The John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan era began in 2017, one year after Trent Baalke served his final term as San Francisco 49ers general manager. The duo has two draft classes under their belts and reason for optimism as well as skepticism.
Owner Jed York hired John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan in 2017 to restore a once proud franchise. How has that duo done in the draft room, and are the San Francisco 49ers any closer to where York wants them to be?
2016 Draft Class
|3||68||Will Redmond||CB||Mississippi State|
|5||142||Ronald Blair||DE||Appalachian State|
|6||207||Jeff Driskel||QB||Louisiana Tech|
|6||213||Aaron Burbridge||WR||Michigan State|
|7||249||Prince Charles Iworah||CB||Western Kentucky|
2016 was the last year general manager Trent Baalke held that position for San Francisco. Of the 11 players Baalke drafted in 2016, only three remain on the roster.
DeForest Buckner made his first Pro Bowl in 2018 and will be a mainstay on the 49ers defensive front for years to come. In his first three years he has finished 12th, 5th and 6th in pressures among interior defensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus. Baalke left the 49ers a star with his final top 10 pick. Joshua Garnett, on the other hand, has not worked out.
After starting 11 games as a rookie, Garnett has seldom played the past two seasons. He has been mediocre when he has gotten the chance to log some reps. Considering Baalke traded back into the first round to obtain Garnett, he can be safely called a bust thus far.
Ronald Blair is the last player remaining on the roster from the 2016 draft. Blair had his best year in 2018, recording 31 pressures and being available for all 16 games. You can’t ask for much more from a 5th round pick than what Blair offers: rotational depth player who can contribute when on the field.
The only other notable player from this haul is the Cincinnati Bengals backup QB Jeff Driskel. Baalke’s final draft as 49ers GM yielded a star, a bust, and a rotational player. Thus far, John Lynch’s drafts have yielded mixed results.
2017 Draft Class
|5||177||Trent Taylor||WR||Louisana Tech|
|7||229||Adrian Colbert||DB||Miami (FL)|
|Undrafted||N/A||Nick Mullens||QB||Southern Mississippi|
|Undrafted||N/A||Matt Breida||RB||Georgia Southern|
This draft is a mouthful, to say the least.
Lynch did well in getting extra draft capital and still landing the player he wanted at second overall in Solomon Thomas. Thomas himself, however, has been a big disappointment thus far. While he has graded out as an above average run defender according to PFF, that is far from what the 49ers drafted him to be. In his first two years, he has recorded just 4 sacks and 59 pressures. While that would be solid for a late round pick, San Francisco is expecting more from their third overall pick.
Getting Reuben Foster at 31 was a steal, but too many off the field incidents forced the 49ers to cut ties with the star linebacker. It is a shame from the organization’s point of view as Foster’s ceiling is monstrous.
Witherspoon showed some promise his rookie year but completely regressed last season. Beathard is not going to win a starting QB job anywhere, but under Shanahan, he has shown the ability to be a capable backup. Kyle Shanahan might still be banging tables for Joe Williams, wherever he may be. The 5th round of this draft yielded much better results.
With the 146th pick, San Francisco selected Beathard’s teammate, George Kittle. Thirty picks later they followed that up with Louisiana Tech wide receiver Trent Taylor. The star is clearly Kittle though. He recorded 43 receptions for 515 yards and 2 touchdowns as a rookie but exploded in 2018 for 88 receptions, 1,377 yards (a new single-season record for tight ends) and 5 touchdowns.
The undrafted free agents San Francisco acquired were an absolute hit. Matt Breida ended up being their starting running back this past season while Nick Mullens showed he is a capable backup. Mullens posted a yards per attempts figure of 8.3, which was on par with the Los Angeles Rams season mark.
The whiff on Thomas is mitigated by the hit on Kittle and the two undrafted free agents. Overall I would say it was a good haul, with a lot of potential to be even better.
2018 Draft Class
|1||9||Mike McGlinchey||OT||Notre Dame|
|3||95||Tarvarius Moore||S||Southern Miss|
|4||128||Kentavius Street||DT||North Carolina State|
|5||142||D.J. Reed||CB||Kansas State|
|7||240||Richie James||WR||Middle Tennessee State|
Many questioned the decision to take McGlinchey in the top 10, even calling it a reach. He finished the year as PFF’s 25th ranked tackle, including the 3rd best run blocking tackle in the entire league. I would say they were right to move on from Trent Brown in favor of a younger prospect.
Dante Pettis was able to start 7 games for the 49ers and flashed his potential at times. The rookie had his ups and downs, finishing with 27 receptions for 467 yards and 5 touchdowns. The 49ers figure to draft a receiver this upcoming draft, but not necessarily because Pettis has shown to be incumbent.
Third round selection Fred Warner got a chance to start all 16 games for the 49ers, finishing with 124 tackles and a PFF ranking of 50/92. The strong part of his game was pass coverage, which is what you like to see considering the current state of the game.
D.J. Reed was able to make starts and play in 15 games for San Francisco. PFF graded him as above average on the season so there is some promise there. The rest of the late picks did not make much of a contribution.
With the 49ers hitting on their first-round pick Mike McGlinchey and getting two starters in Fred Warner and Dante Pettis, this has the potential to be a promising class for the 49ers.
For the most part, the hauls look promising for John Lynch and company. Missing on both first round picks in 2017 is going to hurt. But there have been hits in other places that figure to mitigate that loss. That said, I think you could call this a make or break year for Lynch and Shanahan. If that is indeed the case, they absolutely need to nail this upcoming draft to prove all of their doubters wrong.