warner said he was determined to learn as quickly as possible at whatever position he lined up.

“They want consistency over a guy who can make a play here and there,” Warner said on The 49ers insider Podcast. “Because if you’re a liability and you’re out there missing assignments, stuff like that, that’s going to get you cut. You have to be able to retain this information very quickly and be able to produce on the field and put a good product out there. That’s the biggest thing.”

The 49ers consider the middle linebacker (mike) and weakside linebacker (will) positions as nearly interchangeable. The major difference is the mike position is the player who communicates in the huddle. Malcolm Smith is lining up with the first team at mike, while Foster is at will. Warner is leading the second team at mike.

Foster joined the 49ers’ offseason for the final four weeks after a judge dismissed two felony charges of domestic violence. Warner knew all about Foster, the player, before meeting him as a teammate.

“He’s a very physical player, and something I didn’t know about him that I know now, he’s probably the smartest guy in the room,” Warner said. “This dude has the memory of an elephant. He doesn’t have to write notes down. He just retains things very quickly. And I think that’s what allowed him to play at such a high level as a rookie last year, aside from his physical talent.”

Warner has also learned a lot from Smith, who played six NFL seasons before sitting out last year with a torn pectoral.

“We’ve worked after practice on man coverage on tight ends and running backs.,” Warner said. “Even though that might not be something we touch on in practice or a meeting, he just wants to touch on that with me because he said, ‘If you can do this, you can play on any team in the NFL.’ “

One of the few critiques of the rookie during the offseason program is that Warner, who said he was a quiet kid as a youngster, has been a little too loud.

“He’s very smart and he plays like it on the field,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said during the first week of OTAs. “He doesn’t hesitate. He’s a rookie out there, but he’s calling the plays maybe even too loud because I can hear him from the offensive side. But, he doesn’t mind speaking up. He’s confident in what he’s doing.”

Warner said he wanted to win the confidence of his teammates, so that might have contributed to his increased decibel level.

“I want to make sure that when I get in that huddle and I’m talking to these guys, that they know that I know what I’m doing and I’m ready to go,” Warner said. “I’m the one who’s going to set the tone in the huddle before the play even happens.”