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Grant Cohn: Corner is the market

  • Darqueze Dennard projects to be an elite NFL cornerback. (A.J. Mast / Associated Press)

Here's what the 49ers have to do in this year's draft.

Trade up. Twice.

First, for a cornerback. The 49ers lost two starting corners during free agency – Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. The Raiders signed Brown and the Niners cut Rogers.

Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver are the best cornerbacks the 49ers have left. Brock played well last year, but he has started only seven games in the NFL. Culliver didn't play last year – he tore his ACL during training camp – and he has started just six games in the NFL. Neither Brock nor Culliver is what you call an elite talent.

There are two elite cornerbacks in this year's draft – Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State, and Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State. To get one of those two, the 49ers have to find a trade partner that owns a high pick in the first round and needs multiple players to restock a depleted roster.

The Raiders, the Browns, the Vikings, the Bills or the Titans.

Combined, the 49ers' top-three picks – Nos. 30, 56, and 61 – are worth 1252 points on the NFL's draft-pick-trade-value chart. The Titans' No. 11 pick is worth 1250 points on the chart. Fair trade.

The Titans are terrible and own just six draft picks this year, plus they hired a new coaching staff this offseason. New coaching staffs usually like to bring in droves of their own new players. The Titans probably would be thrilled to turn one draft pick into three.

And with the No. 11 pick, the 49ers would take whichever cornerback they like best. I like Dennard a little more than Gilbert, but both are terrific.

Next, the 49ers have to trade up into the second round and draft a wide receiver, a fast receiver who can complement the Niners' two possession receivers – Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. The Niners also need a big receiver who can replace Crabtree in 2015 if the 49ers don't re-sign him – he will be a free agent after 2014, and probably will want top dollar on the open market.

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