With the final game of the 2017 season upon us 49ers fans, it can only mean one thing — it’s Draft Season! Mike Messner and Zach Hernandez teamed up to bring you all the first NB9ers Mock Draft for the 2018 NFL Draft. We will note whose analysis is whose with our initials posted next to the players name. We hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it! Also, be sure to let us know what you guys think — whether you agree or disagree. You can find us on Twitter: Mike Messner – @Teachermike72, Zach Hernandez – @zachhernan & @Nothingbut9ers! Thanks for checking it out, Happy Draft Season!

First-round: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State University (Z.H.)

North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb (#9) looks to be at the top of the rank when it comes to pass-rushers entering the 2018 NFL Draft. Image via 247Sports.com

It’s no secret the 49ers have been searching for some elite talent to rush the passer ( I mean which team isn’t right?). After spending three straight years spending their first-round picks on addressing the defensive line (Armstead, Buckner, Thomas), San Francisco does the unbelievable and goes right back to the defensive line for the fourth straight time. This time, the 49ers select a true pass-rusher — Bradley Chubb out of NC State. Chubb is perhaps the best pass-rusher in this upcoming draft — fighting Louisiana State’s Arden Key for supremacy.

In 2017, Chubb totaled 73 tackles, 25 tackles-for-loss, 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 passes batted down at the line. He is known by teammates and coaches as an extremely high-motor type of guy who does not quit, and looks to be a perfect fit at 4-3 DE. Chubb is notorious for destroying offensive lineman tasked with blocking him one-on-one, but he also has shown he can even get through double-teams — the guy is virtually unstoppable. He has a great swim move he uses to get to the QB often, but is also able to utilize the bull-rush and rip moves to get through linemen. Chubb has fantastic speed and is extremely quick off the snap and he seems to always find himself in the backfield, as shown by his 10 sacks this season. He is an extremely disruptive defender who is also stout against the run. Chubb has really long arms which he uses to his advantage often, like when setting the edge.

The 49ers desperately need elite talent at the pass-rusher position. San Francisco’s General Manager recently said in the post-game interview after the Jaguars game:

“…Well in the two-minute drill, I like to sack the quarterback.. That’s how you win games!”

– -John Lynch

An elite pass-rush makes the entire defense look a lot better, so I would not be surprised in the slightest if they went ahead and selected Bradley Chubb with their first overall pick.

Second-round, Option 1: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas (M.M.)

Arkansas Razorback Frank Ragnow (#72) could help solidify the 49ers offensive line for years to come. Image via Arkansasrazorbacks.com

Daniel Kilgore will be a free agent this offseason, and the 49ers can honestly do better than him at a position that Kyle Shanahan considers of utmost importance. Kilgore is allowing way too many pressures on the team’s quarterbacks, and now that we seem to have found our field marshall going forward in Jimmy Garoppolo, we can’t afford to put his neck on the line every week season. To say that Kilgore was a step up from Marcus Martin, his predecessor at center, is the ultimate damnation with faint praise.

We may not nab Frank Ragnow, but I still feel we should target him if we don’t look for a durable option in free agency.  Ragnow is ranked third among all FBS centers based on PFF’s College Era ratings, and his expertise is in run-blocking.  That means he could, when paired with some decent guards, create gaping holes for our running backs to make massive gains.  Imagine what Matt Breida could do with blocking like that.Or Carlos Hyde. Or (yes,I dare to dream)…Frank Gore.

By contrast, if Kilgore was taking a test on blocking and pressure allowed, he’d probably score about 22%.  I’m not necessarily suggesting that Lynchahan necessarily swap trades with another team to get Ragnow, but I wouldn’t dismiss the idea either.

Second-round, Option 2: Maea Teuhema, G, Southeastern Louisiana (M.M.)

Louisiana State’s Maea Teuhema (#75) stands tall at 6’5, 237 lbs. Image via SI.com.

I don’t think anyone would dispute that the 49ers’ O-line is in need of some serious help.  Joshua Garnett hasn’t had the chance to prove his ability yet; Laken Tomlinson has been a marginal improvement over the marginally awful Zane Beadles; Trent Brown hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and the jury is still out on Brandon Fusco and Erik Magnuson. (I already assessed Daniel Kilgore — see above).

Enter Maea Teuhema.  Teuhema has been described as a versatile left tackle with a mean streak, and he is actually ranked higher by WalterFootball as an offensive lineman than the aforementioned Frank Ragnow. He’s also just announced for the draft this coming year, and while I am not thrilled about his academic suspension from LSU earlier this year, it’s hard to argue with his 6’5”, 315lb frame and his ability to play multiple positions on the line.  At worst, he would be no more than a replacement for Beadles; at best, he might be a wall of granite that isn’t afraid to knock a nose tackle or two off his game. Dallas is high on this kid, though, so I’d be wary of them trying to cut a deal with Lynchahan on draft day.

