• Fixing The 49ers Linebacker Problem VIA The NFL Draft

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    Recent news (and past) on Reuben Foster has left the 49ers in a conundrum at Linebacker. Here we will focus on who in the draft can help the 49ers fix this problem.

    The 49ers have an issue at linebacker. Reuben Foster's constant off the field issues have finally boiled over and he has been cut. This leaves Fred Warner as the best Inside Linebacker on the team and he is a rookie. Outside of Warner there isn't much else on the team right now that is an immediate fix. Elijah Lee has had his moments and had a solid Week 12 performance but is not the answer.

    The 49ers hold their own 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th round picks and a pick swap for the 7th with The Chiefs. They no longer own their 5th rounder due to a trade for Laken Tomlinson with the Lions. Needless to say that trade has worked out well as Tomlinson has been a strong starter on the Offensive Line for the 49ers. The 1st and 2nd round picks should probably be used for an edge rusher and a cornerback. Those are more pressing needs. There are some mid round Linebackers in the draft that can still help out the 49ers, let's take a look.

    Tier Two Picks- Rounds 2-4

    These are picks that the 49ers may not even end up with. I have the 49ers going Edge Rusher and Cornerback 1st and 2nd round so these prospects may already be gone by the time round 3 comes along. Here is to hoping but these guys would be great value in the 3rd round.

    Cameron Smith- USC   6'2 253Lbs.  40 Yard Dash: 4.65 sec. 

    Career Statistics- 354 Tackles (208 solo), 26.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, 14 passes defensed, 4 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 Touchdown

    This is the ideal pick for the 49ers as he will fit well next to Fred Warner. Smith has a nose for the football and can be seen all over the field in any game you see USC play. His play gets stronger every year and is a tackle machine. Smith reads plays well and seems to spend a lot of time in film rooms. Because of this he can diagnose a play easily pre-snap. This will allow him to take on Foster's role of running the defense and allowing Warner to do what he does best...tackle.

    Since I have the 49ers going Pass Rusher and Cornerback with their 1st and 2nd Round picks they need to pray that Smith falls. Being able to draft him in the 3rd Round will be an ideal situation for the Niners. Luckily for them the 3rd round pick that they do own should likely be at the top of the 3rd giving them a better shot at grabbing a sliding 2nd Round talent. Here is a nice clip of Smith able to pass rush and read the QB:

    Te'Von Coney- Notre Dame   6'0 231 Lbs.   40 Yard Dash: 4.60 sec.

    Career Statistics- 259 Tackles (154 solo), 22.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries

    Coney is another great instinctual Linebacker that could help the 49ers right away. He wasn't a four year starter at Notre Dame but when he did start his impact was obvious. The mold of the new NFL Linebacker is one who is ranging and more in the 220-235Lb mold. This allows the Linebacker to have a little more speed without giving up anything else. Coney fits that perfectly and the 4.60 40 yard dash is very respectable.  With the football brain he owns, he could fill in for Foster right away. Now the Niners would just have to hope he slipped to the 3rd or 4th round. Per Pro Football Focus these numbers show how good he has been this year:

    Tier 3 Picks- Rounds 4-6

    This is more the area I feel the 49ers should look for their help. There are some very talented Linebackers who have been slated with a 4-6 round projection. With needs all over the roster they should attack at with the first three picks, this makes the most sense.

    Joe Giles-Harris- Duke   6'2 230Lbs.   40 Yard Dash: 4.75 sec.

    Career Statistics- 313 Tackles (143 solo), 32.5 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

    If the 49ers can get Giles-Harris in the 4th round that would be huge. He has arguably been the best Linebacker in football this year but plays for Duke. Some people forget that Duke plays in the ACC which isn't a terrible conference (has been better in recent years) but still gets overlooked. Because of this he is said to drop to the 4-6 round range.

    Harris is one of the most sound tacklers in the class. He has great strength, sheds blocks extremely well with his strength and length. and is very dependable. Being in the right position is something that he does very well. His biggest downfall would be his slight lack of athleticism and his pass coverage. Luckily for the Niners they have Fred Warner who covers well having played some Safety in college. Harris reminds me a lot of former rookie Linebacker Chris Borland. Had Borland not retired we wouldn't be in this position but why not draft a  mirror image of him.

