Most members of the 49ers Faithful are in agreement that the San Francisco 49ers must dedicate the 2013 NFL Draft to adding depth across the entire defense. After watching the extremely talented unit tire down the stretch in 2012, one would assume general manager Trent Baalke and the rest of the organization are on board with that thought.
San Francisco’s defensive reserves saw very little playing time in 2012 and a big reason for that is the lack of talent behind the starters. The front office selected defensive players late in the 2012 draft but none were able see time outside of special teams during the season, though that was partly a result of injuries.
This year, the 49ers need to focus on defense during the early rounds of the upcoming draft. They’re expected to have 14 picks and, lucky for them, there is no shortage of defensive talent in this batch of prospects. What makes it even more appealing is that this class is loaded with defensive lineman, where the Niners could use the most assistance. Defensive end Justin Smith is aging fast and both of San Fran’s interior D-liners (starter Isaac Sopoaga and backup Ricky Jean Francois) are unrestricted free agents this spring.
Additionally, the Red and Gold could use a depth boost in the secondary. The Niners basically have nothing behind starting safeties Dashon Goldson (another free agent) and Donte Whiter unless last year’s sixth-round pick, safety Trenton Robinson, develops a great amount over the summer.
The 49ers’ top three cornerbacks are all capable starters in this league, but there’s really nobody currently in place that can competitively push them for playing time. That’s often a key element to not only giving players an occasional breather, but preventing complacency as well.
The Niners have four picks inside the top 100 overall (31st, 61st, 74th and 93rd) and I would expect at least three of those to be spent on defensive help. Baalke and Co. may even opt to use the surplus of picks as ammo to move up and take a player capable of making an immediate impact. That would be ideal in the event that Sopoaga or Goldson isn’t re-signed and a starting spot opens up.
With no picks in the early part of the first round, it’s unlikely the Niners find an Aldon Smith-type capable of terrorizing the league from day one. But they’ve got enough talent on defense as it is, this team simply needs to continue to draft well and do so by attacking the defensive side of the ball early and providing depth on the defensive line and in the secondary.
It wouldn’t hurt to check out the prospects at linebacker, either, depending on what happens with the 49ers’ upcoming free agents and such.