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Breaking down the 49ers drafts under John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan

Marc Adams
Apr 20, 2024 at 8:48 AM

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We are less than one week away from the NFL Draft, and the San Francisco 49ers have their first day-one draft pick since 2021. That was the year they selected QB Trey Lance number three overall. The trade-up to get Lance cost the 49ers their first-round picks in 2022 and 2023. And now that they are back in the first round, at pick 31, fans are anxious to see what the team does with the pick. And with former assistant GM, Adam Peters, now in Washington, it will be interesting to see how well the 49ers draft without Peters in the room.

We looked back at the seven drafts GM John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan have led to see what information we could pull from those drafts. There were plenty of hits, plenty of misses, and a few surprises along the way. The draft picks are listed at the bottom of the page, according to the player's draft round. That way we can easily see how the team did in each round.

Here are some quick observations from the current regime's draft history:

  • Other than George Kittle, 2017 was a disaster. D.J. Jones has been a good player, but he's mostly played for other teams. Solomon Thomas and Rueben Foster were first-round misses. Ahkello Witherspoon and C.J. Beathard haven't been terrible, but they shouldn't have been taken in the third round. Joe WIlliams should have never been drafted at all.
  • 2018 produced some starters in Mike McGlinchey, Fred Warner, and D.J. Reed, but Warner is the only player the 49ers drafted in 2018 who remains with the team. Dante Pettis was a waste of a pick.
  • 2019 produced the best class, headlined by Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, and Dre Greenlaw. And who could forget fans losing their minds over drafting a punter in round four? (Wait until they draft a kicker in the third round a few years later.)
  • 2020 was a sneaky good draft. Javon Kinlaw was mostly a disappointment, but there are some key players from that draft: Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, and Colton McKivitz.
  • 2021 was an interesting draft. On one hand, the 49ers had a major swing-and-miss with Lance. But they also hit on some players like Aaron Banks, Deommodore Lenoir, Talanoa Hufanga, and Elijah Mitchell. Ambry Thomas has mostly been underwhelming, but he's played in some big moments. Trey Sermon was a waste of a pick.
  • 2022 would have been another disaster of a year if not for Brock Purdy. Hitting on a franchise QB in the seventh round makes this draft class a good one, even though it's mostly made up of misses like Danny Gray and Ty Davis-Price. If Drake Jackson, Spencer Burford, and Samuel Womack can turn into something good, then this class could end up being one of the better classes.
  • It's still too early to know much about the 2023 class. They didn't play much because the roster was so good last season. This class could go either way, though. They could end up being an impressive class, or a very underwhelming class.
  • The first two drafts (2017 and 2018) were bad for the most part. But the two drafts produced two All-Pro players in Kittle and Warner.
  • The 2019 class may have saved the jobs of Lynch and Shanahan. That Jimmy Garoppolo knee injury in early 2018 may have been the best thing for the team. It landed them Bosa.
  • The fifth round has been the 49ers' best round for finding good players. Will that trend continue with Peters now in Washington?
  • The sixth round has had the most misses. For the most part, it has been one miss after another. That's to be expected for late rounds, but maybe the 49ers should just skip that round.
  • The third round has had the second most misses, but some young players could turn that around.
  • The second and fourth rounds have the fewest picks (four each). The third and sixth rounds have the most picks (12 each).

Starters picked by round:
  • Round 1: five
  • Round 2: two
  • Round 3: four
  • Round 4: two
  • Round 5: six
  • Round 6: one
  • Round 7: one

Which draft class had the most hits and misses?

  • 2017: Two hits (Kittle and Jones), eight misses. That's not great for your first draft.
  • 2018: Two hits (McGlinchey and Warner), seven misses. I counted McGlinchey as a hit because of the number of starts he made at right tackle. Reed could go either way. He's a nice player, but he wasn't with the 49ers very long.
  • 2019: Four hits (Bosa, Samuel, Wishnowski, and Greenlaw), four misses.
  • 2020: Two hits (Aiyuk and Jennings), three misses. Kinlaw is a miss because he missed so many games while in San Francisco. McKivitz could be a hit or a miss, considering he's the starting right tackle.
  • 2021: Four hits (Banks, Lenoir, Hufanga, and Mitchell), four misses.
  • 2022: One hit (Purdy), eight misses. This looks like the worst draft, but again, Jackson, Burford, and Womack could change that.
  • 2023: Too early to say.

