The San Francisco 49ers have many needs heading into the NFL draft, but none more glaring than the inside linebacker position. A unit that was once a strength of the team, the 49ers will now have to deal with the abrupt retirements of both ILB Patrick Willis and one-and-done ILB Chris Borland.
The 49ers who were already at a disadvantage as the retirements came days after the legal tampering window–will now be turning to the NFL draft to find their replacements. One inside linebacker that is already scheduled to come in for a pre-draft visit is Mississippi State’s ILB Bernardrick McKinney according to insider Tony Pauline.
McKinney is highly regarded as one of the top inside linebackers in this year’s weak inside linebacker class. At 6-4, 246, McKinney has the size to match up with new Seattle Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham but his lack of agility and short-area quickness makes him vulnerable in the passing game. A solid tackler who can excel in almost any defensive scheme, McKinney would be a nice option to have for almost any NFL team.
However, McKinney isn’t the only linebacker the 49ers are doing homework on as they reportedly held private meetings with four others including ILB Stephone Anthony (Clemson), OLB Randy Gregory (Nebraska), OLB Bud Dupree (Kentucky) and OLB Zack Wagenmann (Montana).
Last year, 49ers GM Trent Baalke had dinner with Clemson product CB Bashaud Breeland after his Pro Day while also holding a pre-draft visit for WR Martavis Bryant. The team had the opportunity to draft both Breeland and Bryant in the third-round but opted to select teammate G Brandon Thomas instead.
Could this be a sign that the team was only interested in Thomas and used Bryant and Breeland to get more information on their All-ACC tackle? Possibly. And with Clemson OLB Vic Beasley projected to go in the 9-15 range, do not be surprised if the 49ers move up to take him as he is a man among boys.
The 49ers held a private meeting with arguably the best pass-rusher in this year’s draft class in Nebraska’s Gregory but he will be long gone. A sure fire top five selection, the 49ers may be doing their homework on other prospect as teammate OLB Nate Orchard could be a nice addition in the second-round.
49ers Director of College scouting Matt Malaspina attended Kentucky’s pro day to watch one player in particular and that was OLB Bud Dupree. At 6-4, 269, Dupree has the H-W-S that scouts covet, however it’s his poor tackling angles and suspect pass-rush moves that has scouts worried.
The team also recently met with Wagenmann. The small school kid from Montana ran an unofficial 4.85 40-yard dash at the combine while also looking stiff in positional drills. The team may take a late round flier on him in rounds six or seven.
In other news the 49ers met with DE Marcus Hardison (Arizona State). At 6-3, 307, Hardison is a big guy who can play the four-technique in DC Eric Mangini’s 3-4 scheme. Not to mention, Hardison has the elongated wingspan that Baalke covets, Hardison would be a nice project as he plays behind DE Darnell Dockett and DE Quinton Dial.
More on Jay Ajayi/RB/Boise St: Had individual/private meetings with San Fransisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings & Jacksonville Jaguars on Wed
— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 19, 2015
The team also met with tier No. 2 running back RB Jay Ajayi from Boise State. The 49ers who currently have RB Carlos Hyde, RB Reggie Bush and RB Kendall Hunter will be looking toward the future if they select Ajayi.
Xavier Cooper/DT/Washington State: dinner with the San Fransisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns past two days…
— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 12, 2015
Dinner anyone? The 49ers had dinner with DE Xavier Cooper (Washington State). They could be doing homework on other prospect from that same school like WR Vince Mayle.
With the 49ers looking to shore up their defensive side of the ball it will be interesting to see who they draft, as the linebacker position looks to be a high-priority for them.
Top 30 Pre-Draft Visits
ILB Bernardrick McKinney (Mississippi St.)
WR Stefon Diggs (Maryland)
Interview after Pro Day
WR DeVante Parker (Louisville)
RB Jay Ajayi (Boise St.)
ILB Stephone Anthony (Clemson)
OLB Randy Gregory (Nebraska)
OLB Bud Dupree (Kentucky) met w/Director of College Scouting Matt Malaspina
OLB Zack Wagenmann (Montana)
DE Marcus Hardison (Arizona St.)
Dinner with Players
DE Xavier Cooper (Washington St.)