Third-round: Duke Dawson, CB, Florida (M.M.)

Florida’s Duke Dawson (#7) started seven games for the Gators in 2016, but gained notoriety for slapping a player from LSU in 2017. Image via FloridaGators.com.

The cornerback position has been a sore spot for the 49ers this season, and it shows with the numbers.  The entire team has pulled down 10 interceptions this entire year, with many of those being made by safeties rather than corners.  Ray-Ray Armstrong wasn’t the answer at that position, and neither was Rashard Robinson.  Antone Exum is a free agent this year, and it’s not clear that he’s made a huge contribution to the team.  Greg Mabin looks tough, but he has some balance issues and hasn’t defensed many  passes (nor has he played a whole lot on any team he’s been signed to, for that matter).  Akhello Witherspoon is a rookie with a lot of upside, but he can’t do it all by himself.  And Dontae Johnson has had some good games, but he’s also had some appallingly bad ones (particularly against the Texans, where DeAndre Hopkins ran circles around him in more ways than one).

Duke Dawson would be a great complement to Witherspoon (and maybe Johnson, who’s the final year of his rookie deal).  He’s got some speed, which would be an asset in man coverage, even if Robert Saleh played him a few yards off the line.  Dawson also can read the quarterback eerily well, and has a knack for following routes as they develop, rather than after the receiver has established where he’s going.  And he has a good idea of where he needs to improve, which is a refreshing aspect in a league that is full of hubris (Richard Sherman being Exhibit A).  If the Niners want an effective corner in a zone defensive scheme, Dawson may be the guy.

Third-round, Option 1: Oren Burks, LB, Vanderbilt (Z.H.)

Vanderbilt’s Oren Burks (#20) is known around campus as a leader. Image via Tennesseean.com.

The 49ers entered the 2017 season with NaVorro Bowman and rookie Reuben Foster manning the middle of the defense. Well, that certainly did not last long and as we all know Bowman went on to request his release to go and sign with the Oakland Raiders. Now, Foster needs a new running mate and Burks could fill that hole for San Francisco.

In 2017, Burks totaled 82 tackles, 7 tackles-for-loss, 1 interception & 3 PBUs. Although he is undersized and sometimes easily blocked, he is also an extremely versatile linebacker with a  great combination of size, quickness & instincts — and it certainly shows on the field. Not only is he good against the run, but he can also drop back into coverage. Burks has above average lateral speed, and he shows it by constantly making plays in the open field. Teammates and coaches love this kid and are always raving about his intelligence and leadership qualities. Burks could be the next great “hybrid” defender in the NFL.

Third-Round, Option 2: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama (M.M.)

Alabama’s Rashaan Evans would give the 49ers a pair of former Crimson Tide linebackers to man their defense for the future. Image via TDAlabamaMag.com.

Evans is another Alabama senior — and that worked out well last time we drafted one of those (that’s Reuben Foster, for you acid casualties from the ‘60s) — but that’s not the only reason he belongs in a 49er uniform.  The current depth chart is riddled with disappointment.  Eli Harold has improved, but he hasn’t done enough this year to merit being at the top of the depth chart and is probably on his way out of Santa Clara.  Dakoda Watson is getting on in years and may not have much more room to improve.  Pita Taumoepenu has relatively little exposure to the game and is a rookie, and was only a 6th round pick to begin with.  Elijah Lee doesn’t have the power to replace Foster when injuries happen, and considering how much Foster has been hurt this year and his overall intensity on the field, that’s bound to happen again next year.  And if anyone knows anything about Mark Nzeocha, I wish you would point it out to me.

That leaves Foster and Brock Coyle, but the team clearly needs more depth, and Evans is a good match.  Like Foster, Evans makes big hits on the field.  Unlike some of the linebackers this team has seen of late, he approaches ball carriers like heat-seeking missile.

Running back on a sweep?  He won’t let you get past him.  Tight end catching a slant?  You won’t move the chains if he’s covering you.  Wide receiver who can win straightaway races?  He’ll match you step for step.

Offer this kid the right money and he’ll duplicate everything Foster does.  Make it happen, John and Kyle.

Fourth-Round Pick: Deon Cain, WR, Clemson (Z.H.)

Clemson’s Deon Cain (#8) is a talented, but troubled wide receiver. If John Lynch & Kyle Shanahan are able to point him in the right direction, he might be a perfect fit in San Francisco. Image via SI.com.

