The 49ers have nine picks in the 2022 draft, but most crucial will be the three they are currently slated to make at 61, 93, and 105. The top 100 or so picks in any draft will always have an added significance due to the number of impact players that tend to fall within that range.
So what kind of value is it realistic to expect with the 49ers' picks in the second and third rounds? To help assist with this question, I took a look back at the last five drafts and broke down how the picks in that range have panned out.
I’ll lay out what positions have been selected the most frequently in that span and which positions have produced the most high-end talent on day two since 2017.
All the data I will be using is compiled from picks 50-105 from every draft between 2017-2021. I chose pick 50 as the baseline because I think the possibility of the 49ers trading up from 61 is certainly within the range of outcomes. I wanted to have a data point that properly reflected them being within striking distance of picking in that range.
Let’s start with the position group that has been selected the most often. Of the 280 selections made on day two since 2017, 44 have been offensive lineman. Of course, football games are won and lost in the trenches, so it should come as no surprise that this is the area that teams have regularly swung on when selecting in the back end of the top 100.
Addressing the offensive line is in play for the 49ers at any of those three picks between 61 and 105, as there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty beyond this season at every position on the line minus left tackle.
Alex Mack probably hangs it up after next season, and Dan Brunskill is likely to generate a sizable pay raise if he plays as well in 2022 as he did last season. Mike McGlinchey is a more than appealing option when healthy, but nobody knows how or when he will return to form following a devastating leg injury during the 2021 season.
With all of those unknowns at play, I think it’s more likely that the 49ers will use one of their first three picks to address at least one offensive line position. Some very intriguing interior offensive prospects should be within reach with those three picks and, depending on how the board falls, perhaps a high ceiling tackle like Abraham Lucas.
The second-highest amount of selections came at the wide receiver position. Of the 280 picks made, 38 were wide receivers. Among the notable wide receivers selected in that span is Cooper Kupp, D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, Chris Godwin, A.J. Brown, and Diontae Johnson.
This is the position on day two where the high-end return has truly outshined all others. There have been 22 pro bowlers who were drafted between picks 50 and 105 since 2017. Ten of them were wide receivers. The next closest position group was the offensive line, which has four.
If we are talking star power, It’s not even close. The wide receiver position has been by far the best bet for any team searching for a pro-bowl-level talent in this range during the last few drafts. While the receiver isn’t as pressing of a need as some other spots are for the 49ers, it’s hard to ignore the hit rate on true difference-maker type players from the position in recent memory.
Based on how their roster looks at the moment, I don’t think the 49ers will sink significant capital into a receiver in this draft, but it would be wise to make sure they aren’t missing out on yet another wave of game-changing players at the position who come off the board in day two.
Coming in third was the edge position. This one is particularly interesting because there have been 36 players selected at that position in that range during this timeframe, but only one has turned into a pro bowler at the NFL level. I do think that Azeez Ojulari, who was the 50th pick last year, has the potential to be that kind of player one day, but the objective accolades are not there yet.
There have been quality starters like Sam Hubbard taken in this area, but the only player to truly ascend to that high-end level as an edge player has been Trey Hendrickson, who, funny enough, is teammates with Hubbard in Cincinnati.
This doesn’t come as too much of a surprise when you go through and look at who the top-end edge rushers are in the league and where they were selected in the draft. Save for a few exceptions, the majority of these players were taken near the top of the draft in the first round.
This is important to remember coming into this draft, as the 49ers have shown they are not shy about spending their first selection in a draft on a defensive lineman. While every draft is different, it is hard to ignore the results in recent seasons league-wide from edge players taken between 50-and-105.
I do like a lot of the edge players in this class, and I think a handful who absolutely could be on the board at 61 has the potential to be viable starters in this league. That is the distinction that has to be clear entering this draft; however, if the 49ers do decide to go edge at 61, the expectation should not be that it will be a high-end pass rusher.
If it happens to work out that way, fantastic. But based on the historical precedent set in recent years, a much more realistic outcome for the 49ers is to grab a player who maxes out as a dependable starter on the defensive line.
It’s important to remember that finding someone who can provide consistent output as a secondary option on the defensive line would be a net win here. For the most part, there just aren’t game-wrecking players at the position who are available at this point in the draft.
Next in line was the cornerback position, with 34 players selected in that range since 2017. When discussing the 49ers, their track record would lead you to believe they aren’t particularly fond of spending their top 100 picks at the position.
Since Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took over, they have only spent two picks in the top 105 on cornerbacks. However, one of those was last season when they selected Ambry Thomas at 102, so perhaps there has been a change in philosophy there.
There have been two pro bowlers at the cornerback position selected in that range since 2017, including Trevon Diggs, who led the NFL in interceptions in 2021.
On the other side of the spectrum, the position group that was taken the least often was quarterbacks. There have only been 10 selected in that range during that span, with none being major difference makers outside of the lone current starter in Jalen Hurts.
The 49ers took C.J. Beathard in that range in 2017, but it’s safe to say they won’t be anywhere close to selecting a quarterback that early in this draft. Maybe in the future to develop a strong backup for Trey Lance, but as of now, it’s not on the table.
Tight end was the second-fewest with 18 picks, and there wasn’t much of a track record of standout players there either. Mark Andrews is the lone pro bowler from the position taken in that range during that time frame. Pat Friermuth had a strong rookie season in 2021 and could certainly reach that threshold one day based on the ability he showed this past season.
I do think the 49ers could stand to improve the position, but unless a player like Trey McBride falls to them or is in range for a trade-up, I just don’t see it happening.
To summarize, in the last five drafts, less than 8% of the players selected between 50 and 105 have been selected to a pro bowl. The odds of landing a franchise-altering player in this range are slim but not impossible.
The 49ers themselves have found a star player of their own in this range during this span. All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner is the only player at his position taken in this range during this timeframe to be named to a Pro Bowl and was an absolute steal when the 49ers selected him at number 70 overall in the 2018 draft.
Among the names already mentioned who were selected in this range, there were also included the likes of Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Orlando Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and a pair of pro bowl guards in Dion Dawkins and Jonah Jackson.
So while those truly game-changing players do exist on day two, the 49ers are much more likely to end up with players whose ceiling might not ever come close to that. And that’s okay because given how talented the top of the roster is currently, the 49ers aren’t in dire need of landing blue-chip talent.
They simply need to find players who are capable of playing at a consistent level in the NFL while making winning contributions to a team that is already loaded with talent. If they come away with a player or two from this range that ultimately develops into a starter for the team, it’s objectively a success for the front office.
Here is the full breakdown of the number of players at each position who were taken between picks 50 and 105 since 2017, sorted out by the years they were drafted. I’ll also include the pro bowl players.
Edge: 7 - Pro Bowler (1) - Trey Hendrickson, pick 103
Defensive Interior : 3
Cornerback: 8 - Pro Bowler (1) - Shaquill Griffin, pick 90
Offensive line: 12 - Pro Bowler (1) - Dion Dawkins, pick 63
Wide Receiver: 8 - Pro Bowlers (4) - JuJu Smith-Schuster - pick 62, Cooper Kupp - pick 69, Chris Godwin - pick 84, Kenny Golladay - pick 96
Running Back: 4 - Pro Bowlers (3) - Alvin Kamara - pick 67, Kareem Hunt - pick 86, James Connor - pick 105
Tight End: 4
Quarterback : 3
Defensive Interior: 6
Linebacker: 7 - Pro Bowler (1) - Fred Warner, pick 70
Offensive Line: 8 - Pro Bowlers (2) - Brian O’Neill - pick 62, Orlando Brown - pick 83
Wide Receiver: 4 - Pro Bowler (1) - D.J. Chark - pick 61
Running Back: 8
Tight End: 4 - Pro Bowler (1) - Mark Andrews - pick 86
Defensive Interior : 3
Offensive Line: 8
Wide Receiver: 11 - Pro Bowlers (4) - A.J. Brown - pick 51, Mecole Hardman - pick 56, D.K. Metcalf - pick 64, Diontae Johnson - pick 66
Running Back: 6
Tight End: 6
Defensive Interior: 7
Cornerback : 7 - Pro Bowler (1) - Trevon Diggs - pick 51
Offensive Line: 10 - Pro Bowler (1) - Jonah Jackson - pick 75
Wide Receiver: 7 - Pro Bowler (1) - Devin Duvernay - pick 92
Running Back : 3
Tight End : 3
Defensive Interior: 5
Offensive Line: 6
Wide Receiver: 8
Running Back: 4
Tight End: 1
Quarterback : 3