NFL Draft

Breaking down 49ers' position-by-position draft needs for now, future

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SANTA CLARA — The 49ers approach the 2024 NFL Draft from a position of strength.

The team is stronger than most at a lot of positions, so there might be no areas where they are desperate for a rookie to step in as a starter for the opening of the regular season.

“You're not always drafting for the immediate,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said on Monday. “Sometimes it's drafting for future needs. So we have to be cognizant of that.”

The 49ers enter the week of the draft with 10 scheduled picks, including six selections within the first 135 slots. Their first three choices are scheduled at Nos. 31, 63 and 94 overall.

Said Lynch, “You start asking yourself, ‘How many of those can make our team and how do we want to approach that?’ That's part of what makes this whole thing so fun and enjoyable. I do think a strength of this draft, to me, is that a lot of premium positions are strong. So that's exciting.”

The draft figures to allow the 49ers the flexibility to trade up and trade back at various spots over the course of Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Here are the 49ers’ position-by-position draft needs — for now and the future:


Who’s here: Brock Purdy, Joshua Dobbs, Brandon Allen

Current need: Purdy was fourth in the NFL MVP voting after his first full season as the starter. There will be competition at No. 2 between Dobbs and Allen. No rookie is likely to have a shot at the backup role.

Looking ahead: A year from now, the 49ers and Purdy will get to work on a multi-year contract extension. Dobbs and Allen are both on one-year contracts, so the 49ers will reassess the backup jobs a year from now.

What to expect: The 49ers will add a fourth quarterback. They can be expected to either use a late draft pick or sign an undrafted rookie.

Running back

Who’s here: Christian McCaffrey, Kyle Juszczyk, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Patrick Taylor

Current need: The team has a solid group of three running backs and fullback. They will look to add a rookie or two for some depth, and might even bring in a fullback-type player for the offseason program and training camp.

Looking ahead: McCaffrey is under contract through the 2025 season. Mitchell will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and Mason will be a restricted free agent. There will be an opportunity for a young player down the road.

What to expect: The 49ers could use a Day 3 pick on a running back. Most likely, they will hit the undrafted market to bring in a running back or two to compete for the jobs on the practice squad.

Wide receiver

Who’s here: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Trent Taylor, Ronnie Bell, Chris Conley, Danny Gray, Tay Martin

Current need: In the unlikely event the 49ers trade Aiyuk, the team would have an immediate, desperate need for another wide receiver. Even as it is, the 49ers can use more depth. For instance, the Green Bay Packers last season had four young wide receivers who caught anywhere from 28 to 64 passes for between 422 and 793 yards. After Aiyuk and Samuel, the 49ers’ next-productive receiver was Jennings, who had 19 catches for 265 yards. They need an injection of talent.

Looking ahead: It might be difficult for the 49ers to keep Aiyuk and Samuel together beyond this season. Therefore, they need at least a couple receivers in the pipeline to remain well-stocked at this position.

What to expect: We believe Aiyuk will remain with the team through the weekend. But there is not a round in this draft that is off-limits for the 49ers to select a wide receiver. The sweet spots for them might be with their picks in the third and fourth rounds.

Tight end

Who’s here: George Kittle, Eric Saubert, Cameron Latu, Brayden Willis, Jake Tonges

Current need: The 49ers do not have much behind Kittle, and that’s why they signed restricted free agent Brock Wright to an offer sheet. When the Detroit Lions matched the offer to retain Wright, the 49ers’ plan was foiled. Unless Latu, the third-round pick from a year ago, shows a lot more than what he did during his first training camp, the 49ers need to come out of this week with a really good player.

Looking ahead: Kittle still has some good years ahead of him, but you never know when a backup might be called upon to be the starter. And, right now, the 49ers have no backup who is even close to being considered a starter.

What to expect: The 49ers will select a tight end at some point in this draft. With three scheduled picks in the fourth round, that seems like a good spot for the 49ers to make their move for a tight end.

Offensive line

Who’s here: Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Jon Feliciano, Colton McKivitz, Jaylon Moore, Spencer Burford, Brandon Parker, Ben Bartch, Nick Zakelj, Corey Luciano, Sebastian Gutierrez, Isaac Alarcon

Current need: The group that led the way for one of the top offenses in the NFL last season returns intact. This group should be better this season through continuity. And there is still plenty of room for improvement, particularly on the right side. 

