The 49ers are in a great spot.
They own the ninth selection in the NFL draft, which starts Thursday, and can pick from 12 surefire future Pro Bowlers, according to general manager John Lynch. The Niners should get one of those players.
I humbly disagree with Lynch. This amateur scout — me — sees 21 future Pro Bowlers, and none of them is a quarterback. If the 49ers prefer, they can trade down in Round 1 and still find a cornerstone talent.
Here are the 21, in order from best to worst.
1.Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State.
2.Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame.
3.Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State.
4.Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State.
5.Derwin James, S, Florida State.
6.Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama.
7.Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech.
8.Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia.
9.Vita Vea, DT, Washington.
10. Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA.
11. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama.
12. Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama.
13. Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA.
14. James Daniels, C/G, Iowa.
15. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa.
16. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame.
17. Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia.
18. Mike Hughes, CB, UCF.
19. Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado.
20. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU.
21. Connor Williams, OT, Texas.
Say Lynch picks just one of those players, and tanks the rest of the draft. He still would outdo his performance from last year.
Lynch drafted a few good role players during the later rounds last year — he gets credit for those picks — but he also spent his first-round picks on Solomon Thomas, a high-end role player who lacks explosive physical traits, and Reuben Foster, who wasn’t even on most teams’ draft boards, according to reports. Teams didn’t trust Foster based on his character. And now, he may never play again.
Lynch can redeem himself. He can make people forget about those blunders. And he doesn’t even have to think. He can pick names out of a hat if he can’t make up his mind.
It gets better for the 49ers,
Draft experts expect teams may draft up to four quarterbacks within the first five picks of Round 1. Those quarterbacks are Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield. All four have major flaws, and none ranks in my top 21, but desperate teams reach for quarterbacks every year.
And that works in the 49ers’ favor. They don’t need a quarterback — they have Jimmy Garoppolo. They won’t take one before Round 5.
If four quarterbacks get drafted in the first five selections, one of the five best players on the 49ers board will be available at pick No. 9. The Niners can stand pat and get a potential future Hall of Famer.
There’s a good chance four of the following five players will be available for the Niners: linebacker Roquan Smith, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, safety Derwin James, safety-corner-hybrid Minkah Fitzpatrick and cornerback Denzel Ward. Any of those guys would be terrific picks.
Me, I’d take the corner, Ward. And I’ll tell you why.