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Golden Nuggets: Talanoa Hufanga listed as one of the best late-round steals in the draft

Your daily San Francisco 49ers links for Monday, May 3, 2021

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 18 Pac-12 Championship Game - Oregon v USC Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nothing breeds excitement like the NFL Draft. Now, every fan base believes their team did enough to put them over the top this past weekend.

Several 49ers players called Kyle Shanahan to tell him they were alive Sunday

Other players on the team are alive, too.

Kyle Shanahan knows for certain because a group of them called the 49ers coach to let him know, Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports. It is unknown whether Garoppolo was one of those.

Shanahan, of course, tried to answer a question about whether Garoppolo would have a place on the roster after the draft. The 49ers used the third overall choice on North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, the heir apparent to Garoppolo.

Shanahan later admitted he “totally bombed” his answer.

“I can’t guarantee that anybody in the world will be alive Sunday, so I can’t guarantee who will be on our roster on Sunday. So, that goes for all of us,” Shanahan said Monday.

His cute answer elicited a hilarious response for many of his players, and Shanahan isn’t likely to live it down — pun intended — anytime soon.

What to Know About the 49ers’ 2021 Undrafted Free Agents

Austin Watkins, Wide Receiver, UAB

Watkins is six-foot-two, he weights 207 pounds, runs a 4.52 40-yard dash and specializes at making contested catches over the middle.

Which means he could become Kendrick Bourne’s replacement. Bourne was an undrafted free agent who made a role for himself on the team as the contested-catch receiver who made tough catches on third down and in the red zone. Bourne never was fast or a big threat with the ball, but he made incredibly difficult grabs look routine.

That’s what Watkins can do. In 2019, he caught 57 passes and gained 1092 receiving yards. Good numbers.

Bourne played in 11 games his rookie season and caught 16 passes. Let’s see if Watkins can have a similar ascension.

Talanoa Hufanga play style reminds 49ers of John Lynch as player

“We love your tape,” Shanahan said. “You’re one of our favorite players in this draft, the way you play — we love it. Our general manager, the way he played, he sees you in himself. We all want a dude who wants to come in here and hit people, so we’re pumped. We feel very fortunate to get you.”

“Love him at safety, hits like a linebacker,” Shanahan said. “His mentality — he’s an old school badass as we say. We’re excited to get him here.”

The 11 best late-round steals in the 2021 NFL Draft include picks by Patriots, 49ers, Steelers

49ers: Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC (fifth round, No. 180 overall)

The 49ers got cornerback/safety hybrid Ambry Thomas late on Day 2 as a backup and contingency plan for long-time first-round starter Jimmie Ward. They were smart to also think about the future of the position manned by Jaquiski Tartt, in essence strong safety. Hard-hitting safety turned GM John Lynch couldn’t ignore Hufanga this late. Hufanga flies upfield against the run and keeps getting better as a blitzer. He also has the effort, smarts and instincts to grow into an asset in coverage.

2021 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper, other experts hand out 49ers draft grades

Interestingly, the 49ers earned the same draft grade as the one resulting from last year’s class. Kiper has already stated that he felt the Niners reached for many of their earlier picks, and the Trey Lance selection over Mac Jones was a nice surprise for him. Of course, having surrendered future first-round picks, a lot is riding on the selection. Kiper feels for the selection to be a success, Lance will need to play early, which may not happen with Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster.

“I wasn’t high on the 49ers’ Day 2 haul, as Aaron Banks (48), Trey Sermon(88) and Ambry Thomas (102) all were reaches on my board. I watched all of Banks’ snaps at Notre Dame, and I’m not sure if he is a definite rookie starter. Sermon is a patient runner without top-tier suddenness, and I was surprised he went here and this high based on Shanahan’s past getting production out of undrafted backs. Talanoa Hufanga (180) doesn’t have great measurables, but he could find a role on the defense. Running back Elijah Mitchell (194) ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at his pro day.”