Which draft class produced the most star players for the 49ers?

  • 2017: One (Kittle)
  • 2018: One (Warner)
  • 2019: Three (Bosa, Samuel, and Greenlaw). If punters can be stars, Wishnowski would give this class a fourth.
  • 2020: One (Aiyuk). As great as Jennings is, I'm not sure he would be considered a star player.
  • 2021: Zero. Hufanga and Lenoir are on the verge of becoming stars, but they're not quite there yet.
  • 2022: One (Purdy).

Which rounds have had the most hits?

  • Round 1: Three hits (McGlinchey, Bosa, and Aiyuk), four misses.
  • Round 2: Two hits (Samuel and Banks), two misses.
  • Round 3: One hit (Warner), eight misses, and three to be determined.
  • Round 4: One hit (Wishnowski), two misses, and one to be determined.
  • Round 5: Five hits (Kittle, Greenlaw, McKivitz, Lenoir, and Hufanga), three misses, and three to be determined. Reed was listed as a miss only because he wasn't with the team very long.
  • Round 6: Two hits (Jones and Mitchell), nine misses, and one to be determined. Charlie Woerner could be considered a hit since he was TE2 and was drafted so low.
  • Round 7: Two hits (Purdy and Jennings), three misses, and three to be determined.

Which rounds have produced the most star players?

  • Round 1: Two (Bosa, and Aiyuk)
  • Round 2: One (Samuel)
  • Round 3: One (Warner)
  • Round 4: Zero
  • Round 5: Two (Kittle and Greenlaw)
  • Round 6: Zero
  • Round 7: One (Purdy)

First Round

DT Solomon Thomas (2017)
LB Rueben Foster (2017)
OT Mike McGlinchey (2018)
DE Nick Bosa (2019)
DT Javon Kinlaw (2020)
WR Brandon Aiyuk (2020)
QB Trey Lance (2021)

Second Round

WR Dante Pettis (2018)
WR Deebo Samuel (2019)
G Aaron Banks (2021)
DE Drake Jackson (2022)

Third Round

CB Ahkello Witherspoon (2017)
QB C.J. Beathard (2017)
LB Fred Warner (2018)
CB Tarvarius Moore (2018)
WR Jalen Hurd (2019)
RB Trey Sermon (2021)
CB Ambry Thomas (2021)
RB Ty Davis-Price (2022)
WR Danny Gray (2022)
S Ji'Ayir Brown (2023)
K Jake Moody (2023)
TE Cameron Latu (2023)

Fourth Round

RB Joe Williams (2017)
DT Kentavius Street (2018)
P Mitch Wishnowski (2019)
G Spencer Burford (2022)

Fifth Round

TE George Kittle (2017)
WR Trent Taylor (2017)
CB D.J. Reed (2018)
LB Dre Greenlaw (2019)
OT Colton McKivitz (2020)
OT Jaylon Moore (2021)
CB Deommodore Lenoir (2021)
S Talanoa Hufanga (2021)
CB Samuel Womack (2022)
CB Darell Luter, Jr. (2023)
OLB Robert Beal, Jr. (2023)

Sixth Round

DT D.J. Jones (2017)
OLB Pita Taumoepenu (2017)
S Marcell Harris (2018)
TE Kaden Smith (2019)
OT Justin Skule (2019)
CB Tim Harris (2019)
TE Charlie Woerner (2020)
RB Elijah Mitchell (2021)
OL Nick Zakelj (2022)
DT Kalia Davis (2022)
CB Tariq Castro-Fields (2022)
LB Dee Winters (2023)

Seventh Round

S Adrian Colbert (2017)
DT Julian Taylor (2018)
WR Richie James (2018)
WR Jauan Jennings (2020)
QB Brock Purdy (2022)
TE Brayden Willis (2023)
WR Ronnie Bell (2023)
LB Jalen Graham (2023)

Which players drafted in 2024 will be the next 49ers' stars? And which ones will be misses? The road to learning this begins next week during the NFL Draft.
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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