Drafting is a collective effort. There is an open forum where boards are set off the opinions of several, and gradually through progressive conversations. And who has a say in these closed-door meetings can extend deep through the ranks.
We know when Kyle Shanahan was just a 26-year-old rookie offensive assistant in charge of receivers for the Texans, he even had a vote for the No. 1 pick in 2006. And for the record, his was for Mario Williams over USC phenom Reggie Bush.
So, for the 49ers in 2018, the No. 9 overall pick isn't John Lynch or Shanahan's decision alone. There's without a doubt some interesting conversations going on with a lot of different perspectives.
Dialing into that scenario, and looking at who is sitting at the 49ers’ table in the John McVay Draft Room, I wanted to take a stab at who each key staff and front office member would have atop their board. Based on their history and what they could stand to benefit from most, I projected which player they would likely push for in Round 1.
Below is a list of the most influential people involved in the 49ers' upcoming draft. Their "picks" are nothing more than guesses, a fun exercise to try to feel out the team's war room. It also does not mean these players will be there for the 49ers at No. 9 overall, and it does not mean they are worthy of being taken that early either.
John Lynch: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
If there’s a decision maker to fall for the total package that is Fitzpatrick, and one who truly understands what he brings to the secondary and organization overall, it’s the 49ers’ Hall of Fame safety of a GM. The on-field ability, plus Nick Saban’s relationship with Fitzpatrick and how the Bama DB interviewed, will probably go a long way with Lynch, who graduated from Stanford and valued that same pedigree in 3rd overall pick Solomon Thomas a year ago.
Fitzpatrick was the one player who reportedly had not one, but two days on site with the 49ers. Long before the draft, he was widely regarded as a top player to declare in 2018.
Kyle Shanahan: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Kicking off the new era, the 49ers in 2017 used their first three picks—two firsts (#3 and #31) and a second (#66)—on defensive players. So Shanahan may want a piece this year to help his side of the ball out. The best player to do so would be Nelson, the Hailey’s Comet of guard prospects. While the O-line is set on the edges, and the team upgraded at center with Weston Richburg, they’ve got three unknowns to fill two starting guard spots.
Nelson is a no-brainer, if available. Not only does he take Shanahan’s run and screen game to the next level, but it protects the franchise and one of the NFL’s highest paid players in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. And it provides a counter to their direct competition, particularly Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams. Shanahan is the type to see the total value of adding a player like Nelson.
And despite speculative chatter about Shanahan's low value of the position, he appreciates rather than disregards offensive lineman, as he was high on Josh Garnett for Atlanta, and influenced the free-agent signings of two high-priced centers in Alex Mack (Falcons) and Weston Richburg (49ers). He even gushed about finally being able to work with Joe Staley, a unique tackle who he has followed and admired since Central Michigan.
Martin Mayhew: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
Mayhew likes big, powerful athletes on the D-line, and seems to generally place first-round value on that position group.
This is the man that with the Lions drafted Ndamukong Suh at No. 2 overall in 2010, Nick Fairley at No. 12 overall in 2011, and a very raw Ezekiel Ansah at No. 5 overall in 2013. Ansah, the defensive end and a Ghana native, hadn’t learned football until his sophomore year at BYU, and had just 4.5 sacks there. Davenport is similarly big, strong, unheralded and billed as a player with a lot of upside once he gets the game down. This also falls in line with the 49ers’ need for a pass rusher.
Mayhew once upon a time was also a defensive back for Florida State. He may have a high opinion of Derwin James, who the 49ers have not had a pre-draft visit with.
Adam Peters: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
Peters, the Super Bowl winning personnel man from the Broncos, went to work every day in the same building as Von Miller. And that’s the prototype for what the 49ers are looking for at Leo. And Peters has scouted it, and seen it up close and personal, including Miller entering God Mode to overcome Peyton Manning’s dead arm to win a Lombardi Trophy.
Landry put up big sack numbers at Boston College, and tested similarly to Miller and another Leo, Vic Beasley of the Falcons. This would be the least surprising player to top Peters’ board.
Bobby Turner: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Turner, San Francisco's running backs coach, wants to pound the football. The 49ers are a multiple offense, and they employee a backfield by committee. That puts more emphasis on the offensive line consistently being good than one star running back creating for himself. Nelson was exactly that kind of piece at Notre Dame, as head coach Brian Kelly executed the entire rushing attack through him. And in critical downs, when they had to have it—third-and-shorts, 4th-and-1, goal line situations—they ran right behind Nelson.
Turner, who is an esteemed coach known for flipping non-first-round running backs into league-leading rushers, knows Nelson is the best asset he could possibly acquire in the draft. It would also make sense if his choice jived with Shanahan's, as most of Turner's NFL career has been tied to the family, and that could not happen without similar philosophies.
Robert Saleh: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
When describing the makeup of the Leo, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh named players like Miller, Beasley, Dante Fowler, Yannick Ngakoue and even Khalil Mack. This is one of the key missing pieces at the moment, and arguably the highest caliber player in this draft that fits that mold is Landry. He’s built similarly, tested similarly, and when at his peak, was a very productive college player.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Saleh pushed for Landry at No. 9 overall. The pick would finally provide the 49ers with the speed and athleticism off the edge to complement the interior horsepower they have in DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas.
Media courtesy San Francisco 49ers, AP Images, Getty Images, Paul Chinn/The Chronicle