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John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan pleased this draft was tougher — goal is for that to continue

In 2017 the 49ers needed players at nearly every position, this year they do not and that changed their draft strategy

The 2018 draft has concluded and John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan recapped their selections and discussed how this year’s draft evolved from what their goals were in the 2017 draft. Last season they were in need of players to contribute immediately and did they ever. Their draft class played more snaps than any other group of rookies in the league. They used this year’s draft to fill spots as well but were able to look at players more for the long term. Lynch explained:

Yeah, you know, I think last year, [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] and I kind of looked at it as almost, not a blank canvas because we had some spots, but we were putting people in that they knew were going to have a great opportunity to play right away. I think we still felt like coming into this year there’s pieces to be added to the puzzle, but it’s going to be certainly more competitive and that’s what you want on your team. You want competition at every position. You also have to fill numbers at each position, both in the short and long-term, and we feel really happy with where we came out in terms of that with this year’s draft.

Shanahan went into detail about how the depth on the roster has changed how that influences undrafted free agents who may or may not want to visit.

We had some undrafted guys have some success, which I think excites people because they know we are willing to give those guys opportunities. But, now they also see that we have more depth on our roster than we did before. That’s what our guys are working on right now and we’ll see how many we can get. We’re definitely happier that it’s going to be a bigger challenge this year.

More specifically Lynch talked about getting players for the long term and how those decisions are tougher to make:

Yeah, it’s a good question. I would say like perhaps last year was a little more role specific. Hey, we need someone to play the slot. Let’s identify these traits. This year, we kind of went more to, hey, we want some cornerstone. We want some players that are going to be here for a long time. Still the same type of qualities. You know, what we really stated, Kyle and I sit around a lot and we talk about them and they just turn out to be words, but it’s really more what the tape shows. You want tough, dependable, accountable, smart, football IQ and explosive dynamic. Those are some of the things we talk about. When I look down this list, the cool thing, I think each one of these guys exemplify that. Were there tougher decisions, yes, because I think our roster is better this year. That’s one thing that’s important. That’s not to disparage whoever was here before. When people come in, there’s different systems and there’s different philosophies, so you get guys that kind of favor your eye and the guys that last, you know, they have done a pretty good job because that means they can probably play in any scheme and they have the type of qualities, the intangibles we look for. We are in year two of the process. It should be tougher to find a spot on this roster and we hope it’s tougher next year.

Ultimately the 49ers, while still rebuilding, believe they can afford to draft players like N.C. State’s Kentavius Street and give him a red shirt year to recover from his ACL surgery. They can bring in Jullian Taylor from Temple because they like his size and skill set, but has very little game tape and may be a little more of a developmental player. They also drafted two receivers, Dante Pettis and Richie James who will compete as well as contributing on special teams.

Shanahan and Lynch’s explanations give us an idea why last year's draft seemed to make more sense to all of us outside of the John McVay draft room. As the roster gets better, the draft and free agency will become more difficult, and that's exactly what they are striving for.