The San Francisco 49ers had a phenomenal draft in 2017 that we quite simply cannot praise enough due to the picks and the navigation of John Lynch, most notably a trade back into the first round and to acquire linebacker Reuben Foster. The later picks were just as impressive when you count Ahkello Witherspoon, Adrian Colbert, George Kittle, and Trent Taylor’s contributions.
Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton did his own version of power rankings, and this one is a ranking of the 2017 NFL Draft a year later. The 49ers came in at second, right behind the New Orleans Saints and in front of the Houston Texans. The top performer of this draft class according to him? Foster. The 49ers aforementioned second pick of the first round and the product of a trade with the Seattle Seahawks to make it possible. Keep in mind, this ranking is about draft picks only, not the overall rookie class, meaning all undrafted free agents like Kendrick Bourne were not considered.
Here’s what Moton said about the 49ers ranking:
The 49ers group ranks second in total starts, with six contributors who logged five or more. In 10 starts, linebacker Reuben Foster flashed sideline-to-sideline quickness as an impact chasedown defender. He was second on the team in solo and total tackles behind cornerback Dontae Johnson. Fifth-rounders George Kittle and Trent Taylor caught 43 passes apiece and combined for 945 yards and four touchdowns. Both exceeded expectations.
Solomon Thomas underwhelmed as a pass-rusher—recording just three sacks—but he fared well against the run. It’s on defensive coordinator Robert Salah to unlock his potential. Reuben Foster and Ahkello Witherspoon project as primary starters coming off solid rookie campaigns. The former will serve a two-game suspension for violating the league’s conduct and substance-abuse policies.
Honestly, the Saints at No. 1 makes complete sense. Between them and the 49ers, it really comes down to a coinflip. I do think the 49ers will have the best long-term production between the two classes, but the Saints got Alvin Kamara with a 3rd round pick and he lit everything up in 2017. Beyond him, Marshon Lattimore had a tremendous rookie campaign and as Bleacher Report noted, this class had the most starts between them at 51.
Since 2011, the 49ers have been desperate for a draft that could bring returns. It’s still early, but this might be the draft where finally everything went right.