The 49ers have been the joke of the league for the past 3 seasons after being a powerhouse in the Jim Harbaugh era. As a fan, it hurts to see how the ownership is taking the team the wrong way because of the lack of importance the Yorks put to such a highly-respected franchise in the NFL. However, after some good signings and hirings by rookie General Manager John Lynch, I do believe the niners are headed the right way. John Lynch put together a staff that includes Kyle Shanahan (who recently won “best assistant coordinator” award), Robert Saleh (DC), Richard Hightower (ST), Bobby Turner (RB), and John Benton (OL).
In addition, Lynch also hired important new faces to the front office such as Adam Peters (VP of Player Personnel) and Martin Mayhew (Senior Personnel Executive). Adam Peters was key to the resurgence of the Denver Broncos, he was the right hand of John Elway and could’ve easily been considered for a General Manager opening if given a chance by Mr. Elway. Martin Mayhew might sound a bit more familiar since he used to be a General Manager for the Detroit Lions. Mayhew’s stint with the Lions was not great, but what John Lynch needs the most is an experienced voice helping him with every decision he faces in this long road with the 49ers.
The next big step in John Lynch’s attempt to make the 49ers competitive again is the NFL Draft. After reviewing nearly every prospect in the NFL Draft, I mocked the 49ers Draft based on the top needs they have both on offense, defense and special teams. Fellow Breaking Football writer Jonathan Valencia has tagged the 49ers as the “NFL’s newest doormat“, a good haul in the 2017 NFL Draft is pivotal in order to break that potential phenomenon.
Round 1: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Foster, 22, is an aggressive 6’1″, 228 pound linebacker the 49ers could benefit a lot of. Since the loss of Patrick Willis, this defense has not been the same and they need an aggressive presence in the position. Now, they do have Navorro Bowman, but the 49ers are used to play two middle linebackers, and not only that, but also, Bowman has become injury prone and they can’t depend on the health of one guy for a whole season. Foster is a great player and even though this could be seen as a stretch, the signing of Earl Mitchell earlier this week closed the door to Jonathan Allen, who used to be my pick at No. 2 for the Niners. There’s no real franchise quarterback in this year’s draft, at least not one that should be drafted this early. QB would be a stretch and a big mistake.
Round 2: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Humphrey, 20, is one of the top defensive backs in this year’s draft. He’s 6’1″ and 196 pounds. He has very fluid hips and can definitely help this 49ers defense become dangerous in the secondary. The Niners secondary has very good young pieces such as Jimmy Ward, Tramaine Brock, Eric Reid, and Jaquiski Tartt. Another solid young DB wouldn’t hurt to continue building a young and fierce defense in San Francisco. Again, don’t look for a solution at QB. At least not yet!
Round 3: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
Alright, we have re-stocked the Niner defense in the first two rounds, but defense is not the only problem for the 49ers. A good wide receiver wouldn’t bother Kyle Shanahan, and JuJu Smith-Schuster can be just that. Smith-Schuster was supposed to be a first-rounder when the season began, however, an underwhelming 2016 campaign got him out of the top two rounds. If you see JuJu’s tape, he’s got the mechanics to play in the next level, there’s no doubt about that, he does remind me of Julio Jones, a big bodied receiver (6’2″, 220 pounds) with outstanding hands. Juju Smith-Schuster could very well be a WR1 for the 49ers if used properly in the Shanahan offense, and I believe he fits it perfectly.
Round 4: Brad Kaaya, QB, University of Miami
The sleeper of the 2017 NFL Draft. Brad Kaaya is the perfect developmental QB. Before the season began, I had Kaaya as the top QB prospect of the nation. Similar to Smith-Schuster, he had a down year in the 2016 campaign, which made scouts look away from him. However, the mechanics are there, he can play the quarterback position and could without a doubt end up being the face of a franchise. The only ‘but’, is Kaaya’s presence in the pocket needs to get better. If you analyze Kaaya’s film, he’s a very talented and naturally gifted passer. However, he does make mistakes when the pressure gets to him, and that needs to be fixed ASAP.
