The 49ers are an easy team to figure out. Like most teams, they hit and miss on their draft picks and in free agency. But, unlike most teams, they develop homegrown talent, especially on Day 3, and get starter production out of those players.
As a fan, it’s natural to remember the “busts” or picks and signings that didn’t work out. It’s easy to ignore how trades where you get a handful of years of starting snaps from Laken Tomlinson or back-to-back years where your starting right guard was plucked from the AAF.
Patrick Doughtery of NBC Sports ranks general managers annually ahead of the start of the regular season. In 2020, 49ers general manager John Lynch was ranked No. 6. Last year, he dipped to No. 11. This year, Lynch is back up to No. 5 after another NFC Championship appearance:
The 49ers have reached the NFC Championship Game two times in three years. So how has Kyle Shanahan tied himself up in impossible knots at the most important position? Therein lies the Shanny conundrum. Three parts brilliance and one part bafflement. This loaded group was only a quarterback away from reaching the Super Bowl last season. They audaciously traded up to draft said quarterback. Then he didn’t play. There is Shanahan, in the middle of a title window, making what amounted to a luxury pick. There will be no luxury when it comes to Trey Lance in 2022. He has to play, whether Shanny is ready or not. It will be the most fascinating test yet of Shanahan’s football principles. Has he found the man to unlock every contour of his system? Or has an executive known for making aggressive trade ups only to quickly lose interest — Dante Pettis, Trey Sermon etc. — finally made a mistake he can’t scheme around? Whatever the answer is, the rest of this excellent 53-man roster is ready.
I wouldn’t close the book on Sermon yet. It’s difficult to blame the regime for taking a flyer on Pettis in the second round. He was one of the most decorated punt returners in college football history. Pettis seemed like the ideal fit in an offense designed for playmakers with the ball in their hands to excel. And while he only started seven games as a rookie, you can’t fake five touchdowns and the big plays Pettis had.
From Dee Ford to Jerick McKinnon, there’s an easy argument for each perceived “dud.”
This ranking is a better indicator of the strength of the 49ers roster compared to where PFF had the Niners — in the low teens. I’m not going to praise Lynch for selecting Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel. He better be good for what the team gave up for Trey Lance.
When you have multiple All-Pros on the roster who you drafted/acquired with a third-round pick or better, you deserve your flowers. The team got a full season out of Jason Verrett, who was one of the best cornerbacks in the league for pennies. Linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair are the best examples for finding gems later in the draft.
When you look at the talent amassed on the roster and compare it across the league, I get why Lynch is ranked highly.