San Francisco 49ers Best Case Scenario For 2022 NFL Draft: Interior Line A Priority

For the first time since 1996, the 49ers don’t have a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. As part of their blockbuster acquisition of quarterback Trey Lance last year, the 49ers traded their selection to the Dolphins, who subsequently traded it to the Chiefs. After a somewhat quiet offseason, the team was hit with a bombshell in the Deebo Samuel trade demand, and that obviously puts a cloud over all of their roster moves in the immediate future.

With that potential trade in mind and other roster needs, this article will take a look at likely targets in the draft for the 49ers on Day 2 as they pick at #61 in the second round and #93 and #105 in the third round. I’ll include one target for each of their most significant team needs for the second and third rounds below.

49ers Offseason Round-Up

This hasn’t been the most eventful offseason in terms of signings for the 49ers. Their significant free-agent addition was Charvarius Ward, the former Chiefs’ cornerback, who immediately becomes the team’s top cornerback alongside Emmanuel Moseley. Darqueze Dennard and Donte Johnson were also resigned on one-year deals to provide depth. George Odum was also brought in on a three-year deal to likely be one of the starting safeties. Those moves helped shore up the team’s secondary, which was one of their lone weaknesses last year.

The 49ers have also lost several key contributors in free agency this offseason, leaving them with some significant needs on both sides of the ball. Laken Tomlinson signed with the Jets, leaving a hole on the interior of the offensive line. Standout defensive linemen Arden Key, D.J. Jones, and Kentavius Street are all on new teams, while Maurice Hurst remains unsigned. K’Waun Williams signed with the Broncos, leaving the secondary somewhat in flux while Jaquiski Tartt remains unsigned.

Deebo Samuel Trade Speculation

Over the past week, trade speculation surrounding the 49ers’ star wide receiver Deebo Samuel has run rampant. In a career year for the team last year, Samuel had 77 catches for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns, along with 59 rushing attempts for 365 yards and eight touchdowns. To call him an integral part of their offense is an understatement. However, he has demanded a trade amid distaste over his usage in the offense, and his request reportedly has little to do with money.

At the pre-draft press conference for the 49ers, general manager John Lynch said that he “can’t envision a scenario where we would” want to move on from Samuel. Lynch also said, “he’s just too good of a player.” An anonymous general manager told NFL reporter Albert Breer that the price is likely two first-round picks for Samuel. At the time I’m writing this, Samuel has yet to be moved, and it seems likely that a trade would happen on the day of the actual draft, if at all.

Biggest Remaining Team Needs

Interior Offensive Line: The interior of the offensive line is the most prominent team need right now. The 49ers were already likely to look for an upgrade over Daniel Brunskill at one of their offensive guard slots, as the undrafted free agent from the 2017 class was underwhelming last season. However, the departure of Laken Tomlinson further throws a wrench into the interior of the offensive line, and there’s still a chance Alex Mack could retire. It’s somewhat surprising that the Niners haven’t dipped into the free-agent market yet.

Edge: The emergence of Arden Key last season was promising for the 49ers as he had a career-high 6.5 sacks, but he signed with the Jaguars in free agency. Dee Ford has struggled to stay healthy as he’s only played in seven games over the last two seasons. The Niners have to find a reliable starter opposite Nick Bosa, and they should have the opportunity to do so this year in a deep edge rusher class.

Defensive Tackle: After a disappointing rookie season, 2020 first-round pick Javon Kinlaw only played in four games last year and struggled to make an impact. With all of the team’s departures at defensive tackle, they are heavily reliant on Kinlaw finally starting to prove some return on investment this year. He may be able to do so, but adding some depth behind him and Arik Armstead has to be a top priority at the very least.

Wide Receiver: I wasn’t expecting to have this position listed here, but it’s almost entirely tied to Deebo Samuel’s future. If Samuel is still on the roster, I won’t hold my breath for the Niners to draft a receiver with one of their Day 2 picks. Ray-Ray McCloud III was added in free agency to help replace Trent Sherfield and Mohamed Sanu. Still, the Niners also played a below-average rate of 11 personnel (3-wide sets) last year, so their third receiver is less of a priority.

