In ranking the 49ers’ greatest needs in the draft this week, ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson of course put cornerback and wide receiver at the top of the list.
Then came (in order) pass rusher, interior offensive line, inside linebacker, quarterback, safety and defensive line. There’s a logical reason for every need, and with six of the first 100 choices – and 11 overall – the 49ers will have ample opportunity to address multiple positions over the three days of the draft.
The interior offensive line is an obvious area of concern because of the departure of veteran center Jonathan Goodwin and the fact left guard Mike Iupati is entering the final year of his contract. Many NFL analysts have the 49ers going after USC center Marcus Martin in this draft.
But Daniel Kilgore would say that’s not necessary.
Kilgore, a 6-foot-3, 308-pound fifth-round pick of the 49ers in 2011 out of Appalachian State, is the heir apparent to Goodwin and is eager this offseason to prove the center job is his.
Kilgore, who signed a three-year contract extension this offseason, has backed up Goodwin and been used at guard and across the line as an extra blocker. Now he’s ready to take a lead role in the center of the 49ers’ offensive line.
“It’s about picking up where he left off,” Kilgore recently told the team’s website, about taking over for Goodwin. “They’re big shoes to fill. I could never say anything bad about Jonathan. He’s just a Class-A person, a great human being. He’s a role model for me as a player, a great teacher and more than anything, a great friend.
“But I feel like I’ve had a lot of time and preparation, and I feel like I’m ready to lead this offensive line to where we need to be.”
Head coach Jim Harbaugh, however, likes to have constant competition on his roster. He’s a believer in the saying, “iron sharpens iron,” and wants starters to be challenged so they’ll stay at the top of their games. That’s why it makes sense that, at some point over the three-day draft, the 49ers take a center.
Martin is projected to be a second- or third-round pick, and it’s possible that San Francisco – with other needs – could wait longer to draft a center. If that’s the case, centers such as Travis Swanson of Arkansas, Gabe Ikard of Oklahoma, Wesley Johnson of Vanderbilt and Corey Linsley of Ohio State are projected to be available in the fourth through seventh rounds.
Meanwhile, Kilgore is going about his business believing he’ll be the man snapping the ball to Colin Kaepernick in 2014. His experience and his new contract have him eager to show what he can do as a starter.
“Now that’s all over and done with (the contract), I can continue to build on what I’ve done over the last four years,” he said.