By: Chris Sanchez (@Chucky__Sanchez)
Final Edit: (@Zachhernan)
Going into the 2017 draft, there were plenty of questions regarding how the 49ers front office/coaching staff would fare. As we all know, they have a first-time GM and HC. And while John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan had said and done all the right things leading up to the draft, this would be their biggest test so far. All questions and concerns regarding their abilities were quickly put to rest as they were on the clock for the second overall pick. They traded down to the third overall slot with the Chicago Bears, still got the player they coveted at 2 (Solomon Thomas), and received extra picks in addition to the ability to make more trades. But they did not stop there. They traded back into the first round, with the Seattle Seahawks of all teams, and drafted Alabama product Reuben Foster with the 31st overall selection. In Thomas and Foster, the 49ers acquired two of the top three players on their board, all in the first night of the draft. The wheeling and dealing by Lynch, Shanahan, and Marathe continued throughout the draft. They addressed many of their positions of need and built a solid foundation for seasons to come.
OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B+
3RD OVERALL SELECTION (FROM CHICAGO) – SOLOMON THOMAS, DE, STANFORD
Thomas is an outstanding athlete with all the physical attributes necessary to dominate in the NFL. He has a wide array of pass-rush moves in his arsenal. He possesses violent hands that allow him to quickly disengage from blocks. He’s rarely out of position and consistently beats blocks either with speed, power, or both. Has excellent speed for a man his size which allows him to quickly get to the backfield or chase down ball-carriers. The main concern with him is he is widely considered a “tweener” and there are questions about whether he has the frame to compete in the interior against premier offensive linemen. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers use him. I have a feeling he will be lined up all over the place depending on down and distance.
Overall Grade: A
31ST OVERALL SELECTION (FROM SEATTLE) – REUBEN FOSTER, LB, ALABAMA
Foster is the prototypical sideline-to-sideline linebacker. He is a relentless player who plays fast and violent. Vicious hitter with a knack for the ball. He has no problem taking on larger blockers, very often winning the battle. Good coverage abilities. Has length and speed to run with RBs, TEs, and sometimes even WRs. Great leadership qualities and passion for the game. He suffered through shoulder injuries and had to have surgery on his rotator cuff. Because of his violent style, injuries will be a long-term concern. Some character flags arose throughout the draft process. If he stays healthy and out of trouble he will be the perfect partner for NaVorro Bowman in the middle of that defense.
Overall Grade: A
66th OVERALL SELECTION – AHKELLO WITHERSPOON, CB, COLORADO
Witherspoon has the size/speed combination required to play on an island in the version of the 4-3 the 49ers will be using. He has fast feet and is very good at quickly changing directions through his fluid hips. His athleticism and vision allows him to track the ball and break up passes with good consistency. Allowed a measly 26.5 completion percentage against in 2016. He will need to get stronger to compete with the bigger NFL WRs. If coached properly, Witherspoon can be a great compliment to Rashard Robinson as the other starting CB in Robert Saleh’s defense.
Overall Grade: B
104th OVERALL SELECTION (FROM MINNESOTA) – C.J. BEATHARD, QB, IOWA
Beathard played in a pro-style offense in Iowa, which is more that can be said for most QBs in this class. He can operate from under center or out of the shotgun. He can diagnose defenses and change plays when necessary. Has a good arm and can make all the NFL throws. Keeps his eyes downfield and works through progressions. Had a very high two-year sack total which can be attributed to poor pocket presence and a mediocre offensive line. As it stands, he will be the third QB in the depth chart. He is a project, but Shanahan is great at working with QBs and will have him ready in a one or two years.
Overall Grade: B-
121st OVERALL SELECTION (FROM INDIANAPOLIS) – JOE WILLIAMS, RB, UTAH
Williams is and excellent athlete at the RB position. He has breakaway speed and can either run between the tackles or on the outside. Possesses outstanding balance which allows him to break tackles. He has great lateral movement and can put together moves and elude defenders. Can finish runs by lowering pads and punishing defensive backs. There are some big character questions when it comes to Williams. John Lynch said he was off the 49ers board until Shanahan lobbied to have him put back on. If he keeps his head in the game and out of trouble, he can be a very exciting weapon for Shanahan’s offense.