The 49ers wide receiving corps improved a fair amount when compared to the 2016 roster. With that being said, San Francisco still lacks a true #1 WR. Pierre Garçon entered the season poised to be the leading receiver — and he was up until a neck injury forced him to go on I/R. Speedster Marquise Goodwin has done a phenomenal job at filling in at the #1 WR spot for for the 49ers — especially since QB Jimmy Garoppolo has taken over. However, they could still use some young and talented pass catchers moving forward, and that’s where we come to Deon Cain.

Cain finished 2017 with 52 receptions, 659 yards, & 6 TDs with Clemson — a drop from 2016. He is a big, fast receiver with the ability to take the top off defenses. He reminds me of Alshon Jeffery when going up to catch the jumpball in the end zone. Once he gets the ball and into the open field, he has great breakaway speed. Cain needs to work on his route-running so he doesn’t become a one-trick-pony in the NFL, a label that has already followed him around at Clemson. The knocks on him are that he is only great at the fade route and he drops a lot of balls.

In San Francisco, Cain would not be asked to come in and produce as a #1, #2, or even #3 receiver. He could come in and truly work on perfecting his craft while learning from some great vets — it could be the perfect situation for him in the long run.

5th round: Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame (Z.H.)

Notre Dame running back Josh Adams (#33) is an intriguing prospect for Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Image via NDInsider.com.

With current-starting running back Carlos Hyde still not under contract beyond the 2017 season, the 49ers definitely need to be in the market for a young back. Josh Adams from Notre Dame fits the type of backs Kyle Shanahan loves to coach — he’s an extremely tough, downhill runner. In 2017, Adams totaled 1,386 yards and 9 TDs.

Adams is a threat out of the backfield as a receiver as well, as he totaled 7.3 yards per catch this season. He has good vision, and is able to run with a low center of gravity, allowing him to power through defenders. Shanahan is known for finding backs late in the draft and having extremely productive seasons with them. Well, Adams could very well be that next running back for him to find success with.

6th-round: Kyle Hicks, RB, Texas Christian University (M.M.)

TCU’s Kyle Hicks stands at 5’10, 200 lbs. Image via Zimbio.com.

Neither Zach nor I believe that running backs are usually worth a high draft pick, and there are a lot of free agents (*Cough*FrankGore*Cough*) who would fill out the corps that is currently being led by Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida.  I’m not sure whether I want Hyde to stay, and I have no idea what Joe Williams will be capable of next season, but my expectations of Breida have already been fulfilled and then some.  And I know Jeremy McNichols hasn’t been much more than an afterthought this year.

So, about Hicks.  The guy has some speed and elusiveness that has made opponents look silly during his time in TCU; one of those opponents was Stanford in the recent Alamo Bowl (ouch, that was a tough loss for my boys in Palo Alto).  Hicks has led, or come close to leading, the Horned Frogs in rushing yards and passes caught as a running back the past 2 years. The 49ers may not opt for a halfback in the draft, and they almost certainly won’t use a first round pick on one, but Hicks might be someone to keep in mind on Day 3 if he hasn’t been nabbed yet.

7th-round:  Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame (M.M.)

Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery (99) against Georgia Tech. Image via CBSSports.com.

Another position that could be somewhat stronger is on the defensive side of the trenches, particularly in the interior.  Deforest Buckner is undoubtedly a superstar on the rise.  Sheldon Day is going to be around for a while, but he can’t match Buckner in strength and he doesn’t have the size or the quickness to back up Solomon Thomas.  Earl Mitchell has a great attitude, but he’s just turned 30 and I can’t find any statistics on him that have caught my eye.  And DJ Jones is a 6th-rounder who hasn’t even merited much of a mention by television announcers, let alone serious football analysts.

Jerry Tillery, in addition to being something of a Renaissance man intellectually, leads the Fighting Irish in sacks.  No one on the team has more TFLs, and he had 27 tackles in just the first six games of this season. Since entering college at South Bend, he has added strength and focus to the mobility he had as a player coming out of high school.  I’d put him up against almost any center in the NCAA and a lot of them in the NFL, and I think I’d probably keep my money.

7th-round: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State (Z.H.)

Safety Johnathan Abram (#38) of Mississippi State could be one of the few seventh-round picks that makes the final 53-man roster. Image via WTOP.com.

While safties are probably low on the 49ers priorities, you still can never have too many talented players at the position. Abram’s versatility makes him worth a seventh-round flyer, as he’s able to make a difference at a few different positions — LB, FS, SS. He plays the game with a lot of physicality, something I think John Lynch can appreciate.

In 2017, Abram totaled 62 tackles and 3 pass break-ups, and he seems to always find himself around the ball where he is not afraid to make the play.