Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

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The 2017 Draft Class: The Red Stain on John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan’s Legacy

May 13, 2020 at 10:00 AM


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John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are widely considered to be one of the best general manager/head coach combos in the NFL. Taking a team from 6-10 to 13-3 and a Super Bowl appearance in three years will do that, but with success come a few misfires.

2020 marks the first year of the Lynch and Shanahan regime's decisions to pick up the 5th-year options of its first draft with the 49ers. 2017 number three overall pick Solomon Thomas already had his option declined, saving the team an estimated $12 million in 2021.


While the Niners have hit on day two and day three picks over three years, like George Kittle and Fred Warner, the 2017 Draft still leaves a massive stain on the otherwise pristine tenure of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan.

Re-living the 2017 NFL Draft, there was always uncertainty about Solomon Thomas after just one solid season at Stanford, but the 49ers needed a star defensive lineman. Before Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Arik Armstead's breakout season, the Thomas pick made absolute sense, especially after knowing how Lynch and Shanahan like to build teams from the trenches out.

The Niners followed the Thomas pick by trading back up into the first-round to draft linebacker Reuben Foster, who was coming off a stellar season at Alabama but had been known to have character issues. Thinking being kicked out of the NFL Combine after a fight with medical personnel was just a lack of judgment, San Francisco took a chance on Foster after consulting Alabama's staff. Foster would last a season and a half in San Francisco, before being released after a slew of drug and domestic violence-related incidents.

The Niners' first two picks have failed besides adding depth and distraction.

Day two of the 2017 draft also left question marks as San Francisco chose to take cornerback Akhello Witherspoon and quarterback C.J. Beathard in the third round. While both Witherspoon and Beathard remain on the roster today and have even started a handful of games, it's what the 49ers left on the draft board that hurts even worse.

Pro Bowlers Alvin Kamara, Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, and Kenny Golladay were all selected after Witherspoon. The draft doesn't get any better, as the Niners traded up for Beathard and also running back Joe Williams on day three of the draft, the latter of who never played a down for San Francisco.


Lynch and Shanahan redeemed themselves in the fifth and sixth rounds by picking the best tight end in football, George Kittle, receiver Trent Taylor, and defensive lineman D.J. Jones. San Francisco also added Pita Taumoepenu and Adrian Colbert, who both remain in the league despite bouncing from team to team.

The 49ers 2017 Draft class can be summarized easily: when the Niners hit, they hit home runs, but when they missed, they missed harder than Saints safety Marcus Williams on Stefon Diggs during the 'Minneapolis Miracle.'

As the 2020 season inches closer, the chances of Lynch and Shanahan washing their hands of the 2017 draft class become more evident. San Francisco declined Thomas' fifth-year option, Lynch called 2020 a "big year for Witherspoon,'' meaning it could be his last unless he proves himself, and Beathard is buried behind Jimmy Garopppolo and Nick Mullens on the depth chart.

Despite the success in the first three years, the 2017 Draft class has left a red stain on the legacy of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan's 49ers tenure.
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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