The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books. The San Francisco 49ers made a total of eight selections and used five of them on offensive players.
Of course, the most significant pick for the Niners came at No. 3 overall when they took North Dakota State QB, Trey Lance. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan made their move up the draft board by sending the No. 12 pick this year, first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, plus a 2022 third-rounder to the Miami Dolphins to move up nine spots.
Everyone knew they made the move to get their QB of the future, but the question in the month leading up to the draft was which one it would be. The first two picks were seemingly set in stone, and they went as expected.
Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars took Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, while Robert Saleh’s New York Jets went with QB Zach Wilson out of BYU. That brought us to San Francisco at No. 3 overall.
Even though Lynch and Shanahan put on a textbook performance on how not to let information leak from the building, many NFL insiders were convinced that the Niners would take Alabama’s Mac Jones.
Lynch and Shanahan simply sat back, did their homework and allowed the rumors and hot takes to keep flying without being influenced. The 49ers ultimately decided on Lance earlier in the week and kept their choice under wraps while the rest of the NFL world scrambled to figure out which prospect they would select.
Ultimately, San Francisco got its guy and is hoping Lance will be the face of the franchise for the next decade-plus.
Read more about Lance’s selection
49ers make Lance the third overall pick.
What does Lance’s selection mean for Jimmy Garoppolo?
Lynch and Shanahan explain why Lance was their guy.
Lance meets the Bay Area media for the first time. Read what the QB had to say as his first media availability.
The Niners kept their focus on offense for their next two picks. They used their second-round pick (No. 48) on Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks, who could come in and challenge Daniel Brunskill for the starting right guard position.
Some were surprised when Lynch and Shanahan made the decision to trade two fourth-round selections to the Los Angeles Rams for the No. 88 pick and take Ohio State running back Trey Sermon. The 49ers’ already have Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. on the roster, but Shanahan clearly likes what he sees in Sermon.
San Francisco addressed its need in the secondary by taking Michigan CB Ambry Thomas 102nd overall.
Here are the rest of the 49ers’ selections in the 2021 NFL Draft.
- Round 5, Pick 155: Western Michigan OL Jaylon Moore (read more about Moore)
- Round 5, Pick 172: Oregon CB Deommodore Lenoir (read more about Lenoir)
- Round 5, Pick 180: USC S Talanoa Hufanga (read more about Hufanga)
- Round 6, Pick 193 Louisiana RB Elijah Mitchell (read more about Mitchell)
San Francisco’s picks by position:
The most important thing for the Niners coming to the draft was to get the QB they felt would be the ideal fit in Shanahan’s system, and they did that by getting Lance.
Lynch and Shanahan invested in protecting their QB of the future as well. They have never drafted a guard since taking over in 2017, but this year they wound up with two in Banks and Moore. Lynch and Shanahan said they believe Banks can come in and challenge for a starting spot. The Niners’ brass adds that though Moore played tackle in college, they see him as a guard at NFL level who could develop into a swing tackle if needed.
Adding some depth to the secondary was another priority, but San Francisco waited until Round 3 to select Thomas.
Thomas opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, which is not all that surprising given his bout with colitis ahead of the 2019 campaign. He was an All-Big Ten honoree for his performance in 2019 and appeared in 39 career games at Michigan (13 starts). Thomas had four career picks and nine passes defended in Ann Arbor.
Shanahan said they envision Lenoir as a nickel corner who could provide some flexibility on the outside. It will be interesting to see how the Oregon product develops since K’Waun Williams is scheduled to be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
Lynch and Shanahan seem thrilled with landing Hufanga in the fifth round, where they have had success before with George Kittle and Dre Greenlaw.
"Love him at safety, hits like a linebacker. His mentailty -- he’s an old school bad-ass as we say. We are excited to get him here."— Jennifer Lee Chan (@jenniferleechan) May 1, 2021
Kyle Shanahan on @USC_FB safety @TalanoaHufanga
"You ready to be a Forty Niner?"— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 1, 2021
"Man I've been dreaming of that."@TalanoaHufanga gets the call. #49ersDraft | #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/htHcAtjGI1
Hufanga was asked what he focused on during training leading up the draft and what he’s hoping to bring during his rookie season..
“Yeah, for me, I just wanted to train to be versatile. My college team used me in a very unique way. I played nickel, I played strong safety, dime, field safety, and I played linebacker for a whole game. I’ve already talked to the safety coach and they just wanted to be able to use me in any way that they used me in college. I just have to be open. You have to have an open mindset to be versatile. Any way you can get on the field and be ready for special teams as well. I think that’s a big component. This is a big, big statement but it’s something I’ve always preached, being a special teams Pro Bowler in my first year is a goal of mine. I think a lot of guys get caught into trying to play right off the bat on the wrong parts. I understand there’s a level to it and I just want to be the best I possibly can be. I’m just grateful for this opportunity.”
Mitchell was the final pick of the draft for the Niners. They selected him No. 193 overall to add their stable in the backfield. Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports points out one reason why San Francisco added two running backs in the draft.
#49ers running backs— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) May 1, 2021
Raheem Mostert, contract year
Jeff Wilson Jr., contract year
Wayne Gallman Jr., contract year
Trey Sermon, four-year contract
Elijah Mitchell, four-year contract
Some wanted the 49ers to take a receiver in the draft to add some depth behind Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. One possible reason why they didn’t is the status of 2019 third-round pick Jalen Hurd.
John Lynch said Jalen Hurd (torn ACL in August) has been rehabbing elsewhere and has been progressing well. Lynch also said he expects Hurd “to be ready,” presumably for the offseason program. #49ers— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) May 1, 2021
Lynch added that the organization is comfortable with Richie James, Travis Benjamin and Jauan Jennings in the fold.
Another interesting tidbit from the media availability was San Francisco’s approach to this draft in particular. Given what happened during the injury-riddled 2020 campaign, both Shanahan and Lynch said they prioritized players who didn’t have a ton of injury history.
“After you go through what we went through last year, you take a harder look,” John Lynch said during the Zoom call.
The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books!
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