Tyler Guyton [608x342]
Tyler Guyton [608x342] (Credit: James Black/Icon Sportswire)

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- With 10 selections heading into the NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers are well-positioned to restock a roster in need of short- and long-term reinforcements.

"I think it's really important that a big chunk of your roster is young and infusing some of that into our team, whether it's immediately helping or into the future," general manager John Lynch said at the NFL owners' meetings in March.

After going the past two years without a first-round pick, the Niners are back Thursday with the No. 31 overall pick. San Francisco also boasts five more picks in the top 135. Lynch said Monday that San Francisco has 22 players with first-round grades, which is higher than usual, but also noted that the back end of the draft might be weaker because the team had 83 players with a draftable grade return to school.

That means the Niners have plenty of ammunition to trade, which is why a small move up the board a la the trade for wideout Brandon Aiyuk in 2020 shouldn't be ruled out. It also means if none of those 22 make it to the their range for a trade up, they could be in the market to move down and then package picks gained to maximize the number of selections they have in the first four rounds this year or add picks for an expected deeper class next year.

In their ideal world, such a player would be one of the best available offensive linemen, cornerbacks or wide receivers. Those spots on the roster could use more help for 2024 but even more in 2025 and beyond.

Offensive line could offer the right mix of need and value for the 49ers early in the draft. While they're returning all five starters, they could use an influx of competition across the board.

"(We) decided to get our group back," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "And hopefully we'll always keep looking to add and improve in the draft and things like that, get some more competition in there, but been real happy with our group."

The good news is this draft appears to be rich in talented offensive line prospects. ESPN NFL draft analyst Jordan Reid said a "strong argument" could be made that offensive tackle is the strongest position group in the draft. He has seven tackles as potential first-round picks, which would tie the record set in 2008.

Oklahoma's Tyler Guyton, Arizona's Jordan Morgan and BYU's Kingsley Suamataia could realistically be available for the Niners near the end of the first round. Duke's Graham Barton, who could move to center in the NFL, could be a possibility if they look to trade up. A first-round tackle would be expected to compete for Colton McKivitz's spot on the right side, or in the case of someone like Morgan, potentially start at guard before kicking outside.

According to Reid, there is a bit of a drop off in the tackle class after the first seven or eight players, all of whom are expected to go in the top 40. Washington tackle Roger Rosengarten is another option, though that might be more of a trade-down scenario.

Lynch and Shanahan's drafting history indicates that using an early pick on an offensive lineman is no sure thing. The 49ers have only used two picks in the first three rounds (OT Mike McGlinchey, 2018; G Aaron Banks, 2021) on offensive linemen since Shanahan and Lynch arrived in 2017.

"The interesting thing with these linemen in this draft, we think a lot of them have flexibility to be tackles and or guards," Lynch said on Monday. "I think there are some options and part of the draft is not always for this, you're not always drafting for the immediate. Sometimes it's drafting for future needs. So, we have to be cognizant of that."

The other position of somewhat pressing need is cornerback, another spot the 49ers haven't used early draft capital on. Starters Charvarius Ward, Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir are slated to be free agents after the 2024 season.

But the Niners haven't used a first-round pick on a cornerback since 2002, when they selected Mike Rumph with the No. 27 pick. However, they've picked at least one corner in every draft of the Shanahan/Lynch era except for 2020 and still have hope that young players such as Darrell Luter Jr. and Samuel Womack can expand their roles.

At minimum, the Niners must add a nickel corner or an outside corner who is good enough to allow Lenoir to slide into the slot.

"We got guys that we're still trying to train there that are on the team, love bringing in [free agent signee] Isaac [Yiadom] to allow that possibility (of) Demo to go to stay inside and go outside," Shanahan said. "I think our young guys and Ambry and Sammy got a lot better last year, and I also think we have plenty of picks in the draft to add people."

In a departure from most drafts, Reid doesn't see any corners as surefire top-10 picks but does see a run in the 15-25 range of the first round. That could allow a talented outside corner such as Alabama's Kool-Aid McKinstry or Iowa's Cooper DeJean to slip through the cracks to No. 31.

Perhaps the most likely scenario is the 49ers tapping into what Reid calls an "exceptional" class of nickel cornerbacks on Day 2. Michigan's Mike Sainristil and Kentucky's Andru Phillips top that list and have received interest from San Francisco.

Outside of offensive line and corner, the Niners have the benefit of looking ahead at other positions -- such as wide receiver and defensive line -- where they will have pressing needs as soon as next offseason.

At receiver, neither Jauan Jennings nor Aiyuk are under contract beyond next season, and the Niners have an out from Deebo Samuel's contract if his price no longer becomes palatable. That doesn't even factor in the need for return help. All of which makes another receiver an early draft possibility.

Reid has five receivers in his top 32 and a whopping 13 wideouts with a Day 2 grade, which gives the Niners plenty of early options. Georgia's Ladd McConkey and Texas' Xavier Worthy could be in play at the end of the first round, and Reid tabs Western Kentucky's Malachi Corley, Alabama's Jermaine Burton and Central Florida's Javon Baker as day 2 picks who would fit.

As always, defensive linemen are in play for the 49ers early in the draft. In a draft where quarterbacks, receivers and offensive linemen are expected to go early and often, there's a chance a defensive lineman will be the top player on the 49ers' board when their pick comes up. Defensive ends such as Penn State's Chop Robinson or Missouri's Darius Robinson or a tackle such as Illinois' Jer'Zhan Newton could be options.

One way or another, the 49ers are happy to be back in the first round and aware that their increasingly top-heavy roster needs a significant injection of talented youth.

"We're looking forward to that many picks," Lynch said at the owners' meetings. "Now do you take 'em all? Do you move around? That's always subject to what we choose to do on that weekend, but to have that many picks, we want to make 'em all count."