John Lynch has three NFL Drafts under his belt with the San Francisco 49ers. Instead of doing a ‘five best players he’s drafted,’ I thought it’d be fun to grade how he’s done in each round. For each round, there’s a hit and a miss, so let’s get into it, starting with the first round, where the 49ers picked in the top-10 each draft.
First round: B-
The drafting of Solomon Thomas was doomed from the get to go. Thomas was always best-suited as more of a secondary edge rusher, and not a player you take early in the first round. Thomas has shown that he’s at his best. The closer he gets to the center. If the 49ers couldn’t get anything more out of Thomas than they did last season, considering his surrounding parts, it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever be anything more than a backup.
Reuben Foster was a risk, but his reward was too good to pass on, so I don’t fault Lynch for taking a gamble on the talented linebacker out of Alabama. Foster ran into legal trouble in college, and that carried over into the NFL. While he still has a shot in Washington, injuries seem to have all but ended Foster’s short career.
Mike McGlinchey has been up and down during his first two seasons with the 49ers. As a rookie, McGlinchey struggled to adjust to NFL pass rushers, but it looked as if he’d be a dominant run blocker out of the gate. In Year 2, McGlinchey struggled before the injury; once he got his legs underneath him after the first two games back, he looked like a first-round pick. Drafting an offensive lineman in the top-10 rarely pays off. Two seasons in, it doesn’t feel like the 49ers have gotten enough return on their investment. McGlinchey is a good player, but has he been good enough?
The reason the Niners have a B- is because of Nick Bosa, who found a way to exceed expectations as a rookie. There isn’t much to say about Bosa that already hasn’t been said. It’ll be surprised if he’s not in contention for Defensive Player of the Year the next handful of years.
Second round: Incomplete
Lynch has drafted two receivers with his only two second-round picks, but the grade is incomplete for one reason: Dante Pettis. The wideout out of Washington has all of the talent in the world. Kyle Shanahan has said he wants Pettis to take the punt returner job: “It’s his decision. He’s got to show it. I guess it comes down to my decision, but he should make it for me.” Those comments seem to be in line with Shanahan’s thinking about Pettis. He wants him to take the next step. Year 3 will tell us a lot about Pettis because if it’s anything like his second season, Pettis’s future with the Niners will be in jeopardy.
The other second-round receiver Lynch drafted turned out okay. Deebo Samuel has a long way to go to be a complete receiver, and he’s still on a trajectory to be a star. He was that good as a rookie. Samuel was a human bulldozer running over defensive backs. There were a lot of impressive parts of Samuel’s rookie year, but his play speed tops the list. Watching Samuel outrun defenders and turn 10-yard gains into explosive plays will never get old.
Third round: C
Picking C.J. Beathard in the third round is unforgivable. If you think that’s hindsight, I’m assuming you sleep in a Sourdough Sam costume because you’re that much of a fanboy/girl. Drafting a quarterback after the first two rounds have historically been a failure.
As for Ahkello Witherspoon, his days are likely over as a starter in San Francisco. A very good rookie season followed by a sophomore slump where Witherspoon didn’t have much help around him. Then his play drastically improved in 2019, where ‘Spoon looked like he would be the one on an All-Pro team. Then an injury cost him a few games, and Witherspoon never regained his early-season form. I still think Witherspoon can be a starter in this league. Unfortunately, that’s likely not with the Niners.
Tarvarius Moore is one of my favorite players on the team, and there’s no doubt in my mind he can replace Jimmie Ward without there being a significant dropoff in play. There will be trade-offs, like missed tackles for big plays, but an offseason at his best position should show Moore was worth drafting in the third round.
The other third-round pick in that draft was arguably the best coverage linebacker in football during his second year. Fred Warner was solid to good as a rookie. In his second season, Warner was a playmaker. Warner found the ball, whether it was forcing fumbles, making plays at the line of scrimmage, or stepping into throwing lanes. Warner is the reason this grade is a C.
The jury is still out on Jalen Hurd, and if we see the 49ers draft a wide receiver early in the NFL Draft, that may mean Hurd’s back injury is more serious than the team is leading on. Hopefully, Hurd is cleared sooner than later.
Day 3: A+
The third day of the draft is for filling out depth, and if you can land a starter, then it’s a home run. Ideally, you take risks on athletes that slipped for whatever reason, and bank on them performing. I’d never draft a punter in the fourth round, but understand why the team went that direction. While Mitch Wishnowsky, Joe Williams, and even Kentavius Street have made the fourth round forgettable for Lynch, he hit a grand slam in the fifth round. Dre Greenlaw has a chance to be a long-time starter. D.J. Reed is a competent backup, Trent Taylor had a chance to catch 90 passes if he hadn’t been healthy. Hm, I think that’s it for the players drafted in the fifth round. I’m definitely not forgetting the best player at his position in the NFL.
As for depth, Justin Skule, Marcell Harris, Jullian Taylor, and Richie James, all contributed in 2019. The 49ers found their nose tackle of the future in D.J. Jones as well. Calling him a nose tackle is selling D.J. short because he has more upside than that. I don’t think you’ll find a better Day 3 list of players in the last three years than this group.
Add in undrafted free agents like Azeez Al-Shaair, Kevin Givens, Emmanuel Moseley, Jeff Wilson, Ross Dwelley, Nick Mullens, and Matt Breida, and maybe the 49ers should only draft on Day 3.