The 2017 NFL draft is complete, and the San Francisco 49ers have selected a ten person class. They have also added up to 13 undrafted free agents in the two hours since the draft ended. It’s been a slightly busy three days.
Most of the rookies have not even traveled to Santa Clara yet, let alone gotten on the field to begin competing for opportunities. Now that the draft is finished, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the draft class, and see who on the roster would qualify as a winner or loser. Some players are already going to be challenged for their job, and some are all but assured of being out of a job. For now though, here are some of the winners and losers after the 2017 NFL draft.
FS Jimmie Ward: The 49ers did not add a safety until DB Adrian Colbert in the seventh round. After the draft, Kyle Shanahan was effusive in his praise of Ward as a potential free safety, and John Lynch said the team was likely picking up Ward’s fifth year option. Ward would likely make more money as a cornerback, but for purposes of the 49ers defense, this is a win.
CB Rashard Robinson: The 49ers did draft Ahkello Witherspoon, but in a draft that was incredibly deep in cornerbacks, the lack of anybody else of note would suggest Robinson stands a strong chance of grabbing and holding onto a starting CB job.
QB Brian Hoyer: The 49ers did not invest a first round pick in a QB, instead drafting C.J. Beathard in the third round. If the 49ers do not go after Kirk Cousins next year, Hoyer could easily play out both years of his contract as the 49ers starter. Even if the 49ers draft one of the big names next year, that QB would take some time to develop.
Edge rusher Aaron Lynch: The 49ers spent a first round pick on defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and a
seventh sixth round pick on edge rusher Pita Taumoepenu. The former will move around the line, while the latter is a speed option, but also a seventh round pick. I won’t say this is a vote of confidence for Lynch earning the Leo role, but it’s interesting. Arik Armstead is getting work there in the base, so Lynch could still draw the short straw at some point. But this competition is going to be an interesting one.
TE Vance McDonald: The 49ers acknowledged shopping McDonald, but said they did not find a deal to do. He might stick around, but he will remain available for trade. If George Kittle shows things in training camp, could the 49ers eventually just cut bait and release McDonald? My guess is no, but I imagine nothing is off the table.
WR Bruce Ellington: The 49ers receiver and punt returner was at the voluntary minicamp this past week, but a soft tissue injury meant he had to sit. The 49ers drafted Trent Taylor, who will likely get a chance to compete for the punt return job.
The rest of the outside cornerbacks: Dontae Johnson is the primary one on this list, but really, it’s any of them. Ahkello Witherspoon could be the kind of press corner that gives the 49ers a dynamic duo (along with Rashard Robinson). A lot will depend on how Witherspoon develops, but I really liked this pick.
RB Mike Davis: The addition of Joe Williams to compete for backup work probably does not bode well for Davis. They’re different kinds of running backs, but with the addition of Williams on top of Tim Hightower, and the return of DuJuan Harris, the roster squeeze will be real.