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
3. Offensive guard
4. Inside linebacker
5. Offensive tackle
6. Wide receiver
7. Tight end
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.