[Editor’s Note: Version 1.0 below was originally published on March 2]
The 2019 NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers will use the 2020 offseason and NFL Draft to add reinforcements in an attempt to relieve the sting of their Super Bowl loss and get back to the big show. The team came up short in the biggest game but were arguably the most notable success story of the 2019 season. San Francisco went from the second overall pick to the top of the NFC. Coach Kyle Shanahan looks to be building a powerhouse with the 49ers moving forward and will add to a talented unit with this 2020 7-round mock draft.
The team will have a long time to wait as they hope to find talent here at the back end of the first round. San Franciso’s most significant concerns heading into the offseason involve the need to replace and reinforce the back end of this defense. Richard Sherman earned All-Pro status in his ninth season in the league, but adding an understudy could be the focus early on for the 49ers. Free safety Jimmie Ward is also a free agent, so the team could be looking to add a versatile safety in the first few rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.
In addition to the needs in the secondary, San Francisco should be looking to add playmakers outside for their franchise quarterback Jimmy Garrapolo. Emmanuel Sanders provided a boost to this unit via trade in 2019, and rookie Deebo Samuel should be a star in this league for a long time. However, Sanders could depart in free agency, and the 49ers need a real number one wideout to complement Samuel and Pro Bowl tight end, George Kittle. The San Francisco 49ers do all that and more in this 2020 7-round mock draft.
San Francisco 49ers 7-round mock draft
Round 1, Pick 31: Kristian Fulton, CB LSU
The Niners were one of the biggest surprise teams of the entire NFL in 2019. The group rode an outstanding defense and potent rushing attack to the playoffs and will look to add to a talented roster through the 2020 NFL Draft. San Francisco also benefits from a lack of glaring needs on either side of the ball, so the will likely use the best player available approach here.
Sherman continued to play at an extremely high level in 2019, ranking as one of the top cover corners in the entire league. However, he will be 34 at the start of the 2020 season, and depth is an issue at the cornerback position. Enter the talented junior cornerback Kristian Fulton from Baton Rouge.
Fulton entered 2020 as my top-ranked player at the position and top-15 player overall for the 2020 NFL Draft. He was outshined slightly by fellow young star Derek Stingley Jr. but continued to play well on the outside. He is physical, experienced, and has good speed. At this point in the draft, Fulton would be an excellent value and a great long-term starter for the Niners.
Round 5, Pick 139 (from DEN): Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR Liberty
The Niners found an absolute gem with 2019 second-rounder Deebo Samuel. He has the look of a possible number one and a big-play threat for years to come in this offense. The team also traded for Sanders at the deadline, and that move paid enormous dividends for San Francisco’s playoff run in 2019. Once Sanders arrived, the unit appeared to overachieve and stepped up their play. Even though there is tremendous promise in this young group, depth and upside should be a priority in the offseason.
Sanders was mostly a rental and may not be part of the Niners’ long-term plans. Even if Sanders sticks around for 2020, the team could look to add more weapons for Garoppolo and continue to build this offense. Gandy-Golden is a giant, jump-ball threat with good speed for his size. He would give the team another much-needed red-zone target to pair with the All-Pro Kittle.
Since his great week at the Senior Bowl, Gandy-Golden has been rising on draft boards and could hear his name called even before this selection. However, this is a deep receiving class, and the former small-school star would be an excellent addition for San Francisco at this point in the draft.
Round 5, Pick 159: Michael Onwenu, OG Michigan
San Francisco heads into the offseason with some question marks on the interior of their offensive line. Backup Ben Garland is a free agent, while current right guard Mike Person is 31 years old and has been a journeyman in the NFL since being drafted initially by the 49ers in 2011. The team could use an upgrade and some depth upfront moving forward.
Onwenu is a monster of a man in the middle of the line and is a tremendous run blocker. He’s got quick feet and above-average mobility for a man of his size and could be a decent fit in the team’s zone-blocking scheme.
Michigan IOL Michael Onwenu is a big guy to watch moving forward in this process. A fantastic athlete that can really maul guys. Love his as a sleeper in a weaker IOL class.
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 18, 2020
At this point in the draft, landing a player like Onwenu would go a long way towards solidifying the San Francisco offense. The 49ers offense was extremely run-heavy in 2020 and experienced much success with their quartet of running backs in Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Jeff Wilson. To keep that going in 2020, they will need reinforcements, and Onwenu could be just what the doctor ordered.
Round 6, Pick 191: Mohamed Barry, LB Nebraska
The linebacker group was a real strength for this team last season. Fred Warner showed to be one of the real up-and-coming stars in this league and played at an All-Pro level in 2019. Kwon Alexander proved to be a crucial free-agent signee late in the season, following a chest injury suffered in Week 9. Even 2019 fifth-rounder, Dre Greenlaw proved to be a reliable and capable starter during his rookie season. Greenlaw was a tad undersized when he joined this unit but made some big plays for San Francisco, including a game-winning stop against the Seahawks in Week 16.
The 49ers love athleticism in their front seven and at the linebacker position. Mohamed Barry has athleticism in bunches and closes to the football in a hurry. He has the right size and experience, playing in 42 games during his college career. Barry made 245 stops during his career with the Cornhuskers and can make plays from sideline-to-sideline. He would be a great depth addition here in the sixth-round and could provide competition and insurance in case injuries pop up in this unit again in 2020.
Round 7, Pick 195 (from DET): Shyheim Carter, S Alabama
As previously mentioned, Ward is a free agent and would be a significant loss for the San Francisco defense if he decides to sign elsewhere. He is a glue player that has been moved all over the secondary since his arrival in 2014. Most notably, Ward has been a terrific slot corner and free safety for this upstart and ferocious 49ers defense. He is a ball hawk and excellent cover man that won’t be very easy to replace in this secondary.
The addition of Shyheim Carter would help soften the potential blow of losing Ward to free agency. Carter is another player that has experience at multiple positions in the secondary from his time under Alabama coach and defensive back guru, Nick Saban. Carter is a knowledgeable and “coachable” player, and while he is not the biggest guy, the versatile defensive back is a great tackler and was one of the fastest players on the Alabama team this year. He will be an exceptional special teamer from day one and will eventually push for a starting role on the back end of this defense.
Round 7, Pick 223: Christian Rector, DE USC
The 49ers were one of the best pass-rushing teams during the 2019 season. Much of that had to do with the play of star rookie Nick Bosa and the breakout year of defensive end Arik Armstead. The latter of the two finished with ten sacks and is now a free agent. Armstead is one of the top players available this offseason and appears ticketed for a big contract on the open market. The 49ers will try their best to retain him, but he could easily price himself out of the team’s plans.
Christian Rector is a local product from South Pasadena that makes the short trip from Southern California to Levi Stadium. The redshirt-senior has experience as an edge rusher both as a down lineman and as an outside linebacker. Rector had 13 sacks in his college career, but he missed time with an ankle injury during this past season. With a full year of production playing on a line next to potential 2021 first-rounder Jay Tufele, Rector likely would have gone much higher in 2020 NFL Draft. He is an excellent late-round flyer to offset the possible defection of Armstead in free agency.
Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the 2021 NFL Draft. You can follow him at @sgormanPFN on Twitter