How 49ers will balance best player vs. positions of need in draft


The 49ers will neither draft entirely for need or go with the best player, regardless of position, in this week’s NFL Draft, according to the man calling the shots.

As general manager John Lynch described it, the club will attempt to find the players who provide the best of both ideologies.

“Some of it is about position needs as we see it,” Lynch said. “Yeah, we have priorities on what we've identified, but ultimately you want to take football players that are going to make your team, going to be around here for years to come and make you a better team.”

The draft begins on Thursday with the first round. The 49ers do not have picks in the first two rounds after trades the past two years to acquire Trey Lance and Christian McCaffrey.

The 49ers’ first scheduled pick comes after the regular phase of the third round. The team has compensatory selections slated for Nos. 99, 101 and 102. All options remain for the 49ers to make picks in each of those spots, trade up or trade back.

The only starting job that might be available for a draft pick could be linebacker, where the team likely will look to replace Azeez Al-Shaair, who signed with the Tennessee Titans as a free agent.

The position Al-Shaair filled in recent seasons plays only when the 49ers are in their base defense with three linebackers. Currently, Oren Burks and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles are in line for the job to line up alongside Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw.

Right tackle is another position where the 49ers have no guaranteed starter, but the organization appears confident Colton McKivitz will fill that role after the departure of Mike McGlinchey as a free agent.

It will not be easy for draft picks on Day 3 to win roster spots, so Lynch said there will be a combination of factors taken into account when the club determines which players at which positions to target.

The relative balance and depth of the draft class would appear to benefit the 49ers, who will see many players chosen before it is their turn to go on the clock.

“It’s going to be a long wait, watching a lot of players that you really appreciate go,” Lynch said. “But I am truly confident that we'll come up with some players that we really like there and that are going to help us right away and into the future.”

Lynch said he is stressing the importance of being thorough in the draft process because there might be some surprises along the way.

RELATED: Lynch updates where 49ers stand on potential Lance trade

A year ago, he said the team believed USC edge rusher Drake Jackson would be chosen far in advance of the 49ers’ first scheduled selection at No. 61 overall. He ended up being there, and he was the pick.

“There was another guy who we liked along with Drake and both of them were there,” Lynch said. “We never would've thought that both of them would've been there at 61. So that's another great lesson that you just have to prepare for everything.”

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