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Brett Duke/Associated Press
The San Francisco 49ers enter their Week 11 bye on a three-game losing streak and two games back of the other three teams in the NFC West.
Repeating the run to the Super Bowl seems less likely by the week, and with the other teams in the division playing well, it may be hard to even snag a wild-card spot in the expanded playoffs.
With that in mind, the 49ers may be better off switching their focusing to more intense scouting of the 2021 NFL draft class.
If the 2020 NFL season ended today, the Niners would possess the No. 12 overall pick, per Tankathon.com.
San Francisco’s primary draft targets should be on defense, where it needs to bolster the secondary.
Quarterback may be viewed as a position of need, but with Jimmy Garoppolo still in place and the premier signal-callers expected to go in the top 10, the 49ers should look to the areas around the quarterback to improve offensively.
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Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
According to Spotrac, the 49ers have a single defensive back currently under contract for the 2021 season.
Of course, that number could change if they re-sign a few players, but they could also look for a new cornerstone of their secondary at a college football program with a strong track record of producing defensive stars.
In the last two years, the Ohio State defense had 10 players chosen in the NFL draft, including Bosa and Washington defensive end Chase Young.
There is not another premier pass-rusher, or another member of the Bosa family to select from the Buckeyes in 2021, but Shaun Wade should be a terrific target.
The senior cornerback has 16 passes defended and four interceptions in his career and may have been a high draft pick in 2020 had he declared for the draft.
Wade still has a handful of Big Ten games and potentially two College Football Playoff contests left to play. That should give the Niners more of a sample size to work off of when evaluating his play.
If the 49ers lean in Wade’s direction, they could pair him with a veteran corner or two to be better equipped to face DeAndre Hopkins, D.K. Metcalf and Robert Woods six times a year.
In their three NFC West games, the 49ers averaged a concession of 223.6 passing yards and let up 77 points.
If they find solutions to improve the secondary through the draft and free agency, they should be in a much better spot in 2021.
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Sean Rayford/Associated Press
The 49ers could also look to the son of a former NFL wide receiver to improve their secondary.
South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn was one of the few standout players on the Gamecocks roster in the final year of Will Muschamp’s failed tenure.
Horn opted out of the rest of the 2020 season on Monday to focus on his NFL draft preparations.
Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle said last week that Horn “is playing his way into the first round” and “is a legitimate first-round prospect.”
Horn had six passes defended and two interceptions while drawing some of the toughest assignments in the FBS every week in the SEC.
San Francisco should already have familiarity with Horn’s game from scouting 2020 first-round pick Javon Kinlaw.
The details paid to the South Carolina defense could be an advantage in the 49ers’ favor when scouting Horn, who may continue to rise up draft boards if he performs well in the pre-draft process.
If Wade and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley are unavailable when the 49ers select, Horn could be the best defensive back option left.
That situation could arise if the 49ers win a few more games to close out the season. They still have Washington and Dallas on the schedule and could eke out a win in divisional action as well, which could land them closer to the 20s.
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Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
If the 49ers focus on an offensive improvement in the draft, they should look at the interior of the offensive line.
With Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey in place on the outside, they could lean toward Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis as an interior anchor to support the rushing attack.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler detailed the traits that would make Davis a solid NFL player right away.
“Although he lacks a truly elite trait, Davis is very well-rounded and not deficient in any area. He can match-up with his size and strength and carries his weight well while pulling or picking up blitzers. And maybe most impressive is his awareness, which is why he should see reps very early as an NFL rookie,” Brugler wrote.
The 49ers are not in dire need of a running back or wide receiver, and if Garoppolo is still the No. 1 quarterback moving forward, they should not hunt for a signal-caller in the first round.
That leaves the offensive line as the area San Francisco should look to bolster the most, and Davis is one of the best options expected to be on the draft board.
They could look to Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, but he is a center and they might have to transition him to guard for run-blocking purposes.
Davis should be available in the middle of the first round since a handful of tackles, like Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood and Oregon’s Penei Sewell, should be the early offensive line targets.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from ESPN.com and Pro Football Reference.
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