49ers’ Draft Pros and Cons

The 49ers' best draft in a few years should produce three starters or more in 2025, but key mistakes were made that may prove costly long-term.
Dec 2, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive back Renardo Green (8) reacts
Dec 2, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive back Renardo Green (8) reacts / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Every draft has a mission: get the star, fill the needs, build the foundation. The Niners chose to extend the window, attaching this draft at the hip to the current roster, hitching their fate to the team’s aging stars and complementing them with versatile plug-and-play backups and role players.

This draft lacked ambition, but it should deliver on the mission with three 2025 starters and helpful role players going forward. This was their best draft in years, granted that's not a high bar, but it helps.


Talent, with three maybe four 2025 starters

Three starters in a year is a successful draft.  Malik Mustapha should start in 2024 at safety. In 2025, Ricky Pearsall starts at WR and probably Dominick Puni at left guard. Renardo Green’s chances to start will depend on how quickly he can be coached out of holding, Darrell Luter Jr.’s development, and who the Niners keep in free agency.

I think Pearsall will surprise people, he catches everything, runs every route, blocks, and is a deep threat. I’m also looking forward to Mustapha and Ji’Ayir Brown at safety. Playmakers.

The secondary takes a leap

The Niners annual problem of taking injury hits in the secondary, having to sign a free agent off the street, and then play him immediately may finally end this year. Green and Mustapha play multiple positions, and more importantly bring the scheme versatility the team needs. Both have the coverage and blitz skills to help the team deploy simulated pressure.

Special teams get a speed boost

4.33 on kickoffs with Isaac Guerendo, 4.38 on punts with Jacob Cowing. I think the Niners finally get at least one return touchdown this season.  The 49ers haven’t had a kickoff return touchdown since 2018, a punt run back since 2011. Late pick Tatum Bethune can also help in special teams coverage.


Why didn’t they address run defense?

Actually, they did. Last year when the run defense was getting worked, Shanahan blamed the secondary for not filling effectively in the Wide 9. Both Green and Mustapha play the run well.

Why not linebacker earlier?

Because the position is so complex across the league it’s a 2-3 year transition to starter. That time arc dominates the position now, even for early picks.


This draft kicked the future in the teeth

5th and 6th-year seniors were nearly all of the picks. They will be redshirted and won’t see consistent reps until they’re 25 as part of a storied 3-4 year career as a starter. Make it make sense. There’s mortgaging the future and there’s ignoring it.

When asked about drafting so many older players John Lynch said that’s who we evaluated highest. Well sure, they’re older. His answer implies age was discarded. Just like the future.

The 2029 49ers will be Brock Purdy and his tractor. Going all-in for the window like this has consequences. If the 49ers keep this up, they’ll pick at the top of the draft and won’t have to trade anybody to move up. For years.

The best offensive tackle class in over a decade and…empty-handed

Waiting for Rosengarten didn’t go as hoped but the surprising thing was no Plan B. And therefore the best tackle class in over a decade is handed to you on a lucky break and you do nothing. Part of drafting well is reacting to what the draft gives you. Didn’t happen. That’s a costly whiff to not move up a few picks on a self-induced mistake that should have been avoided.

The danger of Shanahan making picks and also being the offensive coordinator

At the end of the 4th Round, Shanahan made his offensive weapon pick that serves his play design while ignoring team needs. Annual rite of spring. I really like Jacob Cowing but tell me that his collective contribution will be higher than a future starting center (Hunter Nourzad, Sedrick Van Pran-Granger, or Beaux Limmer) or a talented pass rusher (Austin Booker). Not seeing it.

Ultimately this will be a successful draft in terms of future starters, but with a starter shelf life of four years or less, what price victory?

Whiffing on Rosengarten, tackle period, and center, in a loaded offensive line draft was wasteful. A blown opportunity that may come back to bite them.

One of the arguments for not trading Brandon Aiyuk is if they dealt him they would be giving up on 2024 and a Super Bowl contention year. Didn’t they just do that in this draft? 2024 picks wrapped in do not open until 2025.

Tom Jensen