Looking ahead: Banks and Feliciano have contracts that expire at the end of the season, so the 49ers could be looking for two new starting guards a year from now. Williams cannot play forever. Can he? Though the 49ers signed McKivitz to an extension, he will have to play at a level high enough to hold onto his job.

What to expect: The 49ers could address the offensive line at any spot within the first two days of the draft. That is, it would never be too early for the 49ers to select an offensive lineman. It might be difficult for a rookie to come in and win an immediate starting job, but the 49ers must come out of this draft with a player (or two) capable of being a long-term starter at any spot on the line.

Defensive line

Who’s here: Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Maliek Collins, Leonard Floyd, Yetur Gross-Matos, Jordan Elliott, Kevin Givens, Drake Jackson, Kalia Davis, Robert Beal, T.Y. McGill, Austin Bryant, Raymond Johnson, Sam Okuayinonu, Alex Barrett, Spencer Waege, Earnest Brown

Current need: The 49ers parted ways with a lot of defensive linemen, including Arik Armstead, during the first five weeks of the new league year. And they added a lot, too. The defensive line underperformed last season, so they need to get more production from a group that does not have as many big names.

Looking ahead: The 49ers set themselves up for the future when they acquired Collins, Floyd, Gross-Matos and Elliott on multi-year contracts. Hargrave is scheduled to make $19.9 million in base salary in 2025, so he’ll be playing this season to remain on the team a year from now.

What to expect: The 49ers can never have too many defensive linemen. If there’s a player they really like when it’s time for them to pick, they will certainly grab him — whether that’s the first round or the seventh.


Who’s here: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, De’Vondre Campbell, Ezekiel Turner, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Dee Winters, Jalen Graham, Curtis Robinson

Current need: Greenlaw is going through physical therapy in his quest to be ready early in the regular season after sustaining a torn Achilles in the Super Bowl. If Greenlaw is sidelined for at least the first four games of the season while on the "physically unable to perform" list, it’s anybody’s guess who would be the third linebacker with Warner and Campbell.

Looking ahead: Greenlaw and Campbell are signed only through this season, so the 49ers will have to approach this draft with an eye toward the future.

What to expect: The 49ers selected Winters and Graham in the draft a year ago. And it is wide open for them to take another linebacker in the middle-to-late rounds this week, too.


Who’s here: Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaac Yiadom, Rock Ya-Sin, Darrell Luter, Samuel Womack, Ambry Thomas, Chase Lucas, Kemon Hall

Current need: The 49ers’ two biggest weaknesses last season were consistency and effort on the defensive line and finding anyone who could play nickel back. Lenoir is a good nickel back, but ideally, the 49ers would like to keep him on the outside.

Looking ahead: This is where it gets tricky. The 49ers will try to get one of their starting cornerbacks locked up to a multi-year extension before the opening of the season. Right now, Ward and Lenoir are both scheduled to hit the open market after this season. It is possible the 49ers will need two new starters for the 2025 season.

What to expect: This is a position where the 49ers must plan for the present and the future. Presently, they need to add a player capable of starting immediately at nickel back. They also would like to add a long-term starter at cornerback. The 49ers have not selected a cornerback in the first two rounds in the Lynch-Shanahan era. That could change this week.


Who’s here: Talanoa Hufanga, Ji’Ayir Brown, George Odum, Erik Harris, Tayler Hawkins

Current need: Hufanga is expected to be ready during training camp after sustaining a torn ACL in November. Even with a healthy Hufanga, this is not a deep group. There is an opportunity for the 49ers to add a young, dynamic safety who could step in and play nickel back as a rookie.

Looking ahead: Hufanga enters the final year of his contract, so this is definitely a position in which the 49ers have short-term and long-term needs.

What to expect: This draft sets up for the 49ers to choose one of the top players at the safety position in the second or third round.

Special teams

Who’s here: K Jake Moody, P Mitch Wishnowsky, LS Taybor Pepper

Current need: There is no need to identify a specialist after investing a third-round pick in Moody last year.

Looking ahead: Moody and Wishnowsky figure to be around for a while.

What to expect: The 49ers could add a camp leg, but that’s the extent of any interest they might have in a kicker or punter.

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