49ers, Raiders are in position to fill similar needs 

Worst drafts first in the NFL, so the Raiders, coming off a 3-13 season, won’t have to wait long before they’re on the clock with the No. 4 overall choice on Thursday’s Day 1 of the 2015 NFL Draft.

The 49ers, after going 8-8 in coach Jim Harbaugh’s final season and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010, won’t be far behind this year, drafting 15th in the first round.

Each team has a new coach — Jack Del Rio in Oakland, Jim Tomsula in San Francisco — but the same general manager. The pressure will be on Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie and Trent Baalke, his 49ers counterpart, to deliver after disheartening 2014 campaigns.

Baalke has been in charge of the 49ers’ draft since 2010. He has had more hits than misses during his tenure, drafting players such offensive tackle Anthony Davis, guard Mike Iupati, linebacker NaVorro Bowman, linebacker Aldon Smith, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid. But he also had a disaster in 2012, taking wide receiver A.J. Jenkins in the first round and running back LaMichael James in the second.

This year, Baalke will try to restock a team that has suffered significant losses of talent. Running back Frank Gore, Iupati, cornerbacks Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver and wide receiver Michael Crabtree left as free agents. Inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland retired. Defensive end Ray McDonald was released after yet another off-field incident. What’s more, defensive tackle Justin Smith is considering retirement.

Even so, Baalke said he doesn’t see any glaring holes on his roster that need to be filled in the draft.

“We feel very good about where this roster’s at from the standpoint of going out and playing a football game tomorrow,” Baalke said last week during a predraft media session. “Does that mean we don’t want to get better? No, I’m not saying that. We want to get better at every position.”

With McDonald’s release and Smith’s possible retirement, the 49ers could use their first-round pick on a defensive lineman. Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead is a popular pick in mock drafts for the 49ers at No. 15. The 6-foot-7, 292-pound Armstead had only 2½ sacks last season, however, and he might not be a perfect fit for San Francisco’s 3-4 scheme, which typically features powerful, space-eating linemen built lower to the ground.

After losing Culliver and Cox, the 49ers could use their top pick on a cornerback. Michigan State’s Trae Waynes is considered by many to be the top corner available, but he could be gone before the 49ers’ turn. Washington cornerback Marcus Peters is highly touted but comes with plenty of baggage. Peters was kicked off the team after a series of disciplinary problems in November and has spent months trying to repair his image.

Baalke has a history of taking chances on players with character issues, but the 49ers have had to deal with so many off-the-field incidents over the past few years that he might show more caution this time.

“Every situation’s different,” Baalke said. “You look at it for what it is and you dig into it as much as you can.”

The 49ers could also use a wide receiver, and Louisville’s DeVante Parker, who visited the team, is an option if he slips to 15.

The Raiders have gone 11-37 in three seasons under McKenzie, but he survived last year’s 3-13 debacle in large part because he had such a strong 2014 draft, landing outside linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth overall pick, quarterback Derek Carr in the second round and three more starters in guard Gabe Jackson (third round), defensive tackle Justin Ellis (fourth) and cornerback T.J. Carrie (seventh). Keith McGill, a fourth-round pick, could start in the nickel package this year.

If McKenzie sits tight this year at No. 4, he might have his pick of USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper or West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White.

McKenzie, a former Raiders linebacker, used his top pick for defense the past two seasons, and it might be hard for him to pass on the 6-5, 302-pound Williams, who could play tackle or end. The Raiders had only 22 sacks last season, and 32-year-old defensive end Justin Tuck led the team with five. This is a definite area of need.

Then again, the Raiders haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Randy Moss in 2005, and they don’t have a true No. 1 wideout on the roster, a weapon Carr could certainly use eventually. Cooper is a more polished and experienced receiver than White, but White is faster and has more raw physical ability. You know the late Al Davis would be leaning toward White to satisfy the need for speed, but McKenzie could well opt for Cooper, a safer pick who caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

Outside linebackers Dante Fowler Jr. of Florida and Vic Beasley of Clemson could be options if the Raiders decide they have to add an explosive edge rusher.

McKenzie said he’s been getting calls from other NFL general managers who are interested in trading for the No. 4 pick. And if Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota happens to slip to No. 4, McKenzie can expect even more calls.

“I’m always open, but it has to be the right deal,” McKenzie said. “It always depends on the player who’s there at your pick. There are a lot of factors that factor into that. But yes, my phone line is always open. You hear everybody out. If it makes sense and it’s going to help the Raiders, we’ll do a deal.”

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Eric Gilmore

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