SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers will take a defensive lineman. No, a safety. Wait, it's a tight end. Oh, a cornerback? Nah, it's a wide receiver.
Predictions vary on the 49ers' potential first pick heading into Thursday night's first round of the NFL draft. Some 24 hours before the draft kicks off, at least 19 candidates have been cited in a swift check of mock drafts across the nation.
The 49ers are slated to draft 31st overall, a position they earned as last season's runner-up (or Super Bowl loser) to the Baltimore Ravens.
With 13 picks overall, including the No. 34 spot and five picks in the top 93, the 49ers are expected to move up (and/or down) the board, as they've done in the three previous drafts conducted by Trent Baalke. (For more on Baalke, read this story that includes great insight from his former right-hand man in the personnel department, Tom Gamble.)
The 49ers' target remains a mystery, though mock drafts are taking place at a furious pace.
I've changed my pick for the 49ers at No. 31, which could be a moot point since I don't expect them to sit tight there.
In my mock draft Monday, I had the 49ers taking Southern Methodist defensive lineman Margus Hunt. I still think a defensive lineman is a key priority, but I also see safety as a gaping hole that still must be addressed after Dashon Goldson's departure (no offense to newcomer Craig Dahl, who'll compete for that spot.)
Here are who some are pegging for the 49ers in mock drafts:
Comment: This was my pick today in Digital First Media's Mock Draft. The 49ers already shored up most needs following their Super Bowl loss, but the best position battle will be finding Goldson's replacement. LSU's Eric Reid and Texas' Kenny Vaccaro might be off the board before the 49ers' have a shot at them.
Comment: I love the possibility of Ertz joining the 49ers' fast-break offense and adding yet another receiving threat. Don't view him as the next Delanie Walker, a multi-faceted tight end who did a lot of blocking. Ertz's familiarity with the scheme and coaches from his Stanford days will make for an easy transition, and he could be pegged as Vernon Davis' eventual successor.
Comment: I like this pick. I think Reid definitely could be the 49ers' choice at safety, especially if he's there at 31. He hails from the mighty SEC, a conference the 49ers have largely ignored in Baalke's other three drafts.
Comment: Considered by many as this draft's top safety, he was available at 31 in the mock draft held by ProFootballTalk.com czar Mike Florio.
Comment: Elam is often mentioned among the top safeties in this draft. Some see him as similar to 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner rather than a true deep safety.
Comment: Hunt was my pick for the 49ers in my mock draft Monday, but I've changed my mind, mainly on the basis of his football inexperience. I fell for the nostalgic storyline: Hunt is a former track-and-field star who is coming out of Southern Methodist, as was the case with Michael Carter, a 1984 fifth-round pick by Bill Walsh.
Comment: Mooch made this pick during Tuesday night's mock-draft special, and I immediately thought back to 2002, when the 49ers drafted Miami cornerback Mike Rumph for what would be Mariucci's final season.
Comment: Don't overlook this versatile, Boise State star who has 4.37-second speed in the 40.
Comment: Medical concerns could make Hayden available later in the first round, although NFL Network's Mike Mayock rates him as the top cornerback.
Comment: Samuel predicts the 49ers would trade up to No. 8 with the Bills to acquire this defensive stud, whose position coach at Florida was former 49ers star Bryant Young. It's a reasonable scenario.
Comment: Jones' versatility would mesh with the 49ers' philosophy, but the 49ers haven't drafted ANY player out of UCLA since J.J. Stokes in 1995.
Comment: A Big Ten product for the second straight year? Doesn't matter. What does is his 6-foot-3, 299-pound frame that can plug the middle which Isaac Sopoaga used to do for Patrick Willis & Co.
Comment: He'd add depth to the defensive line, and he'd be the first Alabama player drafted by the 49ers since Glen Coffee (second round, 2009).
Comment: Barrows, my neighbor in the 49ers' media trailer, made this pick after trading up to No. 20 in a mock draft held Wednesday among national writers.
Comment: Coming off an ACL tear, Carradine is the object of Barrows' draft-crush affection, and he took him in a Los Angeles Times mock.
Comment: Many draft analysts have Eifert listed ahead of Ertz, so he may not fall to 31. But this would address a position of need.
Comment: There's no urgency to add another edge rusher to the mix with Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, but the 49ers insist they're not drafting for need.
Comment: Adding a wide receiver isn't out of the question, even though they drafted A.J. Jenkins in last year's first round and traded for Anquan Boldin last month.
Comment: This junior college transfer is raw, but he's a play-making receiver.