Remember when the San Francisco 49ers had awful drafts? Well 2018 may go down as one of the better ones. There’s still a lot of time left to really gauge where these players’ careers will go, but after one year and some promising stuff, you can’t help but be optimistic.
The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak put together a list of the NFC West’s best second-year talents. They may have said the best 49ers, because three of the five players wearing red and gold. No. 1 was none other than offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, a player I think may be a bit underrated.
I didn’t love McGlinchey’s tape at the college level, but his quick and easy transition to the pros is undeniable. McGlinchey is long and strong, and has good footwork off the line of scrimmage to execute combo blocks and address second-level defenders in the running game. He and Joe Staley are already a top-flight bookend pairing at the NFL level.
Remember when some were down on McGlinchey (lacking impact)? Yeah, about that.
The only thing McGlinchey needs to do is get his pass-blocking down. That was something he struggled with, but no one is perfect out of college and he was an absolute mauler when run-blocking.
Oh but we’re not done. Right behind McGlinchey is linebacker Fred Warner:
A very strong debut season for a TDN favorite here in Fred Warner, who paced the Niners with 124 tackles (next closest was 67!) and was second on the team with 6 passes defensed. Warner remains under-appreciated in national media conversation, but the film of his rookie season backs up the numbers: bonafide stud at MLB.
Warner’s quick transition is what kept the Niners’ defense humming when they moved on from Reuben Foster, and his continued development will make him a cornerstone piece for a team that loves its elite linebackers.
The moment I saw Warner’s tape in college I fell in love with his ability. He couldn’t have come at a better time when Reuben Foster’s legal issues were making him a question mark and eventual roster casualty. Warner ripped the green dot (the one who can hear the defensive coordinator talking to them) and the 49ers let him crash and burn his rookie season. It will be interesting to see how he does as the defensive signal-caller his second year.
And then there’s Solak’s third of three: wide receiver Dante Pettis:
So Pettis comes in below Kirk. Even though both the Cardinals and the Niners have added pass-catching weapons in the offseason, I think the consistency of Pettis’ coaching staff means the team will still be invested in developing and even featuring him. The same may not be true for Kirk, though I imagine a player with his talent level will still stick.
Pettis didn’t see the volume that Kirk did, but he did see the explosive plays: a tremendous 17.3 yards/catch and 10.4 yards/target illustrate Pettis’ downfield ability and strength as a runner after the catch. If he stays healthy, I expect Pettis to make noise this season as a premiere deep threat in the league.
That’s three draft picks topping the list. Now, keep in mind this is the NFC West, and Solak was quick to point out the first round of 2018 for the NFC West wasn’t the greatest. There was Rashaad Penny and McGlinchey. Arizona traded Josh Rosen away to the Miami Dolphins and the Los Angeles Rams didn’t get a pick.
Regardless of the competition, that’s three picks with what could be considered bright futures in the league. Pettis has already put on some weight for his second season and it will be interesting to see him and Deebo Samuel cause havoc.
McGlinchey’s future is also bright. I’ve asked it before, but the question bears repeating: will he get moved to left tackle or stay at right? And if moved to left tackle, how good will he be with the position switch?
A few miscues on Warner caused busted coverages with the defense but now with a year under his belt, I expect him to really break out in 2019.
And Pettis? When he was healthy in 2018, he was breaking out runs and shaking people off his route on a frequent basis. I’m curious how the weight gain impacts his speed, but it should help his durability.
The 49ers have been lucky during Trent Baalke’s tenure to have one draft pick stick consistently produce, or at least give us hope for something their rookie season. In 2018 the 49ers managed to get three guys to step up. If they can stay healthy, that draft could go down as one of the best.