49ers

Three key 49ers' position battles to watch when training camp begins

Three key 49ers' position battles to watch when training camp begins

The 49ers’ pre-draft roster has taken shape, and most of the team’s starting jobs appear obvious at this stage.

Things will come into sharper focus at wide receiver with the 49ers’ actions in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The 49ers have selected a wide receiver in 17 consecutive drafts, and San Francisco will undoubtedly extend that streak with one of their top two selections -- Nos. 13 and 31 overall -- or with a trade-back option.

The 49ers have to replace wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, and they will probably use a combination of players to fill those spots.

But here are three positions that shape up to have good head-to-head competitions in training camp:

Dre Greenlaw vs. Kwon Alexander

Dre Greenlaw went from being a part-time player as the strongside linebacker to an every-down player at weakside linebacker when Kwon Alexander sustained a torn pectoral.

When Alexander came back for the postseason, Greenlaw remained in the every-down role. Now, there figures to be competition between Greenlaw and Alexander to determine which player will remain on the field in nickel situations when one linebacker leaves the field.

Greenlaw proved to be a quick study as a rookie. He made the defensive play of the season last season when he saw what was coming and reacted quickly to stop Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just shy of the end zone on a fourth-down play in Week 17 to clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Although Alexander was a big-ticket acquisition last year, Greenlaw earned the right to at least compete for the every-down job based on his performance over the second half of the season.

Emmanuel Moseley vs. Ahkello Witherspoon

Ahkello Witherspoon started the season strong after a disappointing second season. When he missed several games due to a foot injury, Emmanuel Moseley stepped in and held his own.

Then, Witherspoon struggled after returning to the lineup, and Moseley generally played well in the postseason after taking over.

The 49ers could use a pick on a cornerback during the first day or two of the draft. But, as of now, it appears to be Moseley vs. Witherspoon. There is added motivation for Witherspoon, who is entering the final year of his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency.

Moseley would enter camp as the clear favorite, but Witherspoon will have the opportunity to make some noise with a strong training camp.

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Tom Compton vs. Daniel Brunskill

The 49ers released starting right guard Mike Person after agreeing to terms with Tom Compton, who joins his sixth NFL team of the past six seasons. Compton has been a backup throughout his career, but coach Kyle Shanahan obviously sees something in Compton he likes. He coached him in Washington and Atlanta.

Brunskill served a valuable role for the 49ers last season due to his versatility. He started games at right tackle, left tackle and right guard. Brunskill should benefit from a competition, where he can focus on playing just right guard.

Brunskill showed he can step into the lineup and play at a high level. He is 26, and he should continue to improve for a while -- especially if he’s able to concentrate on just one position.

NFL rumors: Rams trading Brandin Cooks to Texans for second-round draft pick

NFL rumors: Rams trading Brandin Cooks to Texans for second-round draft pick

The Los Angeles Rams' rebuild continues.

After releasing former All-Pros Todd Gurley and Clay Matthews during free agency, the Rams continued their roster overhaul by reportedly agreeing to send wideout Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans in exchange for several draft picks, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday, citing a source.

LA has been dealing with salary cap issues, trying to find money to pay franchise quarterback Jared Goff, all-world defensive lineman Aaron Donald, defensive back Jalen Ramsey and the other 49 players needed to fill out an NFL roster.

The team still ends up taking a dead cap hit on Cooks in 2020, but at least removes the remaining four years of his deal from the books.

With the departure of offensive weapons Gurley and Cooks along with Matthews’ defensive presence, it will be a very different LA attack the next time the team takes on the 49ers.

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After four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Cooks struggled through injuries and inconsistency on his way to just 583 receiving yards in 14 games during the 2019 season.

ProFootballTalk reported Thursday that the team already took a financial hit by holding onto Cooks this far into his contract.

With the 49ers aiming to defend their title as NFC champions, the Seattle Seahawks remaining strong and the Arizona Cardinals fleecing Bill O’Brien and those head-scratching Texans for DeAndre Hopkins earlier this spring, there’s a clear new team at the bottom of the NFC West.

If we end up getting an NFL season in 2020, expect the division’s doormat to be in Tinseltown.

NFL Draft 2020: Why 49ers could trade up to No. 5 for Jeffrey Okudah

NFL Draft 2020: Why 49ers could trade up to No. 5 for Jeffrey Okudah

The NFL draft demonstrates to fans just how bold their team’s general managers can be.

Those willing to take a risk and try to move up in the first round sacrifice significant draft capital in exchange for a chance at a home run.

The 49ers happen to be one of those select few teams possessing multiple first-round picks in this year’s draft, giving GM John Lynch an opportunity to make a big splash.

One potential way Lynch could extend San Francisco’s championship window is by fortifying the secondary with Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, writes Bleacher Report’s Marcus Mosher.

In this trade, the 49ers make the bold jump up to secure the former Ohio State Buckeye. But with the 49ers lacking in trade capital this year, they could send picks No. 13, No. 31 and another 2021 third-round selection. 

The 49ers have a win-now roster and could use a stud cover man to pair with Richard Sherman. Okudah is one of the best players in the draft and would give the team another versatile corner who could be used in both man and zone coverage. 

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Okudah is the consensus top defensive back in this year’s draft, combining length to disrupt the passing game with top-line speed, putting up a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The Niners came up just short of hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February, despite holding dynamic gunslinger Patrick Mahomes to just 286 yards passing and the lowest postseason quarterback rating of his career.

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Okudah could provide an immediate impact in the secondary on the other side of Richard Sherman, but should the team sacrifice both of its first-round draft picks to fortify a position that is lower on the list of needs for Lynch’s roster?

Many fans likely rather would see the team grab one of this year's seemingly endless crop of talented wide receivers at No. 13 and then waiting and nabbing a cornerback later like TCU product Jeff Gladney at No. 31 overall.

We’ll find out just how bold this 49ers' front office wants to be in exactly two week’s time.