Following the 2017 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers class received high marks, which was mostly due to general manager John Lynch and company being able to deal picks and still get defensive end Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster in the first round. However, few envisioned how much the rest of the draft class would contribute throughout the season.

Brian Murphy, a long-time journalist who has spent time with media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, ESPN, and the San Francisco Chronicle, has been a radio mainstay as a KNBR broadcaster since 2004. His opinions on the 49ers and other Bay Area teams can be heard each weekday morning on the station.

We had an opportunity to speak with Murphy, who is one-half of the "Murph & Mac" morning show. He shared his thoughts on the 49ers' most recent draft class and how it performed during the 2017 season.

"I know opportunity created a lot of those guys starting just because of injuries and a lack of depth," Murphy told Al Sacco and Zain Naqvi of the 49ers Webzone "No Huddle" podcast. "But a lot of those guys played pretty darn well."



With the 2017 season in the books, the 49ers got six starters from their 10 selections. Seven if you include quarterback C.J. Beathard, who started five games for San Francisco this past season. Other than Thomas and Foster, the list consists of cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, tight end George Kittle, wide receiver Trent Taylor, and safety Adrian Colbert.

We asked Murphy if he believed those players would be able to hold onto their roles in 2018 or if new competition will unseat them.

"Yes, they are going to bring in competition for these guys," Murphy responded. "And there will be guys who started this year -- I'm thinking like Adrian Colbert. I liked him. I did. And he came on, but you know they can upgrade there. They can unless Colbert takes the challenge and uses that speed and his smarts and keeps playing. But I would imagine he will face a challenge there."

That challenge may come from two former starters – Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward. Both players' seasons ended early due to injuries. The 49ers are not expected to make a big play to retain Eric Reid, who is scheduled to become a free agent.

Competition from Tartt and Ward could potentially push Colbert back down the depth chart. However, the seventh-round draft pick doesn't seem like the type to go down without a fight.

"Witherspoon's got a chance to stick but you know they're going to bring in corners," Murphy continued. "They have to. And if they bring in guys better than Witherspoon, he might have to take a seat. But, right now, he's got a chance to play.

"I think Trent Taylor might be a guy who still has his role next year. I think George Kittle might still have his role next year. We know Thomas will, so that's three guys right there. And then, obviously, Reuben Foster.

"So I'd say four of the six would have a real good chance to be back in their position next year. But man, that's what's exciting about the 49ers, actually ... What's exciting is that they have a lot of young talent that flashed and that you know they can get so much better through the draft and free agency. You're like, 'Man, they played this well down the stretch and they still have that many holes?'

"With a few shrewd pickups here and there, with another nice draft class, with some more growth from Solomon Thomas and Trent Taylor, and maybe Colbert, you're like, 'Man, I kind of like this squad.'"

While Lynch's first run at free agency was solid, the 2018 offseason could be even more intriguing. The 49ers were aggressive in their pursuit of free agents last year and could be again in March.

"I'm interested to see their strategy because they have that huge amount of cap room," Murphy told us. "Obviously, you're hoping that $25 million of it goes to Jimmy Garoppolo for the next six years, right? So we'll see what they do.

"They've left that cap room untouched for years, and that's been one of the criticisms. Like, 'Hey, you guys stink and you're not going and getting guys? What are you doing?'"

Murphy, like the rest of the Niner Faithful, is excited to see how the 49ers attack the offseason and work to improve the roster. Free agency kicks off on March 14 with the draft taking place April 26-28.

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