49ers' defensive draft needs

April 16, 2012, 8:04 pm
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With the 49ers able to bring back nearly their entire defense from a year ago, there figure to be no starting positions up for grabs this season.Still, the 49ers do have some depth concerns on defense that the organization will seek to address throughout the draft, which runs April 26, 27 and 28:Defensive line
Who's here: LE Ray McDonald, NT Isaac Sopoaga, RE Justin Smith, Ricky Jean Francois, Demarcus Dobbs, Will Tukuafu, Ian Williams.
Draft needs: Smith played 91 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps, while McDonald was on the field 83.5 percent of the time. Jean Francois is the only backup lineman who saw significant action behind Sopoaga. With more quality depth, the 49ers would be able to create a regular rotation with their defensive front and keep Smith and McDonald fresh. The 49ers will be on the lookout for quality depth and potential future starters on the defensive line from the first round on.Linebackers
Who's here: OLB Ahmad Brooks, ILB Patrick Willis, ILB NaVorro Bowman, OLB Aldon Smith, OLB Parys Haralson, ILB Larry Grant, ILB Tavares Gooden, ILB Michael Wilhoite.
Draft needs: The 49ers carried only three outside linebackers on their 53-man roster last season. The lucked out a year ago. Depth was not needed a year ago, as everyone remained healthy. They would like to add an insurance policy at outside linebacker. Not a lot of help is needed at inside linebacker with Grant's return. He did not get an offer as a restricted free agent to start elsewhere, so he is back with the 49ers as their top inside linebacker backup for another season. But the 49ers will likely keep their eyes peeled for a player who also has special-teams value in the mid to late rounds.

Defensive backs
Who's here: CB Carlos Rogers, CB Tarell Brown, S Dashon Goldson, S Donte Whitner, CB Chris Culliver, CB Tramaine Brock, S C.J. Spillman, CB Perrish Cox, CB Curtis Holcomb, CB Cory Nelms, S Mark LeGree.
Draft needs: With the departures of reserve safeties Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams, the 49ers must add a young player to compete with Spillman for the top backup spot behind starters Goldson and Whitner. Also, the 49ers would like to create more competition for the cornerback jobs. The 49ers kept five cornerbacks last season. Shawntae Spencer was released, so there is an open spot for a newcomer to compete with Brock, Cox and Holcomb for roles behind Rogers, Brown and Culliver. And if the 49ers take a cornerback with the No. 30 overall pick not an unlikely scenario -- suddenly there becomes more competition for the top three spots, too.Specialists
Who's here: K David Akers, P Andy Lee, LS Brian Jennings, LS Ryan Pontbriand, LS Kyle Nelson.
Draft needs: Akers, Lee and Jennings all deservedly made the NFC Pro Bowl team last season. There's no reason to waste a draft pick on any of those positions. Where the 49ers could use some help is in the return game. They need another reliable decision-maker for punt returns behind Ted Ginn, so the 49ers could add a player who has return skills at some point in the middle of the draft.Projected starters in italics

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