Overall Grade: B+
146th OVERALL SELECTION – GEORGE KITTLE, TE, IOWA
Kittle comes from the same pro-style offense as C.J. Beathard. He is a violent and relentless in-line blocker who is rarely out of position. He has very reliable hands as he had only one drop to 48 catches. He has very good speed for a TE as he ran a 4.52 second 40-yard dash. As a receiver he can work both the middle of the field and outside the hashes. He can definitely stand to work on his route-running. Needs to learn to create more separation from defenders. Kittle is the ideal in-line TE for Shanahan’s offense. At this stage of the draft, Lynch and company could not have found a better TE for the head coach to work with
Overall Grade: A
177th OVERALL SELECTION (FROM DENVER) – TRENT TAYLOR, WR, LOUISIANA TECH
Taylor is the ideal slot receiver in today’s NFL. The comparisons to Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, etc., are more than valid. He is not so much fast but quick and shifty. This allows him to find soft spots in the coverage. Has the elusiveness to make defenders miss in tight quarters and in space. Taylor probably has the best hands in this draft class. You will rarely seem him drop or even juggle a pass thrown his way. There are some concerns about his smaller frame and the fact that he is a bit prone to fumbling the ball. All that being said, I cannot wait to see him work in Shanahan’s offense. He will be the perfect security blanket for whoever is playing QB for the 49ers.
Overall Grade: B+
198th OVERALL SELECTION (FROM BALTIMORE) – D.J. JONES, DT, MISSISSIPPI
Jones is a complete weight room monster. His strength allows him to anchor the middle of a defensive line. He has outstanding quickness and fast-twitch moves in small spaces. Plays with good instincts and is able to consistently diagnose the play. Has a couple of decent pass-rush moves which is not expected from a primarily run-stopping DT. He is raw and struggled against the best offensive linemen in the SEC. The 49ers will likely position him behind Mitchell and perhaps Purcell in the depth chart. This will allow D-line coach Jeff Zgonina to groom him and prepare him for a couple of years down the road.
Overall Grade: B
202nd OVERALL SELECTION (FROM DENVER) – PITA TAUMOEPENU, LB, UTAH
Pita (I’ll just call him by his first name), is a straight-up pass-rusher. He can quickly change direction and blow past blockers on his way to the QB. He possesses and unquestionable motor and will never quit on a play. He has good closing speed and will do his best to catch a ball carrier. When he times the snap, he can easily jet past a blocker on the edge. He is a bit on the smaller size to play the edge, especially versus the run. If latched on to by a blocker, he will rarely come off his block. Pita provides the 49ers with a pass-rush specialist and possibly a strong special teams contributor.
Overall Grade: B-
229th OVERALL SELECTION (FROM NEW ORLEANS)- ADRIAN COLBERT, DB, MIAMI
Colbert has the perfect size/frame and athleticism combination to play DB. He can work in the box, in coverage as a CB, or in the middle of the field as a FS. That versatility is key, especially for a seventh-round pick. He is a good tackler and a sound hitter. He is very raw and will need plenty of work with DBs coach Jeff Hafley. If he makes the team, expect him to be primarily and special teams member. He can also provide depth along the defensive backfield.
Overall Grade: C+
As is the case with any draft, the selections cannot be fully graded until we see the on-the-field impact of each player. As of right now, however, I would say the results are extremely positive. It is very impressive for a first-time GM/HC combination to perform the way Lynch and Shanahan did during the draft. They traded down and up, addressed important areas of need all across the roster, and acquired blue-chip talent along the way. Combine this draft with their acquisitions during free agency, and I think they more than laid down the foundation for a very successful team. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the 49ers and their faithful.
Stay tuned as the @49ersHive team breaks down each draft pick!