The San Francisco 49ers are fully locked in on beating the Green Bay Packers this Saturday, but there’s no question the front office has eyes on the draft.
After all, the 2022 NFL Draft is just three months away and the Niners will look to keep improving their current squad, whether that’s after the team loses or ends up winning the Super Bowl. While most of the attention around the upcoming offseason is around the quarterback situation in Santa Clara, California, the draft itself sets up for the 49ers to focus elsewhere.
The trade-up to take Trey Lance at the No. 3 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft leaves the Niners without a first-round selection, but they will get to draft a name in Round 2. In The Athletic’s new mock draft, the 49ers are taking Georgia safety Lewis Cine.
Dane Brugler runs the site’s mock draft, and has the 49ers using the 57th overall pick on the Bulldog safety. While there may be other positional needs that come to mind when thinking about where the 49ers need to improve, The Athletic’s 49ers insider Matt Barrows makes an interesting case.
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A Case for Cine
In Barrows’ reaction to the mock draft, he referred to the pick as “interesting” and it definitely is. Safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward have been mainstays of the secondary for the past few years, but it may be the right time to move on from Tartt.
Barrows points out that Tartt is set to turn 30 this offseason, will be a free agent and needs to get paid. The 49ers may have the space, but a second-round rookie contract for a guy that shares the same hard-hitting prowess that Tartt exudes.
Cine led the Bulldogs in tackles and passes defended in 2021, with 40 tackles and 9 PDs respectively, per PFR. The safety played a big role in Georgia’s 33-18 win over Alabama, and looks up to par against the best talent a team can face at the collegiate level.
Barrows doesn’t expect Cine to start right away as a rookie if he is drafted, especially since strong safety Tarvarius Moore should be recovered from his Achilles tear from this year and has proven to be capable at the NFL level.
Essentially, there are more visible needs for the Niners, but with a late second-round pick, they can get the best value by going with a player like Cine.
Other Positions 49ers Could Consider
The two positions that have been discussed the most when it comes to the 49ers and the draft has been cornerback and defensive end, and Barrows agrees that those need to be considered.
If they decide to go that route, The Athletic’s draft gives a couple of ideas on who the Niners could take. One name that seems especially enticing is Penn State edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie.
Ebiketie is an attractive value option due to the way he came up. After three years at Temple, the defensive end transferred to the Nittany Lions and exploded at a higher level of competition. According to PFR, Ebiketie totaled 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 12 games.
49ers star edge rusher Nick Bosa never hit that total while at Big 10 rival Ohio State, although he was certainly on pace to before an injury-riddled final year.
San Francisco isn’t expecting an immediate starter out of whoever’s taken in the second round, so adding depth at safety or defensive end seems like the best way to get value.