Jerry Rice offered some advice to San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke for his first pick of this week’s NFL Draft.
“Offense, man,” Rice said Monday, on NFL Network. “It’s gotta be quarterback, because we don’t know what the situation is with Colin Kaepernick, if he’s going to be around or leaving.”
The 49ers possess the No. 7 overall pick in the first round, which kicks off Thursday evening. The status of the embattled Kaepernick remains up in the air, and the scenario of him being trading during the draft remains entirely possible. And while Rice suggested Baalke eye Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, NBC Sports analyst Chris Collinsworth thinks the team’s offensive line needs a bit more attention than it’s receiving.
Last season, the 49ers’ offensive line allowed 53 sacks, and was responsible for an average of four yards on 390 rushing attempts. The season prior, they allowed 52 sacks. Collinsworth noted during a conference call that there was a time when San Francisco’s offensive line was as feared and effective as any other team’s — just four seasons ago, the offensive line propelled the 49ers into Super Bowl XLVII.
“I had a pretty interesting conversation with some people around that organization — I won’t necessarily say in it — but as much as everyone wanted to talk about Colin Kaepernick and what he did or didn’t do, there was a day that offensive line was rock solid,” he said during the call.
However, the departures of Jonathan Goodwin, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis were felt almost immediately, and the unit’s regression became more and more obvious. This offseason, guard Alex Boone departed to the Minnesota Vikings via free agency.
“Then (the line) sort of slowly got chiseled away,” Collinsworth added, “through free agency or injury or retirements or whatever the case may be.”
Baalke, perhaps on the same page as Collinsworth, spoke last week on the draft’s surplus of available offensive linemen. It’s been a quiet offseason for Baalke in terms of free agency, one of the two lone signings he’s made is guard Zane Beadles, who could have some rookies showing up on the practice field this August.
“This is a good draft for offensive tackles,” Baalke said last week. “There’s some depth throughout the draft at that position. There’s some guys that are going to be you could consider Day 1-starter type guys.”
Additionally, Baalke could be looking to give wide receiver Torrey Smith some help in the catch department. Collinsworth, a former receiver himself, said this draft offers a “pretty good class” of receivers, and has placed Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson and Will Fuller at the top of his scouting list.
Rice, however, has had his eyes on Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell, despite the drop in his draft stock after posting 4.6 second 40-yard dash time. Other analysts have touted Treadwell as the type of physical, all-around threat that could help the 49ers be lethal through the air. San Francisco’s leading receiver since the 2013 season, veteran Anquan Boldin, remains an unsigned free agent.
“I like what I see on the football field: a pretty big body that can run good routes, that can position himself to also make plays,” Rice said of Treadwell.
But Rice is set on his belief the 49ers should draft a quarterback, Lynch specifically.
“Lynch would be an exceptional quarterback,” Rice said. “Big guy, strong arm. Chip Kelly had a lot of success with Nick Foles. He get could Lynch under his belt and develop him into a very good quarterback.”
David Barclay is the 49ers Insider for byteclay.com. He is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Email, email@example.com, Twitter, @DJamesIII