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Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

6 biggest 49ers draft mistakes of the Shanahan and Lynch era

Rohan Chakravarthi
Mar 21, 2023 at 11:00 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers have been known as a team that has built throughout the draft in the Kyle Shanahan era, which has led to seasoned success throughout the head coach's tenure, with the organization reaching the NFC Championship Game three times over the past four seasons.

However, among the several draft hits that have propelled their roster to one of the league's best, there have been several mistakes that set the organization back at the time.

With the NFL Draft approaching next month, and the 49ers having another integral draft for their future success, let's revisit the five biggest draft mistakes of the Shanahan-Lynch era thus far.

Honorable Mention: Trey Lance

It feels absolutely unfair to place Trey Lance on this list at the moment. The third-year quarterback has seen an uncharacteristic path to the beginning of his career, suffering a number of injuries, which have led him to play in essentially 15 quarters of action thus far.

Lance absolutely has the chance to revitalize his career, which is why he's only an honorable mention, as he's currently projected to be the Week 1 starter for the 49ers at the most important position in football with Brock Purdy rehabbing through a torn UCL.

With a good enough season, given the 49ers' roster, Lance could put the 49ers back in the Super Bowl, and oddsmakers are in his favor, as the North Dakota State product is currently second in odds for Comeback Player of the Year, while San Francisco has the second-best Super Bowl odds in 2023, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

However, given the current circumstances, Lance falls on the list at the moment, given the limited play and the significant amount that the 49ers gave up to select him at No. 3 overall in 2021.

6. Trey Sermon

The 49ers spent a third-round pick on Trey Sermon in 2021, with him seeming like a good fit for the zone-read offense that San Francisco was expected to run when Lance became the starting quarterback.

However, at a time when the 49ers were contending, Sermon struggled to adjust in his first offseason, leading him to see just 41 carries in his rookie season, with fellow rookie Elijah Mitchell beating him out in training camp en route to being the starter after Raheem Mostert went down in Week 1 of the 2021 season.

The 2022 offseason was crucial for Sermon, who didn't fail due to a lack of opportunities, as the former third-round pick saw first-team carries at times with Trey Lance when Mitchell was out due to an injury at training camp.

But, Sermon couldn't capitalize once again, as undrafted rookie Jordan Mason beat him out for the final spot, causing the 49ers to cut ties with their third-round pick one offseason later.

5. Javon Kinlaw

Javon Kinlaw is another unfortunate case for the 49ers, as the defensive tackle has struggled to remain healthy in his NFL career, which was a red flag heading into the draft.

Kinlaw has consistently faced knee injuries in the NFL, which have limited each of his first three seasons in the league, since being drafted with the No. 14 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Similar to Lance, the defensive tackle has showcased potential when on the field, displaying good explosiveness and agility for a player of his stature, but the failure to remain on the field, in addition to the pre-draft injury concerns, land him on the list after the 49ers traded star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to earn the pick that was eventually used to select Kinlaw.

4. Jalen Hurd/Joe Williams

Jalen Hurd was one of the most-hyped prospects of the Shanahan-Lynch era, as the former third-round pick was a running back-turned-wide-receiver with the positional versatility that we've seen the 49ers' head coach utilize uniquely.

However, after selecting Hurd right above Ohio State standout Terry McLaurin, the 49ers never saw their third-round pick suit up in a regular season game, as the Baylor product could never stay healthy, despite the team sticking with him for three full offseasons.

In his lone preseason action, Hurd flashed, but the explosiveness and raw speed that made him an intriguing prospect didn't seem to be there in his final offseason with the 49ers, making sense as to why the team eventually cut their losses.

Similarly to Hurd, Joe Williams was a player who never saw a regular-season snap for the 49ers, as the fourth-round pick suffered a foot injury that cost him his entire rookie year before being waived the following offseason.

3. Dante Pettis

The 49ers had high hopes for wideout Dante Pettis when they selected the Washington product in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, who never panned out for the team, despite earning ample playing time.

Pettis had a solid finish to his rookie season, but came into the offseason program out of shape in 2019, which led to him becoming a non-factor on San Francisco's Super Bowl team as receivers like Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne emerged.

Then, in a crucial offseason the following year, Pettis disappointed, once again, which led to the team releasing him and the Giants picking him up on waivers during the 2020 season, where he failed to flash with opportunities once again.

Given the high capital used to select Pettis and the timeline of the pick, as the 49ers were building their roster for a playoff push in the future, the former second-round pick lands at No. 3 on the list.

2. Solomon Thomas

Solomon Thomas was the first selection in the Shanahan-Lynch era, with the Stanford product landing in the Bay Area after the 49ers traded one spot down with the Chicago Bears before making the pick.

Given his high draft status, Thomas was given immediate playing time, serving as a starting defensive end for the 49ers, but had very minimal production in his four years with the team, garnering just six total sacks during the time, while his snap count dwindled every season.

Thomas's pick is even more highlighted when considering the strength of his draft class, as star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were both available, with the 49ers desperately needing a long-term solution at the position.

Instead, the 49ers pivoted and selected Thomas, who has found a nice spot with the New York Jets following his disappointing tenure with the 49ers.

1. Reuben Foster

Coincidentally, the worst pick of the Shanahan-Lynch era came in the following pick of the 2017 NFL Draft: Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.

Foster was a very solid player during his collegiate career, hence why the consensus was that the Alabama product was a top linebacker in his class.

However, Foster had his fair share of issues leading up to the draft, as he suffered a torn rotator cuff and failed a drug test at the NFL Combine, but the 49ers still looked to draft the linebacker, trading back into the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft to do so.

Foster's issues continued when he entered the league, as he was arrested in January 2018 for possession of marijuana, in February 2018 on suspicion of domestic violence, threats, and assault weapon possession charges before being charged in April, although all charges were dropped.

Still, Foster continued to have legal issues, as he was arrested in November 2018 on probable cause misdemeanor domestic violence charges, which led to his release by the 49ers just one year after spending a first-rounder on the linebacker.

As a player, Foster was certainly talented coming out of college, but the off-the-field concerns clearly had a major impact on the 49ers, who have been very wary of off-the-field issues since.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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