San Francisco 49ers find defensive foundation but no franchise QB

The 49ers bolstered their defensive line by taking Solomon Thomas with the third overall pick. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Here are the biggest post-draft questions the San Francisco 49ers have to answer:

When will the 49ers make a move for a franchise quarterback? The Niners drafted Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard late in the third round, and coach Kyle Shanahan said Beathard will be third on the depth chart, with hopes that he can develop in the coming years. But the Niners still don't have their long-term solution at the position. That's not surprising after Shanahan and general manager John Lynch spent a lot of time preaching the need for patience in the run-up to the draft. But the Niners did make an effort to position themselves to land a franchise quarterback in 2018 when veterans Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo could be free agents and the draft could have a number of top prospects. The Niners acquired additional second- and third-round picks in next year's draft so they have extra ammunition in case they want to make a trade to get the quarterback they want.

Who steps up in the secondary? While the Niners' additions to the front seven should bolster the pass rush, there are still some question marks in the secondary, especially at cornerback. The Niners released former starter Tramaine Brock and have been experimenting with former starting corner Jimmie Ward at free safety. That leaves second-year corner Rashard Robinson as a likely starter but also leaves an opening on the other side. Third-round pick Ahkello Witherspoon could compete for that spot but will have to prove he's capable of tackling consistently before he can win the job. Suffice to say, there will be a lot of competition here in the coming months before the 49ers can sort it all out.

What will the defensive line look like? Upon drafting Solomon Thomas with the third overall pick, the Niners have spent their first pick in each of the past three drafts on a defensive lineman. Which puts the onus on defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to make the pieces fit. Early indications are that Thomas will play left defensive end on early downs and move inside on passing downs. That likely leaves DeForest Buckner to play 3-technique defensive tackle, and the Niners seem willing to try Arik Armstead at the "Leo" or "Elephant" position on the other side. The fits make sense for Thomas and Buckner, though each will have to prove himself. Armstead, however, doesn't really match the typical description for that position, so it seems to be an odd fit. Perhaps he can make it work, but if not, the Niners are in serious need of an upgrade at that spot to help the pass rush.

What's next for Lynch and Shanahan? While it's way too early to pass judgment on the new regime's draft class, we can evaluate a few things in terms of their approach. Did they have a plan? Did that plan make sense? Did they execute that plan? From my standpoint, the answers are yes, yes and yes. Lynch and Shanahan operated in this draft like old veterans, deftly moving up and down the board to stockpile talent while keeping a necessary eye to the future. Now, it's up to Shanahan and his staff to develop the talent in place while Lynch continues to help build the culture. Nothing is guaranteed and there's a lot of work left to do, but this is a strong start for a franchise that needed some positive momentum.