Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports



As the 2017 NFL Draft approaches, no one really knows what to expect from the San Francisco 49ers new regime. General manager John Lynch has no track record to look at when considering past tendencies, and with Kyle Shanahan being a first-time head coach, all bets are off. Still, there are some facts and trends to look at as we move forward, and it's interesting to see how they may or may not play into this year's selections.

Did you know that the only running back the 49ers have signed past 2017 is Mike Davis?

Carlos Hyde, Tim Hightower, DuJuan Harris and Raheem Mostert will all be free agents after the upcoming season, leaving Davis as the only ball carrier who could still have a contract heading into 2018. Considering Davis isn't even a lock to make the team, the long-term backfield situation is cloudy at best. In all honesty, it's hard to imagine Hightower, Harris, Mostert or Davis having much of a future in San Francisco anyway, but Hyde is a different story. The former Ohio State Buckeye has all the talent in the world, but it remains to be seen if he can finally put it together.

In three NFL seasons, Hyde's missed 14 games and only managed 1,791 yards. He remains a bit of an enigma because he shows flashes of brilliance, but hasn't been consistent. For example, from Weeks 11-15 last season, Hyde was dominant, gaining 507 yards on 82 carries. He ran fast, hard and decisive, and was productive despite the fact that the Niners managed more than 177 total passing yards only once during that stretch. While that run was impressive, you have to wonder if it was just a hot streak, since Hyde had failed to eclipse 3.8 yards per carry in 14-of-20 games before then.

While Shanahan has a history of getting the best out of his backs, all of the uncertainty moving forward makes it a lock that San Francisco will pull the trigger on a runner at some point in the draft. The only question is when. Do they trade back and make a play for LSU's Leonard Fournette or Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, or wait until later to address the need? In a deep draft for backs, it might make more sense to wait and take someone like Alvin Kamara of Tennessee or Toledo's Kareem Hunt later on, as good ball carriers can be found at any point.

Did you know that three of the last eight first- and second-round draft picks made by the 49ers have been safeties?

While there were many frustrating things about former general manager Trent Baalke, one of the most infuriating had to be the fact that he tended to draft the same position over and over. Safety is a good example of this, as the Niners took Eric Reid (first-round), Jimmie Ward (first-round) and Jaquiski Tartt (second-round) in consecutive years from 2013-2015. Now you may be thinking that Ward's a corner, but he was a safety coming out of college. Despite the fact that the team has put so many of its resources into the safety position recently, it actually finds itself needing one to be the centerfielder in new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's 4-3 system.

Some mock drafts have the 49ers selecting either Ohio State's Malik Hooker or LSU's Jamal Adams with the second overall selection, and while both safeties would fill that need, could the team really take yet another one? You could make the argument that the regime can't worry about what its predecessors did (and you'd be right), but you have to wonder if San Francisco would be better off going in a different direction. There will be other options later in the draft, and there's always the wild card that is Jimmie Ward. It seems as if the 49ers are going to move Ward back to his natural position of safety, and it's possible they view him as an answer. If that's the case, all of this talk about needing a free safety could be a moot point.

Did you know the quarterbacks drafted by the 49ers this century are Giovanni Carmazzi, Tim Rattay, Brandon Doman, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett, Alex Smith, Nate Davis, Colin Kaepernick, B.J. Daniels and Jeff Driskel?

When you look at that list, it's easy to see why San Francisco hasn't had anyone break 3,500 yards passing or 21 touchdown passes since 2001. Smith is a good player, but hardly prolific, and it took time for the light to come on. Keep in mind he was also the first overall pick, and hasn't come close to living up to those expectations. Kaepernick had some terrific moments, but it was short-lived and he declined quickly. Now, the franchise that was once the pinnacle of quarterback play is once again looking for answers. Despite the need behind center, I don't think the 49ers will jump for someone to fill the void in this draft.

Quarterbacks tend to get over-drafted because the position is so important, but teams often pay the price when they do so. Lynch and Shanahan won't fall into this trap, and will be content to wait until 2018 to find their franchise guy. Now, that's not to say they won't draft one at all, I think they still do. However, I believe they will look for a player in the middle rounds who could develop into a solid backup, as opposed to a high round pick who might project to be a starter. Think someone like Pittsburgh's Nathan Peterman in the fourth round.

Did you know that the 49ers have drafted 15 wide receivers since 2004, and they've combined for 47 touchdowns?

Let's dissect this even more. If you take Michael Crabtree out of this group, it drops to 21 touchdowns from 14 players. Want to forget about Joshua Morgan? Now we have 13 receivers drafted and 12 touchdown receptions. That's atrocious. Now I understand that the team hasn't had the best quarterback play, but it's not like any of the guys taken (sans Crabtree) have gone on to other teams and had much success.

San Francisco has added a lot of pieces to the receiving corps this offseason, bringing in the likes of Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson and re-singing Jeremy Kerley, but they still lack that true top target. While number two overall is too high for any pass catchers this year, don't be surprised if the Niners try and snag a wide out in the second or third round. Someone like Corey Davis of Western Michigan or East Carolina's Zay Jones could be on the radar as early as the second round.

Al Sacco has been covering the 49ers since 2013 and has had his work used by national outlets such as ESPN and USA TODAY. In addition to his writing duties, Al is also the co-host of the No Huddle podcast presented by 49ers Webzone. If you'd like to reach Al with a media request, please contact him via Twitter @AlSacco49