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49ers in Five: Where is the top of the 2021 draft class?

Whether it’s injury or inactivity, the first four picks haven’t done much

Everything you need to know in five minutes

Ever since the implementation of the rookie wage scale in 2011, the draft has been the number one way for teams to invigorate their rosters with young, cheap labor. If you want to know why teams suddenly get good or bad, a quick glance at their draft classes will tell you pretty much all you need to know. So when it comes to the 49ers so far in 2021, what have we seen?

Take a look at the snap counts of the top three rounds of the 49ers’ most recent draft.

49ers Rookie Snap Counts

Round Player Week 1 Snaps Week 2 Snaps
Round Player Week 1 Snaps Week 2 Snaps
1 Trey Lance 4 0
2 Aaron Banks 0 0
3 Trey Sermon 0 1
3 Ambry Thomas 9 0

That’s a grand total of 14 snaps in two weeks by four players in the top half of April’s draft. As much as 49ers fans love to laugh at the Rams and Seahawks for not having any draft picks, it doesn’t much matter if the guys you take don’t see the field.

Luckily for San Francisco, later-round picks like Deommodore Lenoir and Elijah Mitchell have been able to fill big roles on the team early on in the season and redeem their fellow rookies, but the point is that it isn’t a binary situation. The top part of the draft has to produce basically nothing in order for the bottom part to succeed.

There’s still plenty of time to turn things around, but right now, almost all of the heavy lifting is being done by guys taken on the third day of the draft. If the 49ers are going to survive a regular season that’s now a game longer, they will need contributions from everyone drafted five months ago.

For more, including something Kyle Shanahan said yesterday about Trey Lance that raised a huge red flag in my book, take five minutes and listen to today’s 49ers in Five Podcast.