The NFL Draft season is upon us, and for John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers, it’s their fifth draft at the helm. It has been a mixed bag of selections so far, with some of the biggest hits and busts over the last few years. Here, we countdown the best and worst selections the 49ers have made since 2017.
Top Six Hits
6. WR Deebo Samuel (2019 2nd Round, 36th overall)
The 2019 Draft proved to be the best of Lynch’s tenure, with a stacked wide receiver class that included Deebo Samuel. The dynamic receiver picked up 57 receptions in his rookie season for 802 yards across 15 games. He also proved a useful running option on trick plays and has established himself as one of the leagues most potent yards after the catch receivers.
5. LB Dre Greenlaw (2019 5th Round, 148th Overall)
The Arkansas linebacker was seen as a special teams player when the 49ers selected him in the fifth round. However, Greenlaw exceeded expectations in becoming a first season starter. He made the memorable stop in Seattle that won the 49ers the NFC West. His progress continued last season so much so the 49ers were able to trade out expensive free agent signing Kwon Alexander.
4. WR Brandon Aiyuk (2020 1st Round, 25th Overall)
The 49ers surprisingly bypassed the wide receiver position with the 14th overall pick last year, but then traded up to get Aiyuk. His playing style is reminiscent of Shanahan’s old favorite receiver in Pierre Garcon, and after a slow start, Aiyuk totaled 62 receptions for 748 yards and five touchdowns across 12 games.
3. DE Nick Bosa (2019 1st Round, 2nd Overall)
With the second overall pick, the 49ers grabbed the best prospect in the 2019 Draft in Ohio State pass-rusher Nick Bosa. He provided a dynamic presence off the edge finished with 13 sacks en route to winning the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year. The following season ended early with a torn ACL, but Bosa is on track to return this season with high expectations.
2. LB Fred Warner (2018 3rd Round, 70th Overall)
The BYU linebacker was an instant starter in his rookie year and never looked back. Warner has lead the team in tackles every season of his three-year career and has provided that leadership role that Rueben Foster was supposed to become. In a difficult 2020 season, Warner was a bright spot and deservedly made the All-Pro team.
1. TE George Kittle (2017 5th Round, 146th Overall)
Already one of the greatest value picks in franchise history, Kittle proved to be the steal of the 2017 Draft. He quickly showed his elite athleticism to win the starting tight end role in his rookie season. The 2018 season is when Kittle truly arrived, as he recorded 1,377 receiving yards. A second All-Pro season followed in 2019 before Kittle elevated the market in setting his second contract. Last season was disrupted by injury, but Kittle will be back preforming at a high level this fall.
Top 6 Misses
6. OT Justin Skule (2019 6th Round, 183rd Overall)
While it could be excessive to be over critical of a sixth round selection, this move appeared to be bizarre from the start. The Vanderbilt alumni would probably have been cut before his rookie season had Shon Coleman not got injured. Fortune favored Skule and he was named Joe Staley’s backup, despite being overpowered by opposing edge rushers in preseason. When Staley got injured, it was clear that Skule was out of his depth. With Coleman back, it would be a shock if Skule was still around this September.
5. QB C.J. Beathard (2017 3rd Round, 104th Overall)
In a strong quarterback class, the 49ers waited until they end of the third round and then traded up to get Beathard. He took over as starter from the hapless Brian Hoyer. However, Beathard only managed to secure one win with a team Jimmy Garoppolo then took to five straight victories. When Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3 of the 2018 season, Beathard again struggled and was eventually replaced by undrafted free agent Nick Mullens. He didn’t see action again until the 2020 season, with Garoppolo injured and Mullens benched. Overall, Beathard’s overall record as starter sits at 2-10 with an underwhelming quarterback rating of 81.1.
4. DT Solomon Thomas (2017 1st Round, 3rd Overall)
While Thomas is talented, he hasn’t performed as a first-round talent to this point. The Stanford product has maintained himself as a solid run defender, with 95 tackles and six sacks over four seasons. However, the third overall pick should be a cornerstone player. When drafted, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Jamal Adams and Marshon Lattimore were all still on the board.
3. RB Joe Williams (2017 4th Round, 121st Overall)
The fourth round is about the right range in which to draft a productive running back. Hopes were high for the Utah product who rushed for 1,400 yards in 2016. However, Williams was red-shirted through his rookie season. The following season, Williams underwhelmed during preseason as Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert excelled. When the final roster was named, Williams was not part of it. To this point, he has not played a snap in the NFL.
2. WR Dante Pettis (2018 2nd Round, 44th Overall)
The 49ers traded up to get what they hoped would be a starting wide receiver in Pettis. Things started promisingly with a touchdown catch in his debut. He posted a respectable 467 yards and five touchdowns from 27 receptions during his rookie campaign. However, a sophomore slump proved to be a turning point and Pettis fell down the depth chart. Last season, Shanahan decided he had seen enough and Pettis was cut mid-season. He is now trying the rebuild his career with the New York Giants.
1. LB Rueben Foster (2017 1st Round, 31st Overall)
It’s worth remembering the pundits lined up to claim the 49ers won the 2017 Draft. The livewire linebacker was initially rated a top five pick in his draft class, until red flags started appearing and Foster fell to the bottom of the first round. His first season was impressive and it seemed that the 49ers had found their defensive lynchpin. However, things started to unravel in the offseason when Foster picked up charges for illegal weapons, drug possession, and domestic violence. The most serious charges were dismissed, but Foster was now on his last chance with the team. After an injury-riddled start to the 2018 season, Foster was then involved in another incident with his then-girlfriend at the team hotel ahead of a game. He was cut Foster less than two years into his career.
Three on Whom the Jury is Still Out
3. OT Mike McGlinchey (2018 1st Round, 9th Overall)
A surprise selection at ninth overall, McGlinchey has been a starter at right tackle from Week 1 in his three years in the NFL. Throughout his tenure, he has proven to be an elite run blocker and suspect pass protector. Last season proved to be McGlinchey’s worst in pass protection, admittedly he wasn’t helped by a revolving door of right guards and centers. The 49ers will likely exercise their fifth-year option on McGlinchey, but how much he can improve in pass-blocking may determine if he gets a second contract.
2. S Tarvarius Moore (2018 3rd Round, 95th Overall)
In his first three seasons in the NFL, Moore has struggled for consistency in the defensive backfield. He does have a Super Bowl interception to his name and has flashed potential in the past. In the final year of his rookie deal, his performance this season will be pivotal to his career. With Jaquiski Tartt gone, Moore won’t get a better chance to nail down a starting spot.
1. WR Jalen Hurd (2019 3rd Round, 67th Overall)
The versatile receiver is an outright draft bust, having been red-shirted through his first two NFL seasons. Hurd remains an intriguing option who offers size and could line up almost anywhere for Shanahan. He is not going to be a starting wide receiver, but Hurd could fill any number of roles if he can stay healthy.