This is my Thursday column.
Name just one position the 49ers don’t need to address in the upcoming draft.
How about safety?
Eric Reid suffered three concussions the past two years and Antoine Bethea turns 31 in July. The Niners need a safety.
Both starters from 2014 signed with different teams this offseason — Chris Culliver signed with the Redskins and Perrish Cox with the Titans. The current starters are Tramaine Brock and Shareece Wright, and Jimmie Ward will cover the slot receiver.
Ward and Brock combined to miss 21 games last season due to lower-body injuries. Wright played for the Chargers and allowed a passer rating of 95.5, according to Pro Football Focus. The Niners need corners, plural.
What about outside linebacker?
Aldon Smith will be a free agent in 2016 and he’s had problems with the law and may not be dependable, and Corey Lemonier is a bust. The 49ers need outside linebackers.
The Niners have just one who was a starter last season — Michael Wilhoite. NaVorro Bowman missed all of last season with a torn ACL and MCL, and Patrick Willis and Chris Borland retired this offseason. The 49ers need inside linebackers.
The Niners released Ray McDonald in December even though he still is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. And Justin Smith probably will retire before the season begins even though he still is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. The 49ers need defensive linemen.
Mike Iupati signed with the Arizona Cardinals, Alex Boone will be a free agent in 2016 and Anthony Davis missed nine games last season because he was injured. The Niners don’t have a good backup for him. If he goes down, so does the offense. The 49ers need offensive linemen.
Vernon Davis will be a free agent in 2016 and Vance McDonald is a bust. Come to think of it, Davis may have developed into a bust. The 49ers need tight ends.
Anquan Boldin will be a free agent in 2016. Now that they have Torrey Smith the 49ers probably don’t need a wide receiver this minute. But another receiver couldn’t hurt.
Carlos Hyde is the only running back on the team under contract through next season. The 49ers need running backs.
The 49ers are scheduled to pay Colin Kaepernick $16.7 million in 2016. He currently is not worth that money. His passer rating ranked 20th in the NFL last season, and he turns 28 in November. He isn’t a young quarterback anymore — he needs to show improvement. If he doesn’t next season, the Niners could cut him to avoid paying him any more money. The 49ers need to draft an up-and-coming quarterback to replace Kaepernick when the time comes — in case they cut him next year. His current backup is Blaine Gabbert, one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. The 49ers really need quarterbacks.
The past few years, the 49ers were one player away from winning a Super Bowl. If only they had a deep threat like Torrey Smith in 2012, or if only they had traded up for Offensive Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Jr. last year, the Niners might have been champs.
This year, the Niners can’t afford to trade up. They need as many players as they can get. They need everything.
And that liberates them. They don’t have to worry about drafting one particular prospect to fill one particular role on the team. Any prospect who plays offense or defense will fill a need on the Niners.
General manager Trent Baalke can draft the best player available. He never has accomplished that in Round 1. He is known to swing and miss.
In 2010, Baalke drafted Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati when the best players available were free safety Earl Thomas and wide receiver Dez Bryant.
In 2011, Baalke drafted Aldon Smith when the best player available was defensive end J.J. Watt.
In 2012, Baalke drafted A.J. Jenkins when the best player available was wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
In 2013, Baalke drafted Eric Reid when the best player available was cornerback Desmond Trufant.
And in 2014, Baalke drafted Jimmie Ward when the best player available was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Of course, we don’t know who will be the best player available when the Niners pick in Round 1 — they pick 15th. But we do know the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson probably will fall to the Niners’ draft slot.
I’m talking about former Georgia Bulldog Todd Gurley. He might be the best player in the entire draft. But he’s a running back, and teams haven’t drafted a running back in Round 1 since 2012. Also, Gurley tore his ACL in October and probably will miss all of training camp, although he can play next season.
If the Niners draft Gurley, he will back up Carlos Hyde. Once Gurley gets in football shape, he will be the starter, Hyde will be the backup and the Niners will have the best backfield in the NFL.
But Gurley isn’t the issue. The 49ers are the issue. They need at least one player at every position on offense and defense. When was the last time you could say that?
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.