Grading 49ers 2019 Draft Class
Jose Luis Sanchez III
Every year when the NFL draft is finalized, there is always a ton of praise and criticism for how a team handled their selections. For the San Francisco 49ers, it was more or less on the positive end.
The reality is that no one really knows how these players are going to turn out, especially once the first couple rounds end. Now that the season is completed, a full evaluation can now be conducted on how the 49ers’ 2019 draft class fared. The fact that the Niners were able to squeeze out three extra games due to their Super Bowl appearance enhances the evaluation.
Here are the grades for each and every 2019 draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers.
DE Nick Bosa: First Round, Second Overall
If Kyler Murray to the Arizona Cardinals was the NFL draft’s worst kept secret, then Nick Bosa to the Niners is the second worst. There was just no way they were going to leave such a gifted athlete on the board in favor of another. Bosa just made too much sense for the 49ers to draft.
Not only was he an immediate impact player, his addition addressed a desperate need of the 49ers. Pas rush was severely lacking for them in 2018 as DeForest Buckner was the only real contributor. With Bosa in the fold, the 49ers’ pass rush in 2019 was the most vaunted in football. He was the last piece of the puzzle for the defense to finally ascend into prominence.
Nine sacks was what he tallied in the regular season, along with generating 80 pressures per Pro a Football Focus. It’s this type of production that saw him earn defensive rookie of the year honors. Bosa was just a human wrecking ball in 2019 and has already established himself as one of the best pass rushers in the game. Just imagine what he will do in 2020 with a full season under his belt.
WR Deebo Samuel: Second Round, 36th Overall
Touted as one of the best wide receivers in the draft, Deebo Samuel did not disappoint in his rookie season. Samuel brought in 57 catches for 802 yards and three scores. For a rookie, those are some solid numbers he reeled in. However, he was more than the numbers indicate. Samuel showed a fire and an aggressive mentality that the Niners hadn’t seen since Anquan Boldin.
He became a tone setter for the offense, which is odd to think of for a receiver. Although it took him the first half of the season to really emerge, his impact came at the perfect time for the 49ers. The defense started to waver due to injuries, so the offense needed to shoulder the burden of winning games. Samuel’s emergence gave Jimmy Garoppolo another outlet outside of George Kittle and recently acquired Emmanuel Sanders.
He was not only a talented receiver, but a strong blocker as well. In fact, Samuel is passionate about blocking. He just wants to go hit somebody, which is the perfect mentality for a receiver in Shanahan’s dynamic offense. The 49ers desperately needed to find a playmaking receiver in last years draft and they succeeded with correctly taking Samuel.
WR Jalen Hurd: Third Round, 67th Overall
Following the selection of Deebo Samuel, the Niners still felt the receiver position needed depth. That is why they selected Jalen Hurd with their 67th pick. Hurd was a prototypical Shanahan receiver. Meaning he is so versatile that Shanahan can plug and play him all over a formation. He was making a transition to receiver after playing his last two years in college at running back.
That is why he was labeled as a “gadget” player because of his interchangeability. Seeing what he and Samuel would do together brought excitement. Both of them showed flashes in the preseason that gave hope that they would be solid contributors. That was until Hurd suffered a back injury in a joint practice with the Denver Broncos. He spent most of the season on injured reserve with the hope that he could be activated down the line.
Unfortunately, his injury never showed positive signs of recovery, so he was left on injured reserve. It wasn’t until recently that Matt Barrows of The Athletic reported that Hurd had made a full recovery. He should be set to return in 2020 and will add an interesting wrinkle to one of the top offenses in the league.
P Mitch Wishnowsky: Fourth Round, 110th Overall
When Mitch Wishnowsky was drafted, there was outrage from fans that the Niners took a punter so high. While the knee jerk reaction is understandable, drafting in the middle rounds essentially becomes a game of roulette. Sure, the 49ers could’ve drafted another skill position, but they opted for the sure thing in Wishnowsky.
He wasn’t anything special with his punting like pinning the opposition consistently or in a critical moment. He just was another player on the team. Now that the season is over, it’s easy to look back and see who the 49ers could have drafted instead. But the reality is, the middle rounds of the draft are unpredictable. Perhaps the Niners will handle it differently in this years draft in Las Vegas.
LB Dre Greenlaw: Fifth Round, 148th Overall
When Kwon Alexander went down on Halloween against the Arizona Cardinals, there was a giant hole left from his absence. That hole would get filled by rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw. To say Greenlaw was impressive in his first year in the league would be a massive understatement. Greenlaw won the starting job in base defense, which was already an indication of his talent level.
However, he made his full starting debut on Monday night football against the Seattle Seahawks. The amount of pressure that was put on his shoulders right after Alexander went down in a must win game was insanely enormous. That pressure had no affect on Greenlaw has he turned in a stout performance. He even intercepted Russell Wilson to set the offense up for the game-winning field goal.
His greatest moment came in week 17 with the division on the line in Seattle where he made a touchdown saving hit on Jacob Hollister. That clinched the 49ers to be as the No. 1 seed that would clear the way for them to appear in Super Bowl LIV. Grading Greenlaw as a A is a no brainer because of his impact and draft status.
He was essentially throw into the fire following Alexander’s injury. He went from playing 50% of the defensive snaps to playing almost every single one. Greenlaw would end up making the defensive All-Rookie team for the PFWA (Pro Football Writers of America). Best part of his rookie season he is just scratching the surface.
TE Kaden Smith: Sixth Round, 176th Overall
There just wasn’t a legitimate shot for tight end Kaden Smith who was in a crowded room at the position. If there was anyone at the position he was going to best, it would’ve been Garrett Celek. But the Niners opted to keep their veteran tight end and cut ties with Smith. He was a failed draft selection for the 49ers as he couldn’t make the final cut and would end up being picked up by the New York Giants.
OT Justin Skule: Sixth Round, 183rd Overall
Losing a starting offensive tackle can cause an offense to drop off, especially a high caliber one like Joe Staley. However, Justin Skule stepped in as the temporary anchor for Staley and held down the position soundly. There was much skepticism regarding Skule’s capability because he was a rookie drafted in the sixth round.
Skule crushed that skepticism by stringing together some impressive performances. Although there were some games where had his shaky moments, Skule did well for in his relief effort for a late round draft selection. The 49ers could’ve easily had struggled with an offensive tackle who was poor in pass protection.
But Skule did enough to keep Garoppolo clean and was even sound in run blocking. Skule deserves credit for keeping the wheels turning for the 49ers offense while Staley was out on injury.
CB Tim Harris: Sixth Round, 198th Overall
The final draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers was cornerback Tim Harris. He never really had a chance at making the final 53-man roster cut due to how raw his ability was. Harris just wasn’t able to make strides and leave a lasting impression on the coaches during training camp. He would’ve really needed to standout at a crowded position.
His rookie season would end before it could start as the Niners would place him on injured reserve. A bit concerning for a guy who has a injury history during his college days. Seeing how he bounces back during the offseason will be interesting as it may be his last shot to be retained on the team.