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49ers Draft Recap and Grade

Let’s take a look at the selections:

The San Francisco 49ers came into the 2021 NFL Draft with three very specific needs: quarterback, interior offensive line, and secondary. 

San Francisco general manager, John Lynch and head coach, Kyle Shanahan were able to address each of these needs and in the process change the identity of the team moving forward. Let’s take a look at the selections:

Pick 3. Trey Lance, Quarterback, North Dakota State

The 2021 NFL Draft started when the 49ers went on the clock. Lance played only one full season of college football, leading the Bison to the FCS championship in 2019. During that lone season in Fargo, Lance showed the ability to beat teams by using his arm or legs, but he’s not a run first quarterback. Lance often did a good job of hanging in the pocket or buying time before taking off on a run.

Pick 48. Aaron Banks, Guard, Notre Dame

At 6’5”, 330 pounds, Banks is bigger than the type of guards that Kyle Shanahan has usually preferred for his offense. Despite that size, Banks shows the ability to move well which is very important to the 49ers zone running scheme while also being extremely powerful. Banks’ movement ability shows up in pass protection as well, along with his ability to anchor and his 33 1/8” arms allow him to handle counter moves of pass rushers. Banks shows a mean streak and ability to punish defenders when finishing his blocks.

Pick 88. Trey Sermon, Running Back, Ohio State

While most fans focused on Justin Fields leading up to the draft, the 49ers are getting the best offensive player from Ohio State in this draft in Trey Sermon. Sermon is a homerun hitter who also has the ability to run through defenders. He shows terrific contact balance and a style that is very reminiscent of former 49ers running back, Frank Gore. Sermon averaged 6.5 yards per carry and 10.1 yards per reception throughout his four-year career, the first three of which were spent at Oklahoma.

Pick 102. Ambry Thomas, Cornerback, Michigan

Thomas played for Michigan as a true freshman, and in 2019 was named the Wolverines’ Skill Position Player of the Year. Under the coordination of Dan Brown, the Michigan defense was very heavy with man coverage, and Thomas excelled, showing the ability to line up outside and in the slot effectively. In addition to his duties at cornerback, Thomas returned kickoffs and even played some offense for Michigan, tallying two receptions for five yards and a rush for eleven yards in 2018.

Pick 155. Jaylon Moore, Offensive Guard, Western Michigan

The 6’4”, 311-pound offensive lineman was originally recruited to Western Michigan as a tight end. He would spend some time along the defensive line before moving to the offensive line where he started every game in 2018. While Moore was a tackle for the Broncos, he has the ability to play at either guard or tackle in the NFL. Look for Moore to be a swing tackle that can fill in at every spot along the offensive line outside of center.

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Pick 172. Deommodore Lenoir, Cornerback, Oregon

Lenoir was a three-year starter for the Ducks, his most productive season coming as a sophomore when he finished with a career best three interceptions and 12 pass break ups. Much like fellow 49ers draft pick, Ambry Thomas, Lenoir was rarely challenged because he showed the ability to shut down the best receivers in the Pac 12, including current New England Patriots receiver N’Keal Harry.

Pick 180. Talanoa Hufanga, Safety, USC

Hufanga was named a consensus First-Team All-American and the Pac 12 Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020. So why did he fall this far? Hufanga suffered two broken collarbones, a shoulder separation and had concussion issues during his time at USC. While his talent would have put him much further up the draft order, those injuries allowed him to fall. Despite the injury history, this was the perfect spot to take a risk on a player who has shown the ability to be a very strong player who may be a bit of a health risk.

In just six games in 2020, Hufanga proved himself to be a play maker with 62 tackles, 4 interceptions, 1 pass breakup and 2 forced fumbles.

Pick 194. Elijah Mitchell, Running Back, Louisiana

Coming in at 5’11”, 218 pounds with a 4.38 second 40-yard time, Mitchell brings both power and speed to the 49ers. In four seasons with the Ragin Cajuns, Mitchell averaged 6.2 yards per rush attempt, 12.2 yards per reception, and scored 46 touchdowns.

Mitchell became the third running back added to the 49ers since April 21 who weighs 210 pounds or more, joining Wayne Gallman, and Trey Sermon. This shows a shift in how the 49ers view the position.

Overall Grade: A-

While you can quibble about waiting until the end of round three to select a cornerback or taking another running back with the final pick, every selection that the 49ers made in this draft made sense. When was the last time you could say that?

The 49ers come away from this draft with their quarterback for the future, and a new identity. While most of the NFC West spent their picks on speed, the 49ers went with a combination of power and speed throughout. Everything points to this team being extremely physical for years to come.

This draft has the potential to set the 49ers up for the future, much like the 1986 draft did for the franchise 35 years ago. Heading into the 1986 draft the 49ers were two years removed from winning their second Super Bowl, but had a rough season in 1985 and Bill Walsh realized that the roster was getting old and needed an infusion of youth. Through a number of trades, Walsh was able to add Tom Rathman, Tim McKyer, John Taylor, Charles Haley, Steve Wallace, Kevin Fagan, and Don Griffin. These seven players would rebuild the roster and prove to be the catalysts to a run that nearly brought the 49ers franchise three straight World Championships.

The addition of these eight players to an already solid roster may be just what it takes to set the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan up for another historic run for the storied franchise.