The football cognoscenti are in firm agreement: The Browns should and will take Myles Garrett first overall. But there is far less consensus surrounding the 49ers, who pick second overall and have just as many holes to fill as Cleveland.
Might San Francisco bolster its secondary with a sure-thing safety in Jamal Adams? Would the 49ers instead take the best player available in Solomon Thomas? How about trading down to accumulate extra picks in the second round, potentially with Cleveland, which has expressed interest in trading back into the top eight?
At this moment, the draft is Jed York’s oyster, but the 49ers CEO, longing to finally get it right with someone not named Harbaugh, is wary that San Francisco won’t make it back to the Big Game without a pearl at the game’s most important position.
“You need to get the best players, wherever they are, whatever you need to do, you need to find the best players,” York told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche at the 49ers’ facility Wednesday. “It’s proven that if you don’t have a superstar quarterback, you’re probably not getting to the Super Bowl and you’re probably not winning a Super Bowl.”
The new regime, led by Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, has plenty of roster spots to fill, even after a lavish spending spree in free agency, but should San Francisco bypass top talent at No. 2 to reach for a quarterback? After all, the 49ers signed Brian Hoyer in the offseason, a competent signal-caller who has played under Shanahan before. Hoyer’s veteran presence makes it more reasonable for San Francisco to draft a quarterback at the right value — maybe at Nos. 34 and 66 — rather than use a top-10 selection on a position bound to be overvalued on Thursday night.
However, a team source told Wyche that the 49ers are interested in North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who has also earned interest from the Browns. There’s no telling whether this report is an accurate assessment of San Francisco’s interest or a smokescreen set up by the 49ers to leverage a potential trade with Cleveland or another suitor. It’s also not clear if San Francisco values Trubisky at No. 2 or a later position.
Is the next Joe Montana or Steve Young in this year’s crop of quarterbacks? It’s up to each team’s interpretation. The whole draft process is a subjective evaluation of an organization’s values.
In that vein, what avenue of team-building San Francisco pursues on Thursday night will be telling. If the 49ers pick Thomas, Adams, etc., no one will bat an eye as they attempt to rebuild the defense. But if San Francisco goes quarterback early, we’ll know that York and his young, ambitious regime are ready to set a course for Lombardi.