Todd McShay mock draft: Who 49ers select with 2022 second-round pick

There’s plenty of speculation surrounding who the 49ers will select first in the 2022 NFL Draft, and one recent mock speculates that San Francisco will use its second-round selection to plan for future needs.

After trading up in last year’s draft to select quarterback Trey Lance, the 49ers will enter the draft later than most teams with their first pick at No. 61 in the second round. But the organization has a knack for finding valuable players at any draft position (see George Kittle).

With several key players headed into the final year of their contracts this season, including big names like Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa, who will certainly be paid, the 49ers could utilize the draft to make sure they have depth at other positions that will be impacted by impending free agency.

The team’s secondary was a point of concern last season, so it would make sense to draft a much-needed boost to the defensive backfield.

ESPN’s NFL draft expert Todd McShay predicted San Francisco will do just that in his two-round mock draft released Tuesday, where he had the 49ers selecting a safety ahead of Jimmie Ward’s final contract year.

No. 61 overall: Nick Cross, S

The Maryland defensive back started all 13 games for the Terps as a junior in 2021, where he tallied the team’s second-most tackles (66) and led the defense with three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Cross also had three sacks last season and is a three-time Honorable Mention All-Big Ten.

ESPN has Cross ranked No. 5 at his position and No. 53 overall, and he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine with a vertical jump of 37 inches and broad jump of 130 inches.

“Welcome to the draft, San Francisco! With Jimmie Ward entering the final year of his deal, the Niners might look to the secondary here,” McShay said. “At 6-foot and 212 pounds, Cross has great size, center fielder speed and plenty of versatility.”

Along with future uncertainty surrounding Ward, safety Jaquiski Tartt remains a free agent after starting 14 games for San Francisco last season and posting a career-high 66 tackles. Even though the 49ers recently signed safety George Odum to a three-year contract, Cross could join the team and develop alongside safety Talanoa Hufanga, who the 49ers selected No. 180 overall in the fifth round of the 2021 draft. With Tarvarius Moore also on the team, a Cross pick at No. 61 would provide plenty of depth at safety.

RELATED: Jimmy G’s best-case scenario with trade options drying up analyst Lance Zierlein gave Cross the NFL comparison of Washington Commanders safety Kamren Curl and described the 20-year-old as the “bouncer” of Maryland’s defense, with enough aggression and explosiveness to throw opponents out of the club.

“He is a chase player who seeks to make a statement upon impact and has impressive stopping power near the line or as an open-field tackler,” Zierlein said. “He’s a tight-hipped, linear mover, so flipping and flying are not his strong suit. He’s capable of matching with most flavors of tight end and will be most comfortable in coverages that allow him to play with a downhill trigger. He has the temperament, size and toughness to become an eventual starter in the league.”

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