Round 4 (Pick 2): Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M
Daeshon Hall is a name that’s getting hot throughout the league, so I’d be pleasantly surprised if he fell all the way to this pick. However, he did in my mock draft. Hall is a big physical player that can mostly help you stop the running game, but can definitely also pressure the quarterback and force some bad throws. Myles Garrett is without a doubt one of the most (if not the most) talented players in the Draft. After playing with him for his whole college career on the same position, they do share some nicely developed techniques. Another big steal if drafted by the Niners on the fourth.
Round 5: Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan
After four rounds, we have helped both the offense and the defense. Now, it’s time we draft some needs in this team. Glasgow, 23, is a former walk-on with the Michigan Wolverines football team. From being a walk-on and obviously a slept-on recruit in high school, he’s turned into one of the top defensive tackles in college football. He’s 6’3″ and 300 pounds, the guy has a lot of leadership in the locker room and is definitely helping the defense in the running game, which is what the Niners need after finishing last in running yards per game allowed. The maturity and patience in Glasgow’s game is key to the success he’s had throughout his career. Patience and maturity are two virtues the 49ers locker room could benefit a lot of.
Round 5 (Pick 2): KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
Whether it is Kaaya, Cousins, Garoppolo or whoever the 49ers signal-caller is for the next campaign, he is going to need WR help, and Smith-Schuster/Torrey Smith might not be enough. Cannon’s explosiveness and ability to get yards after a catch make him one of the top pass-catching prospects in the nation. He uses his speed to torch defenses down the field, and honestly, this guy could easily end up being the 49ers No. 1 WR for next season, a role he is used to since he has been Baylor’s top receiver for some time now. Cannon is an excellent pick with very high risk but an ever higher reward.
Round 6: DeVeon Smith, RB, Michigan
The Shanahan offense is used to operate with two running backs (as we saw in Atlanta), he used Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman properly to turn the Falcons running game into one of the league’s best. The 49ers do have a good tailback in Carlos Hyde, but based on his injury history and how Shanahan likes to run his offense, he would benefit from an experienced runner like DeVeon Smith. The guy is not going to take runs to the house, but he will give Hyde some needed breaks and could create respect throughout the league for the Niners running game, which would open up the passing game.
Round 6 (Pick 2): Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona State
Phil Dawson is 42 years old and his career is in doubt. He is no longer the young kicker that was clutch and was available whenever coach called his name. Therefore, the 49ers need to look for his replacement, and they have to do it as soon as possible. The guy has made 96-116 (82.6%) of his FGs, also, Zane Gonzalez has boomed 126-of-167 kickoffs (75%) for touchbacks over the past two seasons, which is a great percentage. He finishes every single field goal he kicks, it doesn’t matter the distance. The only down part scouts found on Gonzalez is that his kickoff hang time is slightly below average, he has 3 kickoffs returned for touchdowns, but that shouldn’t be a reason for the Niners to shy away from Zane. San Francisco need to pull the trigger and draft the most prolific FG kicker in FBS history.
Round 7: Rayshawn Jenkins, S, University of Miami
Jenkins is a physical, tough and aggresive player. That’s exactly how GM John Lynch described the players he wants for the 49ers. The secondary in San Francisco is young and good, we helped them by drafting a DB early in the draft and we can help them by drafting a safety to start learning from veterans like Antoine Bethea, Eric Reid and Tramaine Brock. Jenkins is also a very fast player, as his low 40-yd dash is marked at 4.43 and his high at 4.59. Jenkins could be a good developmental prospect and is definitely worth a shot in the seventh.
After 7 solid rounds, the 49ers would become a much better football team on all three phases of the game. Good LB corp, great secondary, solid hands/speed at the WR position, and some developmental prospects. After a few good hirings by Mr. Lynch, I am nothing but excited for the future of the 49ers. I firmly believe in the Shanahan’s offense, and no, being aggressive in the Super Bowl didn’t change my way of thinking of Coach Shanahan. Kyle is a smart football coach that understands the situation of the San Francisco 49ers and will do everything within his power to right the ship in a partnership with John Lynch and Adam Peters.