    Shaquille Quarterman- Miami   6'1 240 Lbs   40 Yard Dash: 4.68 sec.

    Career Statistics- 243 Tackles (128 solo), 30 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 Touchdown

    This would be my favorite pick were the Niners able to get him in the 4th round or later. He brings durability to the Linebacker corps taht Foster could never provide. Quarteman has started every game in Miami since he was a Freshman. There is also the ability to navigate the defense. Quarteman in known as the voice of the Hurricane defense calling out plays. Like many mentioned above he fills that void that Foster leaves. He is a fantastic blitzer:


    With speed and short area quickness Quarteman makes up for plays that he starts behind. He has good speed and a motor that does not quit. He takes on blockers with reckless abandonment and wins those matchups most of the time. A pairing of Quarteman and Fred Warner would be a thing of beauty. There is mixed opinions on him with some saying he is a Day 1 or Day 2 pick while others have him listed in the 4-6 round which is where the Niners hope he drops.

    Kendall Joseph- Clemson   6'0 230 Lbs   40 Yard Dash: 4.65 sec.

    Career Statistics- 277 Tackles (134 solo),22 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery

    Kendall Joseph has the luxury of playing behind one of the best Defensive Lines in College Football. Clemson has most likely three 1st round picks from that line in the 2019 draft. This allows Joseph to be able to focus on his job as opposed to worrying about the line leaking. He fills his gaps and is an incredibly heady player. Joseph can play the same role he does now considering that the strongest position on the 49ers is the Defensive Line.

    Tier 4 Picks- Round 6-Undrafted

    Khalil Hodge- Buffalo   6'1 240 Lbs   40 Yard Dash: 4.72 sec.

    Career Statistics- 405 Tackles (177 solo), 20.5 tackles for a loss, 5 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles

    Here we have another Khalil out of Buffalo. If he is anything reminiscent of the last Khalil this should be an easy selection. Unfortunately he isn't but that does not mean he isn't a quality player. All Hodge did last season was be 2nd in overall tackles in the NCAA. This man could be this year's Marcus Davenport without the hype. Put into the right situation, the 49ers being a great one, and he could flourish. Look at his Junior year:

    Ulysees Gilbert III- Akron   6'1 225 Lbs   40 Yard Dash: 4.65

    Career Statistics- 351 Tackles (179 solo), 28.5 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 Touchdown

    Gilbert will most likely play special teams in the NFL at least to start his career unless he wins a job in preseason. He was once thought to be undersized for the Linebacker position but in today's football he should be fine. Gilbert has the speed to keep up with RB's in coverage and changes direction nicely. The main thing he needs to work on is biting on play action. Other than that he has a chance to make an impact. He has some accolades as well:

    Azeez Al-Shaair- Florida Atlantic   6'1 225 Lbs   40 Yard Dash: 4.70

    Career Statistics- 395 Tackles (201 solo), 31 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, 6 passes defensed, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 Touchdown

    Al-Shaair had his season ended due to injury but that does not take away from his ability. He has elite quickness with a great first step. With that speed he has the ability to make plays behind the line as he also shoots gaps really well. Al-Shaair is a violent hitter and can also be moved around to cover TE's and RB's. There really isn't anything he is terrible at. Azeez Al-Shaair could easily end up being the steal of the draft. He could actually be an undrafted free agent pick up due to his injury. His ability is exactly what today's NFL calls for and fits nicely with the 49ers. Here are some of his highlights:

    These are all draft picks from all different spots of the draft that could benefit the 49ers. I almost guarantee that one of them will be the starting middle linebacker of the future for them.

    Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @josephhaggan and @IDPGuys. Alos tune in to the weekly podcast for the most up to date info.

    Joseph Haggan

    I am the proud father to an amazing young girl and husband to an unbelievable wife. Senior writer for IDPGuys, as well as projections creator and co-founder of our elite IDP Scoring Tool.
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