The season is over and it's time to start at least warming up your ice-cold draft muscles. After all, it's only four months away. Here's where I see the 49ers' top needs in 2014:
Wide receiver: This need could diminish somewhat if the 49ers strike a deal with Anquan Boldin, who is a pending free agent. But even with Boldin on board, it's at the top of the list considering A.) He will be 34 in October. B.) Michael Crabtree has been injury prone and is entering the final year of his deal. C.) The 49ers need top-flight receivers to defeat their arch nemesis, the Seattle Seahawks. This is believed to be a good year for receivers although the top name at the position, Sammy Watkins, probably is out of their reach.
Cornerback: This position crept closer to the top spot over the last few weeks. That's when Eric Wright, who at one point seemed like an heir to Carlos Rogers at the nickel spot, fell out of favor with the coaching staff. He was replaced by Perrish Cox, whom the 49ers cut at one point this season. With Chris Culliver recovering from ACL surgery, the only sure thing at the position is Tramaine Brock, who had a very solid season. Earlier in the year, it seemed as if Rogers (huge salary) and Tarell Brown (pending free agent) were gone. Now the door remains open a crack for one of them to return. The good news for the 49ers: Trent Baalke and his staff have shown a knack for picking cornerbacks, especially late (Marcus Cooper) or after the draft has ended (Brock).
Safety: This obviously becomes a bigger issue if the 49ers can't re-sign Donte Whitner. If he goes, the team's duo would be Craig Dahl and Eric Reid. Reid, the rookie, had a very nice season. But his two concussions have to be a concern for the team. And as well as he played, he had a big, third-quarter whiff on a potential tackle of Marshawn Lynch on Sunday that opened the floodgates as far as Seattle's scoring. The only other true safety on the team is C.J. Spillman, who always has teemed with potential but who hasn't won the trust of the coaches.
Quarterback: Why does Colin Kaepernick run roughshod on defenses in the playoffs but not the regular season? Because the 49ers want to make sure he makes it to the playoffs in good health. It's also apparent that the 49ers weren't all that enamored with Kaepernick's backups. There was a revolving door at the backup position this season - Seneca Wallace, B.J. Daniels, John Skleton all came and went, and Colt McCoy, a pending free agent, was asked/forced to take a pay cut. The 49ers have late bloomer McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the roster for the 2014 offseason, and he could be a dark horse candidate. But they also should try to find a sturdy young passer in a draft that should offer several that quarterback whisperer Jim Harbaugh likes. Remember, his criteria are: athleticism, accuracy and smarts. In fact, smarts might be at the top of that list.
Inside linebacker: It seems more than plausible that NaVorro Bowman could begin the 2014 season on the physically unable to perform list. Meanwhile, it seems hard to believe but Patrick Willis will be going into his eighth season and struggled with injuries early in his seventh. The player who enetered Sunday for Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, is not signed for 2014 at this point. Rookie Nick Moody was inactive for all but four games this past season. All of which suggests the 49ers could use one of their 13 picks on an inside linebacker. Former Harbaugh recruit and Vic Fangio favorite, Shayne Skov, is part of this year's draft class.
Outside linebacker: The 49ers got great production from Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier. Still, teams never can pass on good pass rushers. The best 3-4 teams over the years - Pittsburgh and Baltimore - had a cache of good outside linebackers. The Seahawks also have bulked up on that position in recent years. In case you haven't heard, they're in the Super Bowl this year.
2014 draft picks
1. First round (30th overall): Own pick
2. Second round: From Kansas City - Alex Smith trade
3. Second round: Own pick
4. Third round: From Tennessee - 2013 draft-day trade
5. Third round: Own pick
6. Third: Expected compensatory pick
7. Fourth round: Own pick
8. Fifth round: Own pick
9. Sixth round: Own pick
10. Seventh round: From Indianapolis - Cam Johnson trade
11. Seventh round: From New Orleans -- Parys Haralson trade
12. Seventh round: From Carolina - Colin Jones trade
13. Seventh round: Own pick
-- Matt Barrows