It usually takes a few seasons to judge how each NFL team performed at the most recent draft. There are always a few picks who come in and have an immediate impact, like Nick Bosa did with the San Francisco 49ers last season. But, most of the time, you can’t gauge a particular draft class until the players have spent a few years in the league.
We didn’t know what to expect from general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan when they took over the Niners during the offseason leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler went back and ranked each NFL teams 2017 Draft class after three seasons, and listed the Niners No. 8.
Here is a list of the picks the 49ers made:
First-round: DL Solomon Thomas (No. 3)
First-round: LB Reuben Foster (No. 31)
Third-round: CB Ahkello Witherspoon (No. 66)
Third-round: QB C.J. Bethard (No. 104)
Fourth-round: RB Joe Williams (No. 121)
Fifth-round: TE George Kittle (No. 146)
Fifth-round: WR Trent Taylor (No. 177)
Sixth-round: DT D.J. Jones (No. 198)
Sixth-round: DL Pita Paumopenu (No. 202)
Seventh-round: CB Adrian Colbert (No. 229)
It was an easy choice, but Brugler gave Kittle the title of being the player from the 49ers’ draft class, as well as providing the best value. Brugler listed Thomas as his biggest miss:
“None of the 49ers’ first five picks panned out (for different reasons), including Thomas, the No. 3 pick. He lost his starting job last season and has only six sacks to his name in 46 games, which led the 49ers to decline his fifth-year option. While he has been a solid contributor, one would expect more from a player drafted that high.”
We have all accepted that Thomas will never play up to the expectations set for him when he entered the league. The 24-year-old didn’t play more than 63% of the total defensive snaps in any game last season, finishing with 21 total tackles, 2 sacks and a 56.3 grade from PFF. San Francisco is hoping he can perhaps take another step in his fourth season, especially with the team dealing away DeForest Buckner. The lack of success for Thomas would be amplified if the Niners weren’t so deep on the defensive line.
Foster was another frustrating pick. He played well as a rookie, but off-the-field issues continued to plague him. After a dustup involving the law, Foster was let go during the 2018 season.
Witherspoon, Taylor and D.J. Jones have all had their moments in the NFL, but each has dealt with the injury bug at some point during their short careers. All three players are expected to be solid contributors to the 49ers next season. Although Bethard has managed to stay with the team, despite being a worse quarterback than Nick Mullens, we know what his ceiling is in the NFL, and it’s not very high.
Out of the players no longer with the Niners, Colbert is the most interesting. He started 13 games over his first two seasons, but lost favor with the coaching staff and was eventually released prior to the 2019 season. PFF gave Colbert a 73.1 grade for his rookie season, but his performance dipped in 2018, when he graded out at 31.7.
How do you feel about Brugler’s rankings? Who is the one player (other than Mahomes,) that you wish the 49ers selected with the No. 3 pick instead of Thomas?
On to some more links:
Colin Kaepernick’s name has resurfaced in the news with racism in the country being at the forefront of recent headlines. Kap’s former 49ers teammates Carlos Hyde is pushing for an NFL team to sign the quarterback. (NBC Bay Area’s Dalton Johnson)
Dee Ford’s presence helped San Francisco’s defensive line become a dominant unit in 2019. One NFL physician spoke with the SF Chronicle’s Eric Branch, and has an encouraging outlook on how Ford will recover from recent surgery.
Injuries are always one of the most important factors in deciding an NFL season. Peter Fanacy of Fansided looks at the five players the Niners cannot afford to get hurt in 2020.
Trent Williams will play a huge part in any success the 49ers have next season. 49ers team reporter Keiana Martin says two players played a big role in bringing the All-Pro to the Bay Area.
The Niners offense is full of speed. Kyle Madson of Niners Wire breaks down the importance of YAC in Shanahan’s system.
49ers players haven’t been shy in speaking up about social justice issues. Receiver Kendrick Bourne joined the Black Lives Matter protest in the Bay Area, and took to the mic to share his thoughts. (NBC Bay Area’s Dalton Johnson)