2021 NFL Draft Grades: San Francisco 49ers

With the San Francisco 49ers coming off an unexpected season riddled with injuries, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan had to address the elephant in the room: How quickly can they get back to the Super Bowl? Throughout the league, Kyle Shanahan is praised for being an offensive genius who was able to get players like Kirk Cousins and Matt Schaub to put up impressive numbers and huge contracts. But the one thing that Kyle Shanahan always gets knocked down for is his lack of a Super Bowl ring. In this age of football, if you do not have a reliable franchise QB, you are replaced quickly, like the Philadelphia Eagles did with Carson Wentz, Arizona Cardinals did with Josh Rosen and even the Los Angeles Rams with Jared Goff.

In this year’s draft, with five potential QB prospects going in the top 15 picks, the 49ers believed they needed to get their future franchise QB. During the offseason, the 49ers made a blockbuster trade to move from the 12th-overall pick to the third-overall pick by trading away multiple future first-round picks. With Trevor Lawrence deemed the first-overall pick since high school and Zach Wilson jumping up to the second spot to the New York Jets, the 49ers have a choice among the remaining prospects: Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones. 

Round 1, pick 3: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

With the third-overall pick, the 49ers picked their future signal caller in Trey Lance, the North Dakota State quarterback. Lance created buzz after his impressive 2019 campaign with 28 TDs and 0 INTs. Even with the impressive stat line, he was incredibly raw. He has a cannon of an arm with a great deep ball. Lance is a really athletic QB that is able to throw on the run and has great pocket mobility, something that Jimmy Garoppolo lacks. There were only two real knocks on him as a prospect. The first is his level of competition.

Due to this, Lance was always locked on his first read and hasn’t really been pressured compared to other prospects. The second was his lack of actual game film. He only really played in 17 games, which is very limited, however with the notion that Jimmy Garoppolo will be starting, Lance will have time to learn from the veteran QB.

Grade: A-

Round 2, pick 48: Aaron Banks, OG, Notre Dame

With the 48th overall pick, the 49ers selected Aaron Banks from Notre Dame. Picking their future franchise QB with the previous pick, they needed to bolster their offensive line after re-signing Pro Bowl LT Trent Williams and signing former Falcon center Alex Mack. Banks earned first-team All ACC as well as starting 12 games for the Fighting Irish. During his time at Notre Dame, Banks only allowed two sacks and 19 pressures from over 400 pass plays. He will be joining former Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey and competing for the starting right-guard spot. 

Grade: B+

Round 3, pick 88: Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State

With the 88th-overall pick, the 49ers decided to get the Ohio State RB, Trey Sermon. If you know anything about the Shanahans, they love their running backs, but even more than that, Kyle Shanahan likes players that can do it all. That is why this pick was a little confusing, but made sense at the same time. Sermon does not have the speed, or the hands you see in a typical Shanahan RB, but what you do see is a really tough back that will be hard to take down. Even for a big back, he has quick feet and has good vision to allow him to change his sense of direction. Sermon will remind 49ers fans of a former Buckeye RB in Carlos Hyde. 

Grade: B

Round 3, pick 102: Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan

With the 102th-overall pick, the 49ers selected the Michigan prospect, Ambry Thomas. Thomas sat out during the 2020 campaign, however, had a productive 2019 season with three INTs, three passes defended, and a couple of forced fumbles. Thomas was very good value for where he was taken and will join a 49ers defense who is in dire need of secondary help. He has a lot to offer as a nickel corner, and with the pairing of Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, he will have a place in the starting lineup a couple games into the season. His aggressive press features and underrated tackling abilities will complement the other cornerbacks to solidify their secondary. 

Grade: B+

Round 5, pick 155: Jaylon Moore, OT, Western Michigan

With the 155th pick, the 49ers chose to bolster their offensive line more by adding Western Michigan tackle, Jaylon Moore. Throughout his tenure at Western Michigan, Moore only allowed seven sacks in more than 1000 pass-blocking snaps. Moore is a very quick athlete who has great measurables, and has both guard and tackle flexibility. Moore needs to be taught to win with his hands, but practicing against pass rushers like Dee Ford and Nick Bosa every day will help him develop into a starter, or at the very least, a quality back up. 

Grade: B+

Round 5, pick 172: Deommodre Lenoir, CB, Oregon

With the 172nd pick, the 49ers went back to address secondary and picked a relatively local prospect in safety, Deommodore Lenoir from Oregon. Lenoir is a tough defender and a ball hawk, however he has missed tackles. He will primarily start on the special teams and has a chance of rotating in for the box-safety spot. 

Grade: B

Round 5, pick 180: Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC

With the 180th pick, the 49ers picked the USC safety Talanoa Hufanga. Hufanga is a hybrid athlete that is more of a linebacker than a safety. Hufanga led the team in tackles, while getting four INTs and ranking first in the Pac-12 in INTs and second in the whole nation. He can be used in the zone-cover scheme that the 49ers have been using under former defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh.

Grade: B

Round 6, pick 194: Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana

With the 194th pick, the 49ers picked another RB in Elijah Mitchell from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. You can not get enough RBs in a Shanahan system. Mitchell is a speedster who will most likely replace Mostert when he leaves. Currently, the 49ers have seven RBs on the roster, eight if you wanna think of Deebo Samuel as a RB. Mitchell will be a great complement and bring in more competition on the offensive side. 

Grade: B+

Final verdict:

The 49ers addressed their main concerns in QB, secondary, and offensive Line. This draft, however, was pretty different to how Lynch and Shanahan have been drafting. In the previous years, they have been drafting players who are fluid, fast and versatile. However, in this draft, there is a lot of aggressiveness and explosiveness from these prospects. This shows that Shanahan isn’t playing around this year and wants to go all in. Overall I give this draft a B+ for addressing their holes, while also adding more depth to the roster.

Grade: B+

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