The 49ers needed a wide receiver, and traded for Anquan Boldin. They needed a nose tackle, a safety and and a special-teams standout and signed Glenn Dorsey, Craig Dahl and Dan Skuta.
But as interesting as the first week of NFL free agency has been – and might continue to be, with several big-name free agents still available – the 49ers’ intent is to build through the draft. And on Monday the league officially awarded three compensatory picks to San Francisco, giving the team 14 picks in the April draft, the most of any NFL team in 2013 and the most by any team since 1997.
The 49ers received a fourth-round choice (131st overall) and two seventh-round picks (246th and 252nd overall) Monday.
That leaves the 49ers with a first-round pick (31st overall), two second-rounders, two third-rounders, two fourth-rounders, two fifth-rounders, a sixth-rounder and four seventh-rounders.
As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee wrote, the wealth of draft picks puts the defending NFC champions in excellent position to go after certain players and fill specific holes for 2013, as well as stockpile future picks.
“No one expects the 49ers to end the draft with 14 picks,” he wrote. “The team will likely pool them together and go after a few players they feel can help them right away (though the three compensatory picks cannot be traded).”
Barrows then breaks down the Niners’ needs, focusing on six areas: safety (where a young player could challenge Dahl for a starting spot); defensive end (to back up Justin Smith and Ray McDonald); tight end (to replace Delanie Walker); wide receiver; kicker (to replace David Akers); and return man (though LaMichael James or Kyle Williams might be able replacements for Ted Ginn Jr.).
On the most recent mock draft board of four NFL.com draft analysts, the 49ers are penciled in to take three players at three positions: defensive tackle Jesse Williams of Alabama, cornerback Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State and safety Eric Reid of LSU. Banks received two votes. Tight end Zach Ertz of Stanford and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins of Ohio State also have been projected as 49ers’ first-round targets.
Banks would provide more depth at corner while also being in position to take over for Carlos Rogers, whose contract expires after the 2013 season.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes, too, that the wealth of picks could allow general manager Trent Baalke to package selections to trade for a specific veteran – such as Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports has reported that the 49ers are still one of four likely suitors, including Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Detroit.
Recently, Baalke said he and his staff have put together the team’s draft board and will use that as the foundation for deciding what to do before and during the three-day draft that begins on April 25.
“I don’t know that we need 14 rookies,” he told reporters. “We need 14 good football players. We’ve always had the opinion of, we’re not afraid to move up, we’re not afraid to stand pat and pick where the selection is and we’re certainly not afraid to move back. We’ve been successful doing all of the above. How are we going to use them? That remains to be seen. But certainly we enjoy the fact that we’re in position to have 14.”