49ers Land 3 Impact Players in Latest NFL.com Mock Draft

K.J. Henry of Clemson has been linked to the San Francisco 49ers.

Getty K.J. Henry of Clemson has been linked to the San Francisco 49ers.

Though the San Francisco 49ers are not a team flush with draft capital after surrendering multiple assets to acquire Trey Lance and Christian McCaffrey, John Lynch still has multiple Day 2 selections to play with thanks to the NFL’s compensatory pick selection process, which has afforded the team three selections according to NFL.com thanks to the hirings of Robert Saleh and Martin Mayhew, of Mike McDaniel, and of DeMeco Ryans and Ran Carthon.

With numerous needs across the offensive and defensive side of the ball depending on how key free agency decisions with players like Jimmie Ward, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Mike McGlinchey shake out, Lynch and company will have to scour the NCAA ranks to find three players in the 99-102 range who can pad out the 49ers’ depth chart and maybe even find a few players like Aaron Brooks and Deebo Samuel who weren’t selected on Day 1 but still made a massive impact for San Francisco. Fortunately, Chad Reuter, an analyst for NFL.com, mocked the first three rounds of the 2023 draft and ended up handing San Francisco three very interesting players at positions of need moving forward.

San Francisco 49ers Pick 99 – KJ Henry, Edge, Clemson

With both Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu set to become unrestricted free agents in March, the Niners may be on the lookout for an edge rusher to add to their defense stable alongside Nick Bosa and 2022 second-round pick Drake Jackson. In Reuter’s opinion, KJ Henry, the redshirt senior edge rusher from Clemson, could help to fit that bill.

“Highly athletic edge defender with good size,” Lance Zerlein wrote in his NFL.com draft profile.
“Henry has upfield burst, but he tends to be a face-up rusher and will need to improve his hand usage for more effective corner turns. He can be dynamic when twisting and blitzing as a moveable piece around the defensive front and he does a nice job of setting up a buttery smooth inside rush that is often too quick for tackles. He can dart and disrupt as a one-gapper with his hand in the ground but has more trouble than expected in setting firm edges as a run defender. Henry’s strengths and weaknesses are well-defined, with the upside to become a starter.”

A four-year contributor for Tigers who was voted a permanent team captain in 2022, Henry finished out his college career with 147 tackles, 13.5 tackles, 11 pass breakups, and four fumbles, and was named to the All-ACC Academic Team twice on the way to securing both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. If San Francisco wants to secure a rusher in the style of Brian Burns, Steve Wilks’ top edge in Carolina, Henry could very much be in play if he’s on the board.

San Francisco 49ers Pick 101 – Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina

Much like on the edge, the 49ers have a number of avenues they could go down in regards to cornerback heading into 2023, with Emmanuel Moseley and Jason Verrett, two former starters, set to become free agents. If Lynch feels comfortable enough with 2022 standout Deommodore Lenoir to allow Moseley and Verrett to test the open market but still wants to add some competition to cornerbacks room, drafting Darius Rush out of South Carolina could fit that bill.

“Two-year starter at cornerback after moving from wide receiver in his redshirt freshman season,” Zerlein wrote for NFL.com. “Rush is big, long, and physical. He struggles to stay connected with routes from both press and off coverages but could improve with more technique work. He will never have the short area foot quickness to mirror and match routes but has impressive ball skills to disrupt the catch when he’s in position.”

If the 49ers were to draft Rush in the third round, he wouldn’t be the only player who made the jump from wide receiver to cornerback in college and then to the NFC West, as Tariq Woolen was drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks and played so well that he earned a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie. Getting that sort of production out of Rush in 2023 would give the 49ers an elite one-two punch at cornerback when Charvarius Ward is factored into the mix for years to come, which would be a fantastic utilization of assets.

San Francisco 49ers Pick 102 – Nick Saldiveri, Guard, Old Dominion

Though the 49ers are pretty well stocked at guard heading into 2023, with their primary starters from 2022, Banks and Spencer Burford, returning on rookie-scale contracts, if McGlinchey signs elsewhere, San Francisco may opt to try the latter at tackle, where he played predominantly in college at UTSA. If Kyle Shanahan believes that Burford could fit that bill, or they have another plan at right tackle like moving a returning Daniel Brunskill to the position, then drafting a guard like Nick Saldiveri could fit that bill.

“Three-year starter with good overall size/length and the potential to play multiple spots along the offensive line,” Zierlein said. “Saldiveri is naturally athletic and should fit best as a zone blocker or pulling guard who can get out into space and find work. Hand skill and placement are consistent issues on tape and could prevent him from neutralizing NFL opposition at a functional level. If he proves he can snap the ball and makes a move to center, that should improve his draft stock and give him a better chance as a pro.”

With Jake Brendel also set to become a free agent in March, adding a versatile offensive lineman who could play any of the interior offensive line positions could allow for maximum versatility and optionality moving forward, which has sort of become the Shanahan-Lynch moto over their shared tenure in the Bay Area.

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