Often in sports, success can be quickly forgotten. With multiple leagues competing at once, players rising and falling in headlines, people tend to forget. Just over a year ago—it seems like much longer—the San Francisco 49ers found themselves one quarter away from a Super Bowl title. Following an injury-riddled 2020 with seemingly every starter enjoying some amount of time on injured reserve, the 49ers were relegated to irrelevance, finishing in the cellar of the NFC West.
Durability aside, Jimmy Garoppolo has shown he’s an average NFL quarterback, at best. With a healthy defense, the 49ers’ offense won’t be relied upon to score 30 points a game no matter who is under center. But, fueling an offense around an oft-injured Garoppolo could be dooming, which has led to rumors surrounding his departure from the Bay Area.
Now, as spring nears, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan won’t be tasked with retooling the roster, but instead adding fresh legs to a roster primed to compete in the NFC.
So with that, using our Mock Draft Machine, I looked at which prospects San Francisco could target this April when the annual NFL draft rolls around. Here is my seven-round mock, including scheme fit, on each prospect:
Round 1 (No.12 overall): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
In this scenario, Fields slipped, dropping to the 49ers at No. 12, a dream come true for Lynch and his staff. Although not likely (let’s pretend they trade up using future capital instead), the addition of Fields would immediately make San Francisco a top-three team in the NFC for the foreseeable future.
Now, what about Garoppolo.
"I'm told San Fran is looking at potential upgrades, but they still like Jimmy G," ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler told Bleacher Report.
And that’s fine, they can “like” him all they want, but at the end of the day, eyes sway toward production, and the lack thereof for the once-heralded backup in New England is a glaring issue. Add in he’s set to make over $24M this year, and the 49ers would be foolish to let Fields, an uber-talented, multifaceted quarterback slip by the wayside.
Fields would instantly provide a jolt within a youth-infused 49ers offense headlined by George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk. Additionally, under the tutelage of Shanahan within his hybrid West Coast scheme, Fields would find himself in a potential optimal situation at the outset of his NFL career.
According to our own Kyle Crabbs, Fields’ “ability as a passer is top shelf when accounting for his natural delivery and how easily he's proven to be able to throw around defenders or work himself into generating velocity and accuracy when on the move; the Buckeyes embraced rolling pocket with Fields at quarterback to take advantage of his arm strength and the subsequent access he'll get to all areas of the field as a passer. Fields will kill man-coverage heavy teams with his legs; he's big, strong, and yet still quite dynamic as a runner—so breaking contain and converting third downs with his legs is a large staple of the conflict Fields is capable of putting you into as a player.”
Round 2 (No. 44 overall): Richie Grant, S, UCF
The 49ers currently have nine free agents in their secondary set to explore the open market, including safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Marcell Harris. Grant would be an ideal fit here with his elite ball skills and scheme versatility working in man, zone, split-man, and match coverages, all roles he played as a Knight. Within a 49ers defense hinged upon the front seven’s ability to rush the passer, a hammer on the backend in Grant would be a slam dunk.
Furthermore, Grant is everything you look for within the back end of your defense and has the potential to become a Pro Bowler in his first season—he’s that talented. Following a productive four years at Central Florida, Grant capped his collegiate career with an outstanding week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, where many—including myself—have him ranked higher than fellow safeties Trevon Moehrig (TCU) and Jevon Holland (Oregon).
Round 3 (No. 102 overall): Benjamin St-Juste, CB, Minnesota
I was hoping for Aaron Banks (Notre Dame) to fall here to shore up the offensive line, but it didn’t happen. So, I tapped back into the secondary pool and grabbed the wiry St-Juste late in the round. Trill Willams (Syracuse) and Kelvin Joseph (Kentucky) were still available, however, I sided with the former Gopher in St-Juste due to his NFL-ready game as a press corner. Similar to Richard Sherman, St-Juste (6-foot-3) offers elite length on the outside, consistently using his intangibles to win his matchup. Although he is raw as a true cover man, with increased snaps, he could develop into a nice prospect for new 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.
Round 4 (No. 117 overall): Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
With Raheem Mostert entering a contract year and having questions about his durability, it would be wise of Lynch to snatch Hubbard up in the fourth. Outside of Najee Harris and Travis Etienne, Hubbard was arguably the most well-rounded running back in college football the last couple of seasons. Jeff Wilson enjoyed a productive season following the ankle injury to Mostert, and he’ll be back in 2021, but Hubbard, alongside Fields in the San Francisco backfield, would provide a unique power-speed combo in Shanahan’s zone running scheme.
Round 5 (No.157 overall): Jack Anderson, IOL, Texas Tech
A pure right guard, Anderson possesses ideal size working in the trenches of an NFL front five at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds. As a Raider, Anderson showcased his ability in the run and pass games, working in combination with power and elite balance. With an upgrade needed over Daniel Grunskill and backup Tom Compton, Anderson is a clean enough prospect to start from Day 1. He’ll take his lumps, but he could develop into an above-average tackle in Shanahan’s active scheme.
Round 5 (No. 173 overall): Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
Lenoir aligned both inside and out for Oregon, but for the 49ers, he could develop into an elite nickel corner. At just 5-foot-11, questions have been asked of his willingness to tackle at the next level, but he’s a feisty, nose-to-the-football type of corner whose frame fits the slot to a T covering smaller, quicker wideouts.
Round 5 (No. 182 overall): Patrick Johnson, EDGE, Tulane
Simply due to his program, unless you’re a film junky, you haven’t heard of Johnson. One of the most productive edge rushers in this year’s class, he would provide welcomed depth within a menacing 49ers front four. He played both on the line and at linebacker for the Green Wave, further touting his versatility and skill set as one of the most underrated defensive prospects in this year’s draft. He wouldn’t be looked upon as a major contributor his first few seasons, rather his contributions as a third-down pass rush specialist would be a welcomed sight. The opportunity to learn behind Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead could do wonders for Johnson, who accumulated 120 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, and six forced fumbles in three seasons for Tulane.
Round 6 (No.198 overall): Garret Wallow, LB, TCU
A former safety turned linebacker, Wallows’ game hinges upon his eyes and speed at the second level. Alongside Fred Warner—one of the NFL’s top sideline-to-sideline defenders—Wallow’s game could thrive. Adding depth alongside Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Dre Greenlaw would be smart. And with his ability, Wallow could compete for snaps from Day 1.
Round 7 (No. 224 overall): Josh Imatorbhebhe, WR, Illinois
How he slipped this far, don’t ask me, but I’d be ecstatic if I were Lynch and this mock were to come to fruition and the uber-athletic Imatorbhebhe were to slip to the seventh round. It’s almost a joke how little he’s been talked about in the draft process.
He’s arguably the physical “freak” of the class, shaped in the mold of D.K. Metcalf. Now, I’m not one for comparisons, but just based on appearance and intangibles, Imatorbhebhe has all the tools to become a productive wideout in San Francisco. He’s explosive, is outstanding in the air, and has the ability to run through, over, and around you. If he puts it all together, he could be the steal of the draft.
Round 7 (No. 234 overall): Stone Forsythe, OT, Florida
A mountain of a man at 6-foot-7, Forsythe is a wall to get around. He’s worked at both tackle spots during his time in Gainesville, anchoring one of the top units in college football. If the 49ers decide to bring back Trent Williams, there’s no one else you would want your developmental left tackle to learn from. Despite limited athleticism, Forsythe sets his angles quickly and is impossible to move when his anchor is set.