SANTA CLARA -- Ah, the draft, a welcome reprieve for a 49ers' offseason dominated by off-field incidents and contract negotiations, many of which remain unresolved.
From Thursday night through Saturday, the 49ers shift their focus to drafting those who might -- or, must -- enhance a fourth straight playoff run.
It's a time for hope, when ideally another top pick will step right in and become a model pro the way safety Eric Reid did last year.
The roster's core remains mostly intact, befitting the 49ers' status as a perennial powerhouse. But to win their first Super Bowl in 20 years and unseat the rival Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers must fill holes and add in-house competition.
Cornerback is arguably their top-priority position, seeing how Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown left for the Raiders after another postseason where coverage got soft.
"They have a major problem at corner right now," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said.
Cornerback indeed might be the only spot open in the 49ers' starting lineup. Other needs: a deep-threat wide receiver, a trusted return specialist, an extra pass rusher (as Aldon Smith's potential temp), an inside linebacker (as NaVorro Bowman's potential temp), an interior offensive lineman, a backup quarterback and a power tailback.
The 49ers' 11-pick bouquet offers enough equity to move up the draft board and snag a top-rated cornerback or wideout. They moved up 13 spots last year to secure Reid at No. 18 overall, swapping first-round picks and sending a third-rounder to the Dallas Cowboys.
General manager Trent Baalke is perennially active on the draft-trade front, and this year he can barter with one pick in the first round (No. 30), two in the second (Nos. 56, 61) and two in the third (Nos. 77, 94). They also own the last pick of the third round (No. 100) but can't trade the compensatory choice.
Another Baalke trend: He hasn't selected a cornerback in the first or second round since taking over the draft room in 2010. Actually, the 49ers haven't drafted a cornerback in the first round since the biannual spree of R.W. McQuarters (1998), Ahmed Plummer (2000) and Mike Rumph (2002).
"If you're going to go up and get a corner, you probably go up to get (Darqueze) Dennard from Michigan State," Kiper said.
Dennard indeed comes with credentials the 49ers covet. Not only was he the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top defensive back, he also was a team captain and fared well on the Rose Bowl stage. In comparison, Reid was a LSU captain and played well in his bowl-game finale.
Four other cornerbacks drawing the most hype: Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech), Jason Verrett (TCU) and Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska). Ohio State's Bradley Roby would come with a red flag, having pleaded guilty last month to "having control" of a vehicle under the influence.
When it comes to wideouts, the 49ers likely wouldn't bench Anquan Boldin or Michael Crabtree for a rookie, so they'll need one who can come in as a downfield specialist. Top candidates are LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, who might go midway through the first round.
Or maybe the 49ers will be enticed by the versatility of Cody Latimer (Indiana), the SEC production of Jerry Rice's distant cousin Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) or the big-body targets of both Mike Evans (Texas A&M) and Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State).
Or maybe the 49ers shoot for the draft's consensus top wideout in Sammy Watkins (Clemson).
Will Baalke flinch at using a first-round pick on a wideout only two years after A.J. Jenkins flopped as the No. 30 pick? Will a cornerback finally hear from the 49ers in the first round? Will the 49ers instead look inside the hash marks for help?
Those unresolved football questions will surely be welcomed in light of the offseason's off-the-field questions.