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49ers draft eight players: Rapid reactions

Marc Adams
Apr 28, 2024 at 9:00 AM

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The San Francisco 49ers have completed their 2024 draft. They were able to fill some holes and grab some players who have a chance to make an impact. And there appeared to be a theme throughout the draft.

The 49ers selected players who have played a lot of college football, so some of them should be ready to go sooner rather than later. They also went after guys who have stayed on the field, meaning they seem to be staying away from players with injury histories. It's hard to blame them for that.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the 49ers draft is that they didn't take a defensive lineman. I thought they would draft a run-stuffing defensive tackle, and also an edge rusher. But they didn't.

Here are my rapid reactions—my quick observations regarding each draft pick. I'm also including whether or not the player is likely to make an impact as a rookie.

Ricky Pearsall, WR, Florida

I like this pick, especially considering wide receiver will be a need for the 49ers in 2025.

  • Slot receiver who can play all over the field, and can take an end-around like the 49ers occasionally do.
  • Tough
  • Football junkie
  • Great work ethic. Pearsall told GM John Lynch, "You're getting a work-horse."
  • Great route runner
  • Good speed
  • Great short area quickness. Pearsall ran an impressive 1.49 10-yard split. He also had the quickest 3-cone time among wide receivers at 6.64. If he's in the slot, he's going to find open spots. QB Brock Purdy will love him.
  • Smart
  • Sneaky athletic
  • Good blocker
  • Excellent fit for Kyle Shanahan's offense.
  • The biggest question is if he'll be able to get off the line of scrimmage against press coverage.

Can he impact the team as a rookie? Yes, I believe Pearsall can, as another receiving option and perhaps as a punt returner.

Renardo Green, CB, Florida State

The 49ers need help at corner. Some say this was a reach, taking Green this high. I've even heard fans say things like, "I like the player, but not the pick." That makes no sense. If the player ends up making the 49ers better, no one will care where he was taken.

  • Physical outside corner
  • Also played safety
  • Led the ACC with 13 pass breakups in 2023
  • Hasn't missed a game in the past two seasons
  • Possibly the best press corner in college football
  • Green is a little grabby, so he will need to work on that or he'll draw a lot of pass interference penalties.
  • Good instincts
  • Great short-area quickness
  • Willing to tackle

Can he impact the team as a rookie? Yes, as more depth at corner. Green will likely compete for a starting role in 2024, but his bigger impact may be felt after this season.

Dominick Puni, OL, Kansas

The 49ers needed to address the offensive line, maybe even more than they did. Puni looks like he will be able to start someday, though not likely in 2024, unless there's any injury.

  • Didn't allow a single sack in 2023.
  • Versatile
  • Started games at both tackle spots and left guard. Lynch said of Puni, "Yeah, our belief is that we're going to start him on the inside as a guard. But the cool thing about Dominick is, it's not often you can say this about a player, that he can play all five. And we believe that's the case with him. He snapped in practice, he snapped in the Senior Bowl down in Mobile, played some center in the game, played left tackle in '23, guard in the previous year. And so, we believe he has it in him, and that's really a cool thing to have in a player. And he can do it at a high level. So, it's part of the reason we moved up to take him there and really fired up about him."
  • Played some center at the Senior Bowl.
  • Very strong.
  • Better as a pass blocker than a run blocker, but I still saw some who were high on Puni as a run blocker.

Can he impact the team as a rookie? Yes, as a backup at guard. In 2025, Puni will have the chance to compete for a starting spot.

Malik Mustapha, S, Wake Forest

We all knew the 49ers would take a safety. They may have found a good one, too.

  • Strong tackler, maybe the best in the draft among defensive backs.
  • Can blitz
  • Good in coverage, holding opposing quarterbacks to a 32% completion rate.
  • Physical and versatile
  • Leader, team captain.
  • Thumper! He will hit you.
  • Excellent technique.
  • Has good instincts and can read QBs well.

Can he impact the team as a rookie? Yes, especially if Talanoa Hufanga doesn't come back as soon as the team hopes. And if Dre Greenlaw struggles to make it back, could the 49ers go with some three-safety looks?

Isaac Guerendo, RB, Louisville

Shanahan joked about taking a running back. He wasn't kidding, though. He drafted another one. But this one was the fastest running back in the draft.

  • Fast! He ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash.
  • One-cut-and-go guy who's perfect for Shanahan's zone scheme
  • Can catch the ball, as well.
  • A strong runner who averaged 4.1 yards after contact.
  • A home run hitter who can score from anywhere.
  • Potential kick returner.

Can he impact the team as a rookie? Yes, as a backup to Christian McCaffrey, and possibly as a kick returner.

Jacob Cowing, WR, Arizona

Speed is another theme for the 49ers this year. And Cowing is fast.

  • 13 touchdowns in 2023
  • Small, slot receiver
  • But he can fly, clocked at 4.38 in the 40.
  • Excellent hands.
  • Terrific in the short and intermediate passing game. Perfect for Purdy's game.
  • Has experience as a punt returner.
  • Caught a pass in 57 straight games.
  • Good with the ball in his hands (YAC brothers).
  • Runs good routes and can create separation.
  • Can stretch the field.

Can he impact the team as a rookie? Perhaps, but his bigger impact will be in 2025 and beyond. Cowing's arrival could mark the end of the road for Danny Gray.

Jarrett Kingston, OL, USC

Another offensive lineman, which the 49ers will need in 2025, if not sooner.

  • A versatile player who has played all over the offensive line. Likely an interior player for the 49ers.
  • Athletic
  • Good fit for a zone-blocking scheme.

Can he impact the team as a rookie? Probably not. Kingston is more of a developmental player.

Tatum Bethune, LB, FSU

The second Florida State Seminole the 49ers drafted.

  • Played in a lot of games (much like the other players the 49ers drafted).
  • Processes things quickly.
  • Physical player who always seems to be around the ball.

Can he impact the team as a rookie? Not unless it's on special teams. Then again, if Greenlaw struggles to return, and last year's rookies, Dee Winters and Jalen Graham, don't step up, then Bethune could have a bigger role. But I still think he'll be a special teams guy in 2024 if he makes the team.

I don't mess with draft grades, especially before any player has even stepped on an NFL field. Did anyone know George Kittle, Fred Warner, or Brock Purdy would become the player they have become? I hadn't even heard of Kittle and Warner before they were drafted. So I never overreact, one way or another, about the draft.

Just let the guys go to work, play, and then we'll see what the draft looks like down the road.

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