John Lynch did not receive a contract extension this offseason, unlike his counterpart, head coach Kyle Shanahan. It’s possible that inconsistent drafting in the early rounds may be the reason why the 49ers haven't extended Lynch. However, Lynch has made a handful of good selections over the last three years. Let’s take a look at his top-five draft choices.
Criteria: These rankings are not solely based on player production, but also include other factors such as draft slot and value.
#5) Dre Greenlaw - LB - Arkansas - 5th Round - Pick No. 148 - 2019 Draft
Analysis: Reflecting on the 2019 draft, Greenlaw was one of the top-two best defensive players drafted on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7). Greenlaw and Maxx Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders had an impact far beyond any rookie selected on the final day of the draft. Greenlaw was also named to the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) All-Rookie Team.
Greenlaw is another late-round gem found by Lynch. During the course of his rookie season (including playoffs), Greenlaw totaled:
- 106 tackles (3 for loss)
- 1 sack
- 1 interception
- 1 forced fumbles
The 106 tackles rank fourth most by a rookie in franchise history, behind: Patrick Willis (174), Fred Warner (124), and Chris Borland (108).
Greenlaw had the most memorable play this past season, when he stopped Seahawks’ tight end Jacob Hollister at the goal-line. That moment alone was enough to cement Greenlaw as one of Lynch’s best draft picks.
The future is bright for the 49ers at the linebacker position, with Greenlaw and another linebacker on this list.
#4) Deebo Samuel - WR - South Carolina - 2nd Round - Pick No. 36 - 2019 Draft
Analysis: Samuel is one of a handful of phenomenal receivers drafted in the 2019 draft. In addition to Samuel, there was Marquise Brown, AJ Brown, Mecole Hardman, DK Metcalf, Diontae Johnson, Terry McLaurin and Darius Slayton.
Aside from Marquise Brown, all of the aforementioned receivers were selected after Samuel. Brown and McLaurin were drafted 51st and 76th, respectively, and both were selected to the PFWA All-Rookie Team.
Even though Samuel didn’t land on the All-Rookie Team, he did put together a tremendous rookie season and played a pivotal role towards the 49ers’ Super Bowl run.
Over the course of the 2019 season, Samuel produced (including playoffs):
- 67 receptions - 929 yards - 3 touchdowns
- 20 rushes - 261 yards - 3 touchdowns
Samuel recorded more yards from scrimmage than any other rookie receiver in the history of the franchise.
There is no arguing that Samuel is a perfect fit for the Shanahan offense, which justifies his draft slot. For years to come, it’ll be fun to compare Samuel to the other receivers drafted after him.
The 49ers could have had other excellent receivers, but Samuel was their guy. And he is off to an extremely strong start toward proving he was the right receiver to select.
To date, Samuel is the best pick made by John Lynch in the second round. After Year 1, Samuel looks like nothing short of a franchise cornerstone receiver.
#3) Fred Warner - LB - BYU - 3rd Round - Pick No. 70 - 2018 Draft
Analysis: Similarly to Samuel, Warner was part of a loaded class at his position. Opposite of Samuel, Warner was one of the later high-quality linebackers taken.
That is my favorite part of the Warner pick -- Lynch waited. He could’ve traded up for Roquan Smith or stood pat and drafted Tremaine Edmunds. Could’ve traded down to draft Leighton Vander-Esch or Darius Leonard.
Instead, Lynch waited and selected a true all-around middle linebacker in Round 3. Without a doubt, the selection of Warner is a top-three draft pick by Lynch.
Since being drafted, Warner has started every game. He has all the makings of a foundational piece to the franchise, and things are looking good for him to call the plays for the defense for years to come.
Throughout his first two seasons, Warner has accumulated:
- 262 tackles (11 for loss)
- 3 sacks
- 17 passes defensed
- 2 interceptions
- 4 forced fumbles
- 4 fumbles recovered
Warner’s 262 tackles are the second most by a 49ers’ linebacker in their first two seasons, trailing only Patrick Willis (315).
Warner is in line to be the next great linebacker for the team. Excellent pick by Lynch.
#2) Nick Bosa - DE - Ohio State - Round 1 - Pick No. 2 - 2019 Draft
Analysis: Before Kyler Murray decided to enter the draft, Bosa was looking like the No. 1 pick. Things could not have worked out any better for the 49ers, as Bosa fell right into their lap.
After one season of watching Bosa, it is clear that he is an extremely special player. Credit Lynch for taking Bosa, and not a player like Quinnen Williams, who was heavily speculated to be the preferred draft choice of the team.
Bosa was absolutely dominant throughout the entire 2019 season. He finished the year with a stat line of (including playoffs):
- 62 tackles (19 for loss)
- 30 QB hits
- 13 sacks
- 3 forced fumbles
- 1 fumble recovery
- 1 interception
More specifically, Bosa was dominant in the playoffs, where he averaged 5 tackles, and more than one QB hit and sack per game.
Bosa is a huge reason why the 49ers were so successful last year, and why the team will remain competitive for the foreseeable future. Bosa does the most important thing you can do on defense -- rush the passer. And he is darn great at it.
By far, Bosa has had the greatest impact of any rookie selected by Lynch. However, he isn't Lynch's best draft pick.
#1) George Kittle - TE - Iowa - Round 5 - Pick No. 146 - 2017 Draft
Analysis: Make no mistake, Kittle is the best draft pick ever made by Lynch. Not too many GMs can say they drafted a player in the fift round who would become a two-time All Pro in just three seasons. Lynch can say that though.
As one of the first foundational pieces laid down by Lynch, Kittle is the heartbeat and poster boy of the San Francisco 49ers. The turnaround the team is experiencing likely doesn’t happen without him.
Kittle is off to a Hall of Fame start to his career. He has caught more passes and has more receiving yards than any other tight end through their first three seasons in NFL history.
He simply does it all. Kittle is the team’s No. 1 wide receiver and he blocks as well as any of the offensive lineman. A true jack-of-all-trades. Shanahan’s offense isn’t what it is without him.
Since 2017, there is not a player who has had an impact on each season more than Kittle. When Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in 2018, Kittle kept fans engaged by putting on a show week in and week out, and setting the single-season tight end receiving yard record.
He’s Lynch’s best draft pick, and he needs to get paid. #PayGeorgeKittle.
Follow me on Twitter: @NinerNick_22