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NFL Draft 2017 grades: 49ers, John Lynch get unanimous praise for moves

The 49ers got two great players and some nice draft picks on top of that. Experts took notice.

Most mock drafts had the San Francisco 49ers taking Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas at No. 2 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Those drafts were wrong, because the 49ers DIDN’T take Thomas ... until No. 3 overall, a whole pick later after they traded down with the Chicago Bears.

That’s right, the 49ers took the player most expected, and they did it after earning an extra 2017 third-round pick, 2017 fourth-round pick and a 2018 third-round pick. But they weren’t done there, sneaking back into the first round at No. 31, where they grabbed linebacker Reuben Foster of Alabama.

In moving up, they surrendered the No. 34 pick and gave up the No. 111 overall pick they acquired from the Bears earlier in the round.

As usual, the biggest outlets around the Internet weighed in with various hot takes and grades of the first round. These go on a pick-by-pick basis and will ultimately culminate in full draft class grades once Day 3 comes to a close.

Some outlets weigh the trades heavily and some don’t, so keep that in mind as we look over some of the more prominent grades following the first round.

We’ll start with — where else — SB Nation. Here’s what they had to say about the Thomas pick, which they gave a ‘B-’ grade to:

“After taking Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in the first round in consecutive drafts, it’s a little odd that the 49ers would continue to add defensive linemen. The pick is more palatable thanks to a trade that added mid-round selections to the mix, but it’s not quite an A.”

The Foster pick was better-received, but there isn’t much talk about his failed test and other concerns. They gave his selection at ‘B+’, and had this to say:

“There’s no doubt this is good value if Foster is healthy. But a whole lot of teams passed on Foster and the 49ers gave up a fourth-round pick to move up to get him. He’s a seek-and-destroy type of player for a defense that needs to keep adding pieces and could use a better linebacker than Malcolm Smith starting alongside NaVorro Bowman.”

Over at CBS Sports, the eternally hard-to-please Pete Prisco weighed in on the 49ers’ selection of Thomas. Surprisingly, Prisco was complimentary, and suggested that Lynch “fleeced the Bears and got his guy.” Prisco gave it an ‘A+’. Then for Foster, Prisco said that he has a “Ray Lewis-type of game,” and called him a “top-10 talent” while giving the 49ers an ‘A’ grade.

Moving on to Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated, we go back to Thomas. The 49ers received an ‘A’ for the pick, with Burke calling Lynch’s trade a “coup.” He noted Thomas’ flexibility up front as a serious plus as well. As for Foster?

“And while the 49ers certainly could have rolled the dice on a quarterback here, adding Foster to earlier pick Solomon Thomas has the makings of an all-time steal. Take away Foster’s hospital incident in Indianapolis and his diluted-sample drug test, and he had a case to be the pick at No. 2 overall. He and NaVorro Bowman together—assuming Bowman stays on track in rehabbing his Achilles injury—could bring back memories of the Bowman-Patrick Willis tandem.”

He gave the Foster pick an ‘A’, and I totally agree to him that this could be considered an all-time steal.

While not always on the mark, the guys over at WalterFootball remain a reliable source for takes, an they weighed in on the first round, giving the 49ers an ‘A+’ grade for the Thomas pick and an ‘A+’ grade for the Foster pick.

Over at ESPN, they did a list of pros and cons for every pick. They list Thomas as a good pick for being one of the “cleanest picks in the draft and the type of guy who can help establish the culture that general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan seek.”

For Foster, they say that the 49ers view him as one of the most talented players in the draft, and said the team views him “as the next in an evolving lineage that includes Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.” As a question for both, they list Foster’s obvious off-field issues and they wonder where Thomas will actually line up on defense.

And finally, we’ll close off with SB Nation alum and current writer for The Ringer, Danny Kelly. I respect his football opinions more than anybody else out there, and Kelly had a lot to say about the two picks. He gave Thomas an ‘A’ for fit and an ‘A+’ for value, primarily due to the draft picks the 49ers acquired.

“Thomas should quickly become a cornerstone in new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s 4–3 scheme, lining up at defensive end on first and second down, then bumping over to the three-technique spot on third downs. At 6-foot-3, 273 pounds, he’s earned the “tweener” label from some critics — not quite long enough to consistently win as an outside pass rusher and not quite big enough on the inside — but he’s got the explosiveness and technique to overcome those concerns.”

Pretty good, yeah?