If the San Francisco 49ers keep the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, they will get — at worst — the player they have rated as the second-best NFL prospect.
The Arizona Cardinals own the top selection, and the speculation since the NFL Scouting Combine has been that new coach Kliff Kingsbury will hand-pick Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray to run his offense.
Does 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan have an idea what the Cardinals will do?
“My gut is probably just like yours, so we’re all just waiting,” Shanahan said this week at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix. “You hear a lot of stuff, so you really try to not pay attention to any of it. If you look at the players the same way they do, we understand their personnel and stuff so you try to make decisions more off that instead.”
If the 49ers remain at No. 2 — and another team does not blow them away with a trade to move up — it seems one of these three players will end up in Santa Clara:
Edge Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Bosa likely is the No. 1 player on the 49ers’ draft board. He is a next-level talent with his athleticism, strength, technique, balance and pedigree. Despite missing most of his entire final season in Columbus with a core muscle injury, Bosa might be as close to a can’t-miss prospect as there is in this draft.
Bosa enjoys the art of rushing the quarterback, and he is far more advanced in that respect to anyone else in this draft. The 49ers have a lot of other base-down defensive linemen, but they do not have another outside pass-rusher to complement veteran Dee Ford, whom they acquired in a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs.
If Bosa is the pick, there would be no hurry to get him on the field for every snap. As it is, defensive linemen are constantly rotated in the course of a game. The 49ers would be satisfied if he can make an impact as a rookie only on passing downs. But with his skill level, it probably would not take Bosa long to become an every-down player.
Edge Josh Allen, Kentucky
The 49ers re-signed outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha and also worked out a pay cut to retain veteran Malcolm Smith, who’s also capable of playing the strong-side position. If Allen were the pick, he would step in immediately as the starter.
In addition to being a 17-sack performer en route to being named defensive player of the player in the SEC, Allen is long and athletic enough to flip his hips and lock down most tight ends in coverage.
That’s great and all, but Allen is a likely top-four selection in the draft because of his ability to get after the quarterback. He remained in school for his senior year and worked his way into becoming an elite draft prospect.
With the 49ers, he would be a SAM linebacker in the team’s base defense. On nickel downs, he would move to defensive end and rush the passer on the side opposite of Ford.
DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama
His Alabama teammate, highly regarded offensive lineman Jonah Williams, describes Quinnen Williams (no relation) as a “300-pound bar of soap.” And if that’s not enough to work the 49ers into a lather … oh, never mind.
Williams has the agility of an edge rusher with the size and strength of a nose tackle. Pairing Williams on the inside with DeForest Buckner would create a lot of issues for opposing offensive lines.
The 49ers already have such inside players as Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, D.J. Jones and Jullian Taylor, but Williams has a chance to give the team an immediate and dramatic upgrade inside. It is difficult to find anyone who dominated as much as he did in college football last season.
If Bosa is gone, the guess here is that Williams would be the 49ers’ selection.