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49ers rank ‘above average’ in ESPN ranking of 2017 draft classes

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The 49ers rookie class got off to a strong start. There were some questions at year end, but still, plenty to build on.

The San Francisco 49ers draft class was one of the more productive in the NFL, but it’s not quite enough to get them to the top of the class in some ratings. ESPN had their various team reporters analyze their respective draft class, and give them descriptions rather than any sort of ranking. They went with “near perfection,” “above average,” “average,” and “below average.” It reminds me of elementary school when we get plus, check-plus, check, check-minus, or minus for performance.

49ers writer Nick Wagoner took a look at the 49ers draft class and went with “above average” as his descriptor. Four teams got a “near perfect” description, including the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, and New Orleans Saints.

The 49ers are joined by eight other teams in the “above average” category. While I think the 49ers class was pretty great, I can see the argument for bringing them down a notch. The team’s top pick, Solomon Thomas, did a lot of good things in 2017, but was not quite the overall impact player you expect at No. 3. He showed signs of where he could go, but it took him some time to get going with consistency this season.

Joe Williams spent the season on injured reserve, but that also likely happened because he was not flashing enough to justify designating him for return later in the year, or even carrying him as an inactive until he got healthy. You generally want a little more from your fourth round pick.

That being said, there are some reasons to consider some level between above average and near perfection. They got a third round starter in Ahkello Witherspoon, and a potential starter out of seventh round pick Adrian Colbert (depending on how safety is worked out). They got a quality backup in C.J. Beathard, which is critical in a league where the starting quarterback is so important, and injuries are so prevalent. I don’t think that can be overvalued.

They also got a pair of immediate contributors in George Kittle and Trent Taylor, and UDFAs like Matt Breida and Kendrick Bourne showed enough to earn a shot at serious playing time in 2018.

When you’re talking about phrases like “near perfection” and “above average” as a rating system, it’s inherently subjective. I think the at times underwhelming work of Solomon Thomas and the absence of Joe Williams are reason enough to drop the 49ers draft class down a notch. That being said, it was still a great draft for the 49ers, at least through year one. This group needs to build on it in 2018, but it’s hard not to be excited about where things stand right now.