By Chris Biderman
Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch last spring used free agency to address their most pressing needs to allow the 49ers flexibility in the NFL draft.
They needed receivers, so they signed veterans Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson. They filled a void at linebacker with Malcolm Smith, added a Pro-Bowler at fullback in Kyle Juszczyk and found their bridge quarterback in Brian Hoyer, which allowed them to pass on quarterbacks in Round 1 making the Jimmy Garoppolo trade possible in October.
So while it’s apparent the team has clear needs at cornerback, pass rusher and along the offensive line at the start of the offseason, those needs could change drastically when free agency kicks off next month when Lynch and Shanahan can start leveraging their $110 million in cap space. Players like Ezekiel Ansah, Rashaan Melvin, Malcolm Butler and/or Andrew Norwell could alter the team’s strategy in the draft.
Those free-agent puzzle pieces aren’t in place yet, making it easy to tap a pass rusher or cornerback to the 49ers with their first pick in mock drafts.
That’s what ESPN’s Todd McShay did in his latest mock this week, pegging Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward to San Francisco with pick No. 9. His...