Harbaugh: 'It feels great to have that many draft picks'
The 49ers signed Craig Dahl, but it is unclear who will start alongside Donte Whitner in the secondary next year. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
As the 49ers' roster currently stands, the 49ers are in very good shape with few glaring spots to fill and 14 scheduled draft picks to fill them.
The 49ers need to add a first-year starter at only one position. If they happen to draft one or more additional players who step into the action immediately, general manager Trent Baalke can consider it a short-term success.
49ers draft needs
These are the positions at which the 49ers must address at some point in the draft, which takes place April 25-27:
1. Safety: There are five or six safeties coming out in the draft that many NFL folks consider Year 1 starters. That group likely includes Kenny Vaccaro (Texas), Eric Reid (LSU), Matt Elam (Florida), Jonathan Cyprien (Florida International) and D.J. Swearinger (South Carolina). Currently, Donte Whitner starts at one safety spot. The 49ers have a huge void to fill with the loss of All-Pro Dashon Goldson. Craig Dahl was signed to compete for a job and to contribute on special teams. C.J. Spillman, Darcel McBath and Trenton Robinson were on the 53-man roster last season, and they return in hopes of getting into the mix to replace Goldson.
2. Tight end: Delanie Walker was a huge part of the 49ers' offense last season. He was on the field for more than half of the team's offensive plays. Vernon Davis returns as the starter. The only other tight end on the roster is Garrett Celek, who made the team as an undrafted rookie. The 49ers can hold steady for one of the "E" tight ends: Zach Ertz (Stanford), Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame) or Gavin Escobar (San Diego State). Or they can pounce on a versatile tight end a little later.
3. Quarterback: The 49ers will add two quarterbacks onto their 90-man offseason roster to join starter Colin Kaepernick and reserve Scott Tolzien, who will undoubtedly face stiff competition to move up from the third-string job he held his first two NFL seasons. Matt Scott (Arizona) would be an excellent fit in the fourth round, if he lasts that long. In the sixth or seventh rounds, Collin Klein (Kansas State) or Jordan Rodgers (Vanderbilt) would make things interesting.
[RELATED: 49ers offseason scorecard]
49ers draft wants
These are the positions at which the 49ers will look to make selections if the right player is available at the right time. A player at these spots might not start immediately, but he would be projected as a starter in the future:
4. Defensive line: The 49ers signed Glenn Dorsey as a free agent and extended Ian Williams to compensate for the losses of starting nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and backup Ricky Jean Francois. Behind starters Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are Will Tukuafu, Demarcus Dobbs and Tony Jerod-Eddie. The 49ers need to bring in more talent to add to the competition and give defensive coordinator Vic Fangio more confidence to implement a rotation on the defensive line. Baalke said something interesting at the NFL scouting combine when he suggested the 49ers have plenty of talent on the line and the reason there was not a rotation was more of a philosophical decision.
5. Wide receiver: Mario Manningham as a No. 3 receiver is not a bad option. However, Manningham will not be ready for the opening of training camp due to knee surgery to repair tears to his left ACL and PCL. Also, slot receiver Kyle Williams is returning from a torn ACL. He began running this week, and he should be ready to go at the start of camp. Behind starters Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, the 49ers also have A.J. Jenkins, the team's top pick last year, and Ricardo Lockette, a player Jim Harbaugh raved about last week at the NFL owners meetings. The 49ers have an opportunity to add more speed -- and it would not hurt if that player has experienced success as a punt returner -- it would be very tempting at any point in the draft.
6. Cornerback: Yes, the 49ers would like to add a bigger body at cornerback. But those players are not easy to find. With the team's top five cornerbacks in line to return, this would probably be a move more about 2014 and beyond. Tarell Brown's contract expires after this season, and Carlos Rogers must play at a very high level this season for the 49ers to bring him back in 2014 at a $6.6 million price tag.
7. Offensive tackle: The 49ers' top backup at offensive tackle was Alex Boone, their starting right guard. The team could easily go with that same arrangement this season. Kenny Wiggins returns from the practice squad as the only other lineman, other than starters Joe Staley and Anthony Davis, who solely plays tackle.
8. Outside linebacker: The 49ers are set up pretty well at this spot with Parys Haralson agreeing to a pay cut to return as the top backup to Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson, draft picks from a year ago, will get their chances to show what they can do. Fleming missed his entire rookie season after sustaining a torn ACL in the rookie minicamp. And Johnson was hampered by a knee through training camp and finally made it onto the roster at the end of the year.
9. Running back: I'll throw running back in here just to address the position. Frank Gore is signed for two more seasons. Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon return. And the 49ers really like Jewel Hampton, who made it onto the 49ers' 53-man roster late last season after being undrafted out of Southern Illinois.