Heading into the NFL Draft, we knew the 49ers would select a quarterback at No. 3 overall. After that, many analysts, including myself, thought the 49ers could add depth at wide receiver and edge rusher.
When we went over the best players available heading into Day 2, we mentioned how the teams’ confidence in Jalen Hurd and Dee Ford would be voiced based on their selections for the rest of the draft.
Several picks later, and there was no edge rusher selected nor a pass rusher. That’s an endorsement for both players. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch were asked why they neglected both positions in the draft. Here’s what Shanahan had to say:
“I think that’s one thing that’s always tough with the draft from a fan standpoint or people just watching it. It’s everyone thinks you know the needs and a lot of people are accurate with certain things, but you don’t go into the draft just picking everything you want. There’s a huge evaluation. You don’t know who’s going to get there. Yes, there’s some positions you want more than others.
So, if some guys are in the same area of talent and stuff, you always go with the need, but it doesn’t always work out that way. We didn’t go into this draft thinking we’re going to take two running backs. We really liked where that was.
So, I wouldn’t say to look into that any more than that. I would always like to take a receiver. I would always like to take an edge rusher, but it’s got to be a guy that you think could make your team and so that all depends on where that round fell and what was there and when we got there.”
I heard someone over the weekend say something along the lines of “you want to draft guys in the rounds where they’re targeted to go,” meaning you want to understand the value of these players.
The 49ers were likely in on a wide receiver or an edge rusher, but the value never aligned with where they were picking. That explains a trade back in the second round. It also explains why the team traded up for Trey Sermon.
Lynch continued off Shanahan’s point:
Yeah, and I think indicative of that, [OL] Jaylon Moore, our first pick in the fifth, our intention wasn’t to take a guard. It was that he really was the guy that we had the highest grade on and we don’t just purely go by grades. We go by how people feel in that room and how convicted we all are. We felt great conviction there, so I think at this point we weren’t married to certain positions in some cases.
Yeah, you have a need, you’ve got to try to fill it, but we just kind of, I think Jaylon, [RB] Elijah [Mitchell] probably fit into that category where they were the best players right there at that point. When you can do both, which I think we did with [CB Deommodore] Lenoir and [S Talanoa] Hufanga, then it really lines up.”
The 49ers' draft was defined by the best player available.
Everyone wants their team to draft the best player available until it’s at a position that they don’t believe is a need.