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In search of star power, 49ers keeping options open for No. 2 pick

The 49ers are hoping someone like Solomon Thomas can be a game-changer for them at No. 2. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

PHOENIX -- When it comes to the San Francisco 49ers and their new regime's approach to its first NFL draft, throw out the cliches and the old adages. This draft isn't about focusing on tired terms like best player available or filling a set list of needs.

Sure, the Niners will look to do that but there's something else the 49ers desperately need as general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan take on the tall order of revitalizing the franchise.

"We'd love to come out of this draft with some game-changing players," Lynch said. "I think at No. 2 you have that opportunity and that's your goal. You really want to do that at -- you look at Tom Brady, that's a game changing player -- so that's why every pick is so important.

"We need some stars. We need some of those guys but I think you go about that like anything else, through exhaustive preparation, looking at every place, every player. That's what we need."

Indeed, as Lynch and Shanahan spent the past couple of months examining the tape of the current roster, star power was undoubtedly hard to find. The 49ers had zero Pro Bowlers in 2016 and even long-time stalwarts such as left tackle Joe Staley and linebacker NaVorro Bowman had either down years by their lofty standards, were injured or some combination of the two.

Even the most optimistic of fans would look at the Niners roster and see a number of players with the potential to be solid or better starters but no legitimate stars who could go to multiple Pro Bowls and find themselves in the running for league-wide awards on a consistent basis. Rookie DeForest Buckner would probably be the most likely to match that description and even that now depends on how you think he fits in new coordinator Robert Saleh's 4-3 defense.

All of that is instructive in explaining why the Niners are far from committed to a certain player or even a small group of players to target with the No. 2 overall pick. As Lynch is quick to point out, the Cleveland Browns have clearly been linked to Texas A&M pass-rusher Myles Garrett but there are still plenty of things that could happen to change that between now and the draft.

The Niners would surely run the card to the podium if Garrett fell in their laps but short of that, they have a bevy of options they can and will explore. In the effort to keep those options as open as possible, the Niners went on a free-agent frenzy in which they signed more than a dozen players. Those players can help improve the roster but many of them aren't so established that they can't be replaced by a talented rookie.

"We had to go quantity this year because we had to get better in a lot of places and we wanted to be able to arrive at the draft and pick the best players as opposed to saying 'we have this need, this need, this need' and I can tell you that after free agency our depth chart looked a whole lot better than prior to us," Lynch said.

In a perfect world, the Niners would be able to find the star power they seek in the form of a quarterback. Lynch and his staff have done their diligence on the top quarterbacks in this draft, including a tour that took them to see North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson and Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer last week. It's a safe bet that a number of quarterbacks will also pay pre-draft visits to San Francisco but none of that group has the look of a sure thing.

Lynch confirmed Tuesday that the Niners have arranged 30 visits but only Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has already stopped by the Bay Area. That confirmation offers another glimpse into the Niners' willingness to find a foundational type of player with the second pick, regardless of position. Players like Foster, Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas, Ohio State safety Malik Hooker and cornerback Marshon Lattimore, LSU safety Jamal Adams and running back Leonard Fournette and Clemson receiver Mike Williams are among the other names often considered top-10 caliber prospects the Niners could consider in addition to the quarterbacks.

But Lynch said the Niners haven't yet winnowed their options for the No. 2 pick -- including possible trade options -- to a certain number, even if they've spent plenty of time discussing scenarios.

"I'd say we aren't even to that process yet," Lynch said. "Obviously there have been discussions -- would you be comfortable with this guy here? -- but by no means is it set in stone. I can tell you with full disclosure and transparency and honestly that that has not been decided. There's certainly been scenarios that we've run through. You feel good about this guy here so I don't know if there's an exact number but we have run through multiple scenarios but there's so much at play. What is Cleveland going to do at No. 1? People think it's clear but we don't know that.

"I think we've run that scenario through with more than a half dozen but the number we've arrived at, I'm not sure because those aren't set in stone. We've kind of stacked our board, now we're going to go back in, post combine we re-stacked and now we're going to take one more shot at really clarifying things and solidifying those thoughts."