The San Francisco 49ers are hoping for big returns from their 2021 NFL Draft class in the coming years. Quarterback Trey Lance headlines the incoming rookies and is a big part of the team’s future plans.
We won’t be able to truly gauge the strength of the Niners’ 2021 picks for a few years, but Pro Football Focus loves what it has seen from the 49ers’ 2019 draft class.
PFF originally ranked San Francisco’s 2019 draft as above average. But now, Michael Renner grades the 49ers’ 2019 class as “excellent.”
Round 1 (2): EDGE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Round 2 (36): WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
Round 3 (67): WR Jalen Hurd, Baylor
Round 4 (110): P Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
Round 5 (148): LB Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
Round 6 (176): TE Kaden Smith, Stanford
Round 6 (183): OT Justin Skule, Vanderbilt
Round 6 (198): CB Tim Harris, Virginia
Then: Above Average
Everyone knows the impact studs at the top of the draft — Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel — but the 49ers also found a late-round gem in Dre Greenlaw. He made Kwon Alexander an afterthought, posting coverage grades of 72.6 and 65.3 in his first two NFL seasons.
As Renner says, Bosa and Samuel made a major impact in their rookie years and helped the Niners reach the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, injuries kept the pair out of action last season. Bosa tore his ACL in Week 2, while Samuel suffered various injuries that limited him to just seven games.
Greenlaw was a steal in the fifth round. He has started 29 games over the past two seasons and gives the 49ers a formidable one-two punch at the linebacker position alongside All-Pro Fred Warner.
Skule has provided some depth on the offensive line. He stepped up after starting tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey got hurt in 2019. Skule played 100 percent of the offensive snaps in seven games, helping San Francisco go 6-1 during that stretch.
Wishnowsky’s 46.9-yard punting average ranked 10th in the NFL last season. He also finished with 25 punts that were downed inside in the opponents’ 20-yard line, which put him ninth among all NFL punters.
Even though the Niners’ 2019 draft class has already paid major dividends, there could still be more improvement. General manager John Lynch is hopeful Hurd will be ready for Week 1 after missing the last two seasons due to injury.
Hurd played well in a 2019 preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, catching three passes for 31 yards and two touchdowns.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan would love to turn Hurd loose this year. The 49ers view Hurd as another offensive weapon that can be used at multiple positions. NBC’s Peter King said Hurd was one of the best players at the 2019 training camp and expected him to contend for the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Unfortunately, a back injury kept Hurd out of every game his rookie season. After rehabbing for nearly a year, bad luck struck Hurd again in 2020. He tore his ACL during the summer workouts and missed his second-straight year.
San Francisco has gotten great value out of its 2019 class. Anything Hurd can provide at this point will be considered a bonus considering the impact of Bosa, Samuel and Greenlaw.