A year after selecting No. 2 overall in the NFL draft, the Super Bowl LIV-bound 49ers will pick much later this year in Las Vegas.
They're slated to step up to the podium with the No. 31 or No. 32 overall pick, depending upon the results of the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs. San Francisco general manager John Lynch stopped by the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. earlier this week for draft preparation, a year after the 49ers staff coached up some of the 2019 draft's top prospects. Though the 49ers will square off with the Chiefs, Lynch made it clear that he doesn't want San Francisco's success to be a one-off.
"That's why you're in Mobile the week before the Super Bowl," Lynch told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler earlier this week. "It's a big decision, do you leave back home? Because there are a lot of details to get wrapped up. But you've got to constantly be better and trying to better your organization. This is a valuable opportunity to do that."
The 49ers' first-round pick, as of now, is there only one in the first four rounds of this year's draft. That makes nailing the selection much more important, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who projects the 49ers will select LSU safety Grant Delpit.
"This feels like a good pairing, with San Francisco potentially losing Jimmie Ward in free agency," Kiper wrote. "Delpit has a ton of talent, but I want to see how he tests at the combine in a few weeks."
Listed at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds, Delpit won the Jim Thorpe Award as college football's top defensive back in 2019, following in the footsteps of Tigers alumni Patrick Peterson (2010) and Morris Claiborne (2011). The Associated Press voted the junior safety second-team All-American in 2019, and SEC coaches voted Delpit first-team all-conference in 2018 and 2019. Delpit finished 2019 with 65 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and seven passes defensed this season en route to a National Championship with LSU.
Despite the accolades, Kiper said that 2019 represented a disappointing season for Delpit.
"Delpit was getting top-10 buzz early in the season, but he didn't have a great year, fighting through an ankle injury and missing too many tackles," Kiper wrote.
Ward, 28, is set to become an unrestricted free agent after carrying a salary-cap number of $3,843,750 this season. The 49ers value Ward's versatility, but also have defensive lineman Arik Armstead and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders set to hit free agency this offseason, Tight end George Kittle and D-lineman DeForest Buckner are also eligible for contract extensions, meaning the 49ers likely won't be able to keep all of Ward, Armstead and Sanders under the salary cap with Kittle and Buckner due to be among the highest-paid players at their position.
Atlanta Falcons right tackle Kaleb McGary and New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry -- the No. 31 and No. 32 picks in 2019, respectively -- each made under $1.9 million last season. If the 49ers opt to let Ward walk in free agency, drafting Delpit could be a less expensive alternative.
But with free agency just under two months away and the draft even further away, the 49ers' approach to reloading their roster isn't set in stone.