On Thursday, the San Francisco 49ers will add a new player to their roster - barring any trades - to compete for a spot, but not likely to start. It's a roster that returns all defensive starters, and all but one offensive starter (unless you're counting Josh Morgan as a starting receiver), after making it to the NFC Championship with a 13-3 record in the regular season. In short, this draft is going to be very different from any in about a decade.
Sure, the 49ers have picked near the back-end of the first round in recent years - with a general lack of success - but they haven't been picking there due to their own record. More than that, they've always been picking based on need, and players who can contribute sooner rather than later. In 2011, it was all about which cornerback or which pass rusher the 49ers were going to draft so they can make that defense elite. They ended up going pass rusher, by making Aldon Smith the No. 7 overall pick, and he ended up being the best defensive rookie out there, regardless of fake awards.
But that time has passed. Sure, there's lot of talk about a right guard and a wide receiver, but it's no longer absolutely needed. The 49ers aren't putting all of their hopes on a good draft, because they don't need to. Instead, the 49ers will be looking for players who can possibly be the stars of tomorrow, not necessarily the stars of now.
Look for the 49ers to spend Thursday getting the absolute best player they can through all seven rounds. Sure, there will be some bias towards getting another interior lineman, a wide receiver and a safety, but for the most part, this is a draft in which the 49ers are simply looking to get better, as opposed to vastly improving to compete in the NFC West.