San Francisco 49ers fans, thank your lucky stars that cooler heads prevailed at the 2021 NFL draft! You can relax now.
If you’re a 49ers fan, you know exactly what that means. This draft was stressful, but your team walked out of it as winners. Let’s break down the picks:
49ers NFL draft picks:
Round 1, No. 3: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Here’s the thing about this pick: 49ers fans will most likely be split over whether or not Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch should have gone with Mac Jones instead of the mysterious Trey Lance. Given that the two were apparently fawning over Mac Jones all the way up until the pick was announced, fans were either relieved or disappointed.
But the 49ers took a risk trading all the way up to the third overall pick, and a big one at that. Mac Jones isn’t a risk.
Trey Lance is the most unknown prospect in this entire rookie quarterback class. He has very little experience at the position, and it’s unknown how well he’ll fair when making the jump from the FCS all the way to the toughest conference in professional football. However, his physical gifts and intelligence have been raved about, and the flashes he’s shown so far are that of an all-time talent.
In short, he’s a project. But think about it this way: Patrick Mahomes didn’t immediately start when he came into the league, and this pick allows Jimmy Garoppolo to stay while also preparing for the future. Mac Jones is ready to play, but if Garoppolo is there, you don’t want to make a lateral move.
49ers Grade: A+
Round 2, No. 48: Aaron Banks, G, Notre Dame
So if you’re investing in your quarterback of the future, and your starter who took you to the Super Bowl just two seasons ago is still working back from injury, you should probably invest in protecting them both.
Which is exactly what San Francisco did in the second round. Aaron Banks entered the draft as one of its best-rated guards. He doesn’t have a lot of athleticism to go with his Herculean size (6’5, 325 lbs), but the 49ers needed help on the inside of their line more than anything else.
He’ll be able to compete for a starting job immediately, and can theoretically leave the edge blocking to the more dynamic athletes at the end of the line. This was a safe, no-brainer pick for the 49ers — not a home run, but exactly what they needed.
49ers Grade: A-
Round 3, No. 88: Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
It’s a little bit baffling that one of the most well-rounded running backs in the 2021 rookie class fell all the way to 88th for the 49ers. Even stranger, it could be argued that Sermon was the most talented offensive player on the Buckeyes, even over dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields.
Well, here he was, and the 49ers benefitted nicely, adding another piece to their formidable and deep ground game committee.
While he doesn’t possess the game-breaking speed of Raheem Mostert, Sermon is younger, much bigger (6’0, 190 lbs), and much less injury-prone than either of San Francisco’s running backs. He’s also a dual-threat as a receiver, and is quicker than someone with his size and strength should be allowed to be.
Many were anticipating the 49ers to upgrade either their receiving corps or secondary in the third round, but this is a sort of best-player-available situation, and they couldn’t do much better than Trey Sermon in this case.
49ers Grade: B+
Round 3, No. 102: Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
There’s that secondary depth the 49ers needed!
Picking Trey Sermon fourteen slots ahead of Ambry Thomas is a much better move for the 49ers, knowing that Thomas would be available here.
Thomas offers a lot of depth to the 49ers’ secondary, and comes with prototypical length and size (6’0, 191 lbs). He comes as a pretty raw prospect, but can be an immediate contributor on special teams while he gets up to speed behind Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley.
Again, Thomas is raw, and might get called for a little hand-fighting as he gains experience and savvy at the position, but he’s physical, big, and a smooth athlete. Great value at the end of the third round for the 49ers.
49ers Grade: A-
Round 5, No. 155: Jaylon Moore, OT, Western Michigan
Whatever athleticism Aaron Banks is lacking is completely made up here by the 49ers.
Jaylon Moore is a nasty tackle and former tight end that still has most of the athleticism that position entails.
Like Thomas, Moore is definitely a project, as he’s still learning the in’s and out’s of the position, but the fact that he was a left tackle in Division I NCAA football right out the gate with no experience is testament to his ceiling with the 49ers.
The 49ers can afford to develop him too, as they’re pretty set at tackle. Moore is a nice little gamble with plenty of upside this late in the draft.
49ers Grade: A
Round 5, No. 172: Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
Cut and paste everything said about Ambry Thomas here. The 49ers are adding depth, durability, and dependability in their secondary.
Both Lenoir and the next pick on this report card will be downgraded slightly, as San Francisco could have upgraded at these positions earlier, but the secondary talent in this draft is river deep, so they won’t be dinged too harshly.
Meanwhile, Lenoir offers dual-threat potential, and might even get some looks at to man the safety position.
49ers Grade: B+
Round 5, No. 180: Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC
A little counter-intuitive to the 49ers’ strategy to opt for durability, Hufanga’s upside still outweighs the question marks surrounding his health.
Luckily, his injury history all involves the upper body, meaning that his legs are still safe and at their peak conditioning. He’s coming off a nod for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and like Thomas is athletic enough to contribute on special teams while he develops.
49ers Grade: B-
Round 6, No. 194: Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana
Another running back for the 49ers?
This is the lone pick that will raise some eyebrows, since the 49ers need depth in their receiving corps. The cupboard is pretty bare below George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk, and the Niners could have really used some extra talent here.
But Elijah Mitchell is a homerun hitter, and broke off some really big plays in college, so he could see some minutes in the passing game out of the backfield.
49ers Grade: C+
OVERALL 49ERS NFL DRAFT GRADE: A