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49ers 2014 Draft Forecast: Inside Linebacker

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The 49ers are looking for someone to fill the void of NaVorro Bowman, who will be recovering from a torn ACL at the start of the 2014 season. Bowman went down in the NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks last January after taking an awkward hit on the leg. He is expected to miss the first six weeks of the season at minimum.

Michael Wilhoite filled in for an injured Patrick Willis last year and is currently penciled in to start alongside the All-Pro linebacker. However, Wilhoite will be a free agent after the season after he signed his exclusive rights tender last month.

Others on the depth chart include 2013 sixth-round draft pick Nick Moody and 2012 fifth-round draft pick Darius Fleming, who has torn his ACL in both offseasons. Moody is more of a special teams player while Fleming has yet to showcase himself as an inside linebacker after initially being an outside linebacker out of college.

Carl Bradford (Arizona State) 6-1, 250 pounds: Bradford is listed as an OLB, but projects to be an inside linebacker by many scouts and would fit that area in Vic Fangio's defense. The Arizona State LB was one of two inside linebackers who came in for a visit in Santa Clara. He has strong tackling ability, but could be seen as someone undersized by others if he was pass rushing as an OLB. He is versatile enough to play both positions, which is attractive to any defensive coordinator who wants reserves. Bradford is projected to be a mid-round draft pick.

Preston Brown (Louisville) 6-1, 251 pounds: Brown is a physical downhill tackler who could provide immediate competition with Michael Wilhoite for the backup ILB role. He also has an impressive arm-length and experience which would suit several teams. Brown is expected to be a third or fourth-round draft pick.

Christian Jones (Florida State) 6-3, 240 pounds: Jones is an athletic linebacker who would fit the category of a height-weight-speed specimen. He has average instincts, but is an explosive tackler. While Jones might be raw to evaluators, he has tremendous upside with the right coaching. Jones is projected as a late second or early third-round pick.

Jordan Zumwalt (UCLA) 6-4, 235 pounds: Zumwalt could compete for special teams with his explosive hitting abilities. He has impressive football IQ and has the versatility to play either linebacker position if needed. Zumwalt is projected to be a mid to late-round draft pick.

Dan Fox (Notre Dame) 6-2, 233 pounds: If the 49ers are interested in a special teams player, Fox would fit the bill. He's a solid tackler in the open field who has experience in a 3-4 defense. Fox will most likely be an undrafted free agent.

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49ers 2014 Draft Picks:

1. First round: Own pick, No. 30 overall
2. Second round: Kansas City Chiefs pick acquired for Alex Smith, No. 56 overall
3. Second round: Own pick, No. 61 overall
4. Third round: Titans pick acquired for a second round pick in a 2013 draft day trade, No. 77 overall
5. Third round: Own pick, No. 94 overall
6. Third round: Compensatory, No. 100 overall
7. Fourth round: Own pick, No. 129 overall
8. Fifth round: Own pick, No. 170 overall
9. Seventh round: Saints pick acquired for Parys Haralson, No. 242 overall
10. Seventh round: Panthers pick acquired for Colin Jones in 2012, No. 243 overall
11. Seventh round: Own pick, No. 245 overall

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49ers Draft Forecast Series: Running Back, Tight End, Defensive Line, Quarterback, Safety, Offensive Line

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