But general manager John Lynch had other plans as San Francisco traded up from the second pick in the second round to secure the 31st overall selection from the Seattle Seahawks.
With their second pick of the night, the 49ers went with another defensive player. This time it was Reuben Foster, fresh out of the Saben-system in Alabama to add a crucial component to a shaky linebacking corp.
During a post-draft press conference, Lynch elaborated on the process of trading up get Foster:
“We were trying everyone. We were going down the line.”
When the first-year GM finally did find a trade partner, he spoke with the standout stud:
“When I was talking to him, he said, ‘Coach, New Orleans is taking me’ and I said, ‘No, we’re taking you.'”
In 51 games played at Alabama, Foster registered 222 tackles including 24 tackles for loss. He also notched eight total sacks and 11 pass deflections.
During the 2016 season, Foster started all 15 games at inside linebacker. He was named the SEC Championship game’s MVP and the winner of the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker.
In a media conference call, held immediately after his selection, Foster said that he has big plans to continue as a dominant linebacker in San Francisco:
“I’m trying to be the great, the next [former 49ers linebacker] Patrick Willis, the next great linebacker in their history.”
And when asked to describe Willis’ style of play, Foster replied with one word:
On top of the early second round pick that San Francisco had to give up in order to get Foster, the 49ers also parted ways with the No. 111 pick that was acquired only three hours earlier when the Chicago Bears moved up the No. 2 spot at the beginning of the night.
Heading into the draft, there were several question marks surrounding Foster’s health and character. An injured shoulder and issues at the NFL combine, that included a diluted urine sample and an altercation with a nurse during a pre-combine physical, had most teams hesitant to pick Foster in the first round.
But even with these issues looming, the 49ers felt comfortable selecting him in the first round, something that Foster expressed gratitude toward:
“People were concerned about the diluted sample. People were concerned about me just getting kicked out of the combine. But, they gave me a chance. They gave me a chance and I really appreciate the 49ers. I’m just ready to go hard and work hard and just prove that I’m worthy of that spot and they’re not going to regret it.”
With three solid linebackers in NaVorro Bowman, Malcolm Smith and now Foster, along with new line anchor Thomas, the 49ers can rest assured that the front seven of the 4-3 scheme defensive coordinator Robert Saleh plans to employ is a much more formidable.
The 49ers will enter Friday with only one pick in early in the third round. But with what the 49ers have done in the first round, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more movement in the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft.