We are heading into Year 2 of the 2021 draft class, and there are still just as many questions about who the 49ers selected as there were last May as there is today. And those questions aren't limited to Trey Lance, either.
Lance, Aaron Banks, and Trey Sermon each played sparingly. It wasn’t until late in the year when Ambry Thomas was inserted into the starting lineup. Save Elijah Mitchell, and the Niners didn’t get more than a half five starts from either rookie.
Expectations for rookies are no longer realistic. How the season went for Thomas should be considered the norm. They sit on the sideline and learn the ropes behind the scenes and play as a last resort.
The top players like Nick Bosa or Dallas’s Micah Parsons from last year have clouded our judgment on what a rookie is supposed to look like. Those players are anomalies.
Hindsight is 20/20, and you can make arguments for the 49ers taking other players at each pick, but we have so little information that the 2021 draft class has an incomplete for at least another year. We need to see Lance, Banks, Moore, and even Sermon full-time before making any concrete judments — although, based on San Francisco’s 2022 draft, they may have told us how Sermon’s development went in Year 1.
PFF went through each team and re-graded their 2021 NFL Draft. Technically, the 49ers got worse, going from a B to a C+.
R1 (3): QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
R3 (102): CB Ambry Thomas, Michigan
R5 (155): OT Jaylon Moore, Western Michigan
R5 (172): CB Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon
R5 (180): S Talanoa Hufanga, USC
R6 (194): RB Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
Initial Draft Grade: B
1-year Re-Grade: C+
With Trey Lance still embroiled in a quarterback … something … with Jimmy Garoppolo, this draft is looking shakier now than it did at the time. It doesn’t help that both Aaron Banks and Trey Sermon couldn’t see the field at lesser value positions despite every opportunity to do so.
Here’s a hypothetical for you: If Ty Davis-Price ends out outperforming Elijah Mitchell this season, would Mitchell be viewed as a waste of a pick? He was the leading rusher last year, but we’ve seen how many different rushers there are from year-to-year in a Kyle Shanahan offense.
Mitchell has already exceeded expectations based on his rookie year alone. If Hufanga and Thomas produce as special-teamers, you wouldn’t be disappointed with those picks either.
A part of me thinks Deommodore Lenoir is a sneaky cut candidate before the season. Charvarius Ward, Emmanuel Moseley, Jason Verrett, Samuel Womack, Tariq Castro-Fields, Dontae Johnson. The team is likely to keep five cornerbacks. Where does Lenoir fit in?