The NFL Draft is officially in the rear view mirror and by most accounts, the new 49ers brain trust of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan had a stellar haul.
The 49ers’ run defense was historically poor last season, and Lynch addressed that deficiency with his first two picks, landing Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and the Butkus Award winner, Alabama inside linebacker Reuben Foster. When the 49ers were forced to cut Tramaine Brock due to an arrest for domestic violence, it created urgency to add a top tier cornerback and the 49ers feel they got a good one in Colorado’s rangy Ahkello Witherspoon, who led the nation in pass breakups in 2016.
Lynch’s next four picks were devoted to improving the offense with the selection of Quarterback CJ Beathard, running back Joe Williams, tight end George Kittle and slot receiver Trent Taylor. Beathard had a terrific junior year, leading Iowa to a 12-0 record in the regular season. Williams is a home run hitter who won the MVP of the Foster Farms Bowl, rushing for 222 yards and touchdown versus Indiana. Kittle is considered to be a top in-line blocker, but also possesses 4.5 speed to stretch the seams of a defense. Taylor is cat quick and despite his size and speed limitations, he was enormously productive at Louisiana Tech. The 49ers are hoping he’s the next Wes Walker. Lynch also added a veteran running back in a trade with Denver for Kapri Bibbs.
Lynch’s final three picks were defensive players with upside. Ole Miss’ defensive tackle DJ Jones is 6-foot-1 and 320-pounds and has movement skills to rush the passer. Pita Taumoepenu is a developmental speed rusher and Adrian Colbert is a 6-foot-2 cornerback who was timed at 4.38 at Miami’s Pro Day.
Lynch may have hit on a few undrafted free agents as well. Tight end Cole Hikutini, Free safety Lorenzo Jerome, slot receiver Victor Bolden, linebacker Donovin Newsom, running back Matt Breida, and pass rushers Jimmie Gilbert and Noble Nwachukwu are all in line to compete for roster spots this Summer.
While the 49ers had a nice draft haul, there were other teams that won big on draft weekend, notably the Rams, Cardinals, Jaguars, Chargers, Titans, Colts, and Panthers
The Rams’ GM Les Snead had a nice draft, adding speedy Tight end Gerald Everett, wide receivers Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds and front seven pass rushers in Tanzel Smart, Samson Ebukam and Ejuan Price.
Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim really helped his defense with the additions of Haason Reddick and Buddha Baker, two versatile, productive defenders.
The five biggest winners of draft weekend were four quarterbacks: Marcus Mariota, Andrew Luck, Blake Bortles, Phillip Rivers, and Cam Newton.
Mariota was a big winner because he got two outstanding big bodied wide receivers in Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor and a top receiving tight end Jonnu Smith.
Andrew Luck also had to be smiling as new GM Chris Ballard spent his draft capital on top defensive prospects free safety Malik Hooker, cornerback Quincy Wilson, linebacker Anthony Walker, and defensive linemen Tarell Basham and Grover Stewart.
Bortles got some help from this draft. The Jaguars added top running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Dede Westbrook as well as offensive tackle Cam Robinson.
Rivers’ career was probably extended when the Chargers added the draft’s two top offensive guards in Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney. The Chargers also added wide receiver Mike Williams who instantly gives Rivers a top red-zone threat. The combination of Williams and Keenan Allen should give AFC West secondaries fits for years to come.
The biggest winner of the draft was easily Cam Newton. Newton will flourish with the addition of two explosive playmakers in WR/RB Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. Newton can neutralize opposing pass rushers by dropping it off in the flat to these two speed burners. Expect to see Carolina compete for another Lombardi Trophy or two in the coming seasons largely due to this draft class.