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The biggest 49ers draft steals in the Kyle Shanahan era

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jul 2, 2023 at 12:45 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers have gone the traditional route in building their team from the ground up, focusing on the NFL Draft to rebuild their team into a perennial contender over the past four seasons.

In doing so, the 49ers have not only found talent in the early rounds of the NFL Draft, but also identified and developed talent in the later rounds to create a well-rounded team fueled with stars at several positions.

Who are the biggest draft steals in the Kyle Shanahan era for the 49ers?

ESPN's Matt Miller and Jordan Reid recently ranked the 50 biggest steals of the past decade, with several 49ers making the cut, albeit all during the Shanahan era.

TE George Kittle

Kittle has arguably been the biggest draft steal for the 49ers in the Shanahan era, as the team selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, developing the Iowa product into an All-Pro level tight end.

ESPN ranked him at No. 8 on the list, placing him behind stars like Travis Kelce(No. 63 in 2013), Tyreek Hill(No. 165 in 2016), Davante Adams(No. 53 in 2014), Cooper Kupp(No. 69 in 2017), Derrick Henry(No. 45 in 2016), Dak Prescott(No. 135 in 2016), and Stefon Diggs(No. 146 in 2015).

Here's what Jordan Reid had to say about Kittle's ranking on the list.

"Kittle is one of the best fifth-round picks and most versatile tight ends in NFL history. He was primarily known as a blocker coming out of Iowa. There wasn't much of a receiving sample size, yet it only took him two seasons to establish himself as a premiere offensive talent; he broke out for 88 catches, 1,377 receiving yards and 5 TDs in 2018. A staple of the Kyle Shanahan offensive attack, Kittle is not only a overwhelming presence in the run game but also the type of pass-catcher who can line up anywhere prior to the snap."

LB Fred Warner

Warner comes in at No. 9 on the list, ranking just one place behind George Kittle, and the logic is reasonable, given the tight end's fifth-round status compared to the linebacker's third-round draft round.

Regardless, Warner is one of the best picks of the Shanahan era, as the 49ers developed a third-rounder into arguably the best inside linebacker in the NFL, who has a unique set of skills that make him an indispensable asset.

Drafted at No. 70 in his class, Warner was the ninth linebacker to be selected in 2018, developing into a perennial Pro-Bowler and a two-time first-team All-Pro player.

WR Deebo Samuel

Deebo Samuel is the third and final 49er to crack the Top 50 draft steals of the past decade, joining in at No. 14 on the list.

Drafted at No. 36 in the 2019 NFL Draft, Samuel was a fairly high selection for the 49ers, but has arguably turned into a draft steal after the production he's given over his first few seasons in the NFL, including a 77-catch, 1,405-yard year in 2021 en route to a hefty extension.

After a sub-optimal 2022 season to his standards, Samuel will look to bounce back in a crucial 2023 season alongside the plethora of weapons that San Francisco has as the team searches for its first championship of the century.

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