San Francisco 49ers: Early 2018 NFL Draft First-Round Targets [Opinion]

Joe RobbinsGetty Images

Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers finished the 2017 NFL season on a five-game winning streak. Even after a rough start to the season, seeing the team respond well with the new quarterback under center was something that excited the 49ers’ fans in a big way. It has been a while since they had a true franchise quarterback to root for.

There is a chance that the 49ers could lose Garoppolo in free agency, but a franchise tag, as the NFL website noted, for the quarterback seems like a likely scenario should they be unable to get a long-term deal done with him.

San Francisco has quite a few pieces to build around on both sides of the football. John Lynch will be looking to add as much talent as possible in free agency and in the draft to take the rebuilding process to the next level. He will have an excellent chance to add another top-notch young player to the group with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Looking at the draft, there are a lot of players that could fit for the 49ers. Whether they choose to go offense or defense, they should be able to get a very talented player to fill a need.

All of that being said, which prospects should be viewed as early potential draft targets for the 49ers in the first round of the draft?

Quenton Nelson, Offensive Line, Notre Dame

Adding a young cornerstone on the offensive line should be a priority for the 49ers this offseason. Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson would be a perfect addition for the 49ers in the first round. He is considered to be one of the most dominant offensive line prospects in recent draft history and would be a smart pick.

Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Ohio State

San Francisco could also focus on one of their major defensive needs, which is a lockdown cornerback. Denzel Ward finished the 2017 season at Ohio State with 37 tackles, two interceptions, and 15 defended passes. He would be an upgrade for the 49ers’ secondary and would be an excellent long-term addition.

Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver, Alabama

Now that the 49ers have a franchise-caliber quarterback, they could look to bring in a No. 1 target for him. Calvin Ridley has legitimate superstar potential and would be an intriguing pick for San Francisco. He may not fill a major position of need, but a Garoppolo-Ridley connection would be dangerous.

Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia

Finally, Roquan Smith would be a perfect fit for the middle of the 49ers’ defense. He racked up 137 total tackles in 2017 for the Bulldogs, while also chipping in 6.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Smith would have the potential to be the future “quarterback” of the 49ers’ defense and would be a solid addition at No. 9.