Top Targets for Second Round

IOL Dylan Parham, Memphis: Dylan Parham may be undersized at 6’2”, 311 lbs, but he was very productive for Memphis at right tackle and both guard spots. His film last season against the 6’6” showed he could hold his own against NFL talent – Pro Football Focus (PFF) charted him with just one pressure allowed on 55 pass-blocking snaps against Hall. With a 95th-percentile 4.93-second 40-yard dash, Parham tested like an elite athlete and would be an ideal fit for Kyle Shanahan’s outsize zone-running offense.

EDGE Josh Paschal, Kentucky: In an edge class full of ridiculous athletes, Josh Paschal has flown under the radar as one of the highest-upside talents on the board. With his 6’3”, 268-lb frame, Paschal has a unique build that boosts his ability to provide versatility along the defensive front. Per PFF, Paschal had the best run-stopping rate among Power Five teams last season, so he would help replace D.J. Jones’s run-stuffing acumen. He could also provide some of the pass-rushing juice the team has sorely lacked across from Nick Bosa.

DT Logan Hall, Houston: I no longer expect Logan Hall to be on the board at #61 for the 49ers, but perhaps they could be enticed to move up the draft board for him. Regardless, he would be an ideal fit for their defense as he has the massive frame, short-area agility, and well-developed swim and club moves to be a menace as a pass-rushing three-technique. Hall may not have the natural lower-body power to be an anchor in run defense, and he plays with a high pad level at times, but his pass-rush upside is highly enticing.

WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State: Even if Deebo Samuel isn’t traded, the 49ers could be highly enticed to draft Trey Lance’s college teammate Christian Watson. This year, he paced all wide receivers in Relative Athletic Score (RAS) at 9.96 out of 10. Watson ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash which would be impressive for any receiver, let alone a 6’4”, 208-pound player. Watson’s route-running is unpolished, and he’s inconsistent at the catch point, but it’s hard to ignore the athletic upside he represents with those numbers.

Top Targets for Third Round

IOL Cole Strange, Chattanooga: With the best RAS of any guard in this class, Cole Strange’s athletic upside is easy to fall in love with. He graded in the 90th percentile or better in the broad jump, 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill, and 20-yard shuttle, and his closest RAS comps are Evan Mathis, Ali Marpet, and Joe Thuney. Strange isn’t a fully refined prospect, but his athletic upside makes him an ideal target for Shanahan’s offense, and Lynch hasn’t shied away from drafting small-school prospects in the past.

EDGE: DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky: The 49ers hosted DeAngelo Malone for a pre-draft visit, and the Western Kentucky defensive end could make a lot of sense for them as a high-upside pass-rush project. At 6’3”, 243 lbs, Malone could struggle to be a full-time starter on rushing downs. Still, his 180 career collegiate pressures showcase his ability to contribute right away as a designated pass-rusher on third and fourth downs.

DT Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma: Perrion Winfrey is a classic example of a prospect being used in the wrong position in college, as Oklahoma asked him to play nose tackle at 6’4”, 290 lbs. He’s an obvious three-technique in the NFL with his explosive first step and ability to get into the backfield quickly – 41% of his tackles went for a loss last year. His inconsistency in gap-control and lack of lower body strength likely relegate him to a three-technique rusher, but he can provide plenty of value in that role.

WR Danny Gray, SMU: Danny Gray was hardly on my radar at the start of the pre-draft process. Then he ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine. That speed isn’t a fluke – you can see it on film despite him being underutilized at SMU. He had too many drops, given his average depth of target was just 10.9 yards – he had a lousy 12.5% drop rate – but his 8.6 yards after the catch per reception ranked eleventh in the country last year per PFF. If there’s a team that can get the most out of him in a gadget role as a playmaker, it’s the 49ers.

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

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