Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers


2021 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper, other experts hand out 49ers draft grades

May 2, 2021 at 8:40 AM--


The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, which means it's time for the "experts" to hand out their annual grades of each team's new rookie class.

Below are the grades issued by some of the more well-known analysts and writers within the media and what they had to say about the San Francisco 49ers' newest crop of rookies. Included are quotes from each analyst's explanation for the awarded grade.

49ers Draft Picks


Round 1: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Round 2: Aaron Banks, G, Notre Dame
Round 3: Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
Round 3: Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
Round 5: Jaylon Moore, OT, Western Michigan
Round 5: Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
Round 5: Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC
Round 6: Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana

Mel Kiper, ESPN: B-


Mel Kiper picks steals, sleepers and favorite 2021 classes from all 32 teams

Interestingly, the 49ers earned the same draft grade as the one resulting from last year's class. Kiper has already stated that he felt the Niners reached for many of their earlier picks, and the Trey Lance selection over Mac Jones was a nice surprise for him. Of course, having surrendered future first-round picks, a lot is riding on the selection. Kiper feels for the selection to be a success, Lance will need to play early, which may not happen with Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster.

"I wasn't high on the 49ers' Day 2 haul, as Aaron Banks (48), Trey Sermon(88) and Ambry Thomas (102) all were reaches on my board. I watched all of Banks' snaps at Notre Dame, and I'm not sure if he is a definite rookie starter. Sermon is a patient runner without top-tier suddenness, and I was surprised he went here and this high based on Shanahan's past getting production out of undrafted backs. Talanoa Hufanga (180) doesn't have great measurables, but he could find a role on the defense. Running back Elijah Mitchell (194) ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at his pro day."

Conor Orr, Sports Illustrated: A-


NFL Draft 2021 Grades: Analyzing Every Team's Picks

At least they are consistent. Again, the same grade as last year from Sports Illustrated, but this time from Conor Orr. The writer notes that San Francisco invested heavily in the offensive line while adding other key components at running back and in the defensive backfield.

"Trey Lance should scare the pants off the rest of the NFL. Kyle Shanahan has had great mobile quarterbacks and great pocket passers, but never this combination of size and speed. In the past he's admitted as much; rarely has he had the opportunity to force defenses into treating the quarterback as a rusher. Lance is powerful and athletic and could revolutionize a system that is already taking the NFL by storm."

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: B+


2021 NFL Draft: Final quick-snap grades for all 32 teams

Checks story to make sure I'm not looking at all of last year's grades

Reuter gave last year's 49ers draft class a B+, which was the grade again with this year's crop. Broken down by day, though, San Francisco earned an A for the selection of Lance, a B for Day 2, and a B+ for Day 3.

"Lance is an outstanding talent albeit with a limited résumé. I can't wait to see how good he becomes. Banks will help form a wall in front of Lance, Sermon is a worthy third-round value at running back and Thomas has potential to stick in the secondary."

Like Kiper, Reuter felt the selections of Banks and Thomas might have been a bit of a reach. He notes that Moore impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl while still looking like a raw prospect, at times.

He added...

"Lenoir will compete with Thomas for playing time as a rookie, and Hufanga could be a very good nickel safety in the future. Picking Mitchell in the sixth as a returner and backup ballcarrier was solid."

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: A-


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Another year, another A- grade from the Sporting News. Iyer ranked his grades from best to worst. Last year, San Francisco came in at No. 11 on his list. This year, the team earned the sixth-highest ranking.

"Much of this grade is tied to the smart aggressive trade up for Lance's unlimited upside in Kyle Shanahan's offense as a big-time passer and runner with high football intelligence. Banks and Moore boost their interior blocking, while John Lynch found excellent safety values for the future in Thomas and Hufanaga. Sermon and Mitchell reload Shanahan's always productive zone rushing attack with more big-play elements."

Nate Davis, USA Today: B


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Finally, a grade that differs from last year's from the same media outlet. Although, it was a slight drop from last year's B+ mark. Davis likes the aggressive move to trade up for Lance, which he feels was a much better decision than Mac Jones, whom many felt would be the pick at No. 3 overall.

"Lance's physical skills and intangibles are off the charts – but it all has to translate from the FCS level at a time when he's been limited to one game in 16 months due to circumstances outside his control. Third-round RB Trey Sermon could be one of this draft's heists."

Pro Football Focus: B


2021 NFL Draft grades for all 32 teams

Pro Football Focus notes that Lance posted a 90.7 Pro Football Focus grade in 2019, his only full collegiate season, and didn't throw an interception in 288 pass attempts that year. He'll provide San Francisco with a live arm and explosive running ability.

Pro Football Focus was a bit surprised to see Banks selected in the second round, noting his solid 2020 campaign with Notre Dame but cautioning due to his "physical and athletic limitation."

"Sermon could very well end up being the best running back in this class. He doesn't possess elite speed, but he breaks tackles and has tremendous contact balance. Still, trading up for a running back isn't going to be a great value pick. He needs to lower his shoulder pads a bit more on contact, and even though he doesn't have long speed, he does have great agility and elusiveness."

The analytics site feels Thomas' size and college scheme will allow for a smooth transition to the NFL.

"He's fast and plays physically but still isn't that strong. The problem with Thomas is that we don't know much about him. He was a former four-star prospect but didn't play in 2020, so he only has the 672 snaps from 2019 and the 104 snaps from 2018 under his belt. He's a big unknown."

Pro Football Focus also noted Mitchell's speed and home-run potential carrying the football. Although, the 49ers now have a crowded group of running backs.

Luke Easterling, Draft Wire: B


2021 NFL draft: Instant grades for every team

Easterling would have selected Justin Fields at No. 3 overall but definitely liked Lance over Jones.

"They flooded their need areas at corner, running back and interior offensive line with multiple picks each, but the first one was a bit of a reach (Aaron Banks). Talanoa Hufanga is a sleeper of a Day 3 pick at safety, and there's plenty to like about the depth and upside they added on both sides of the ball here."

Danny Kelly, The Ringer: A


The Ringer's 2021 NFL Draft Team Grades

While the selection of Lance makes more sense than Jones, Kelly notes there is still risk with the pick due to the former Bison quarterback's inexperience and lack of top-level competition.

"While he may need time to adapt to the speed of the NFL, he offers huge upside in both the passing and running games. By subsequently picking Banks, Sermon, Moore, and Mitchell, San Francisco furthered its clear commitment to the ground-and-pound lifestyle. I like what the Niners did."


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