With the 49ers free agent moves all but complete and their trade to third overall in the draft Red and Gold Report mocks the teams nine picks.
A week ago, the San Francisco 49ers were on the outside looking in at the teams who had been rumored to select one of the top five quarterbacks coming out of their respective colleges. Fast forward a mere 27-days before next month’s NFL draft and the team is in a much more enviable position.
After head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch were able to maneuver the league salary cap being decreased by $16 million dollars and sign many of their own free agents, their draft prospects look much different than they did this time last month.
By resigning what many considered to be the crowned jewel of the 2021 free-agent market in left tackle Trent Williams, the 49ers will continue to employ one of the best at the position for years to come.
Even before signing Williams to a record-setting six-year, $138.06 million deal the team was able to bring back staples like fullback Kyle Juszczyk, cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, and running back Jeff Wilson Jr.
These signings and others were integral in the 49ers being able to trade up to the third spot in the draft. Without them, Lynch and Shanahan likely would have had to stay put and address one of those needs with the 12th pick.
Here we mock the 49ers nine draft picks in this month’s draft, starting with the third overall selection.
49ers Round 1 Pick, (From Miami) #3 overall: Quarterback Zach Wilson, BYU
Even though I have been of the mindset that the New York Jets are going to run it back with quarterback Sam Darnold and draft OT Penei Sewell, it was shocking to see Zach Wilson sitting there at three. I do believe this happens simply from the connection the 49ers have with the Jets staff that wasn’t there before. In case you hadn’t heard, former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is now the head coach with Gang Green. There is a closeness that these two staffs now share and that should not be discounted.
I also fail to believe that with as calculated as Shanahan is that he and Lynch traded so much to get to the 3rd pick without knowing who they are getting. It’s not like the man at all to just say that he will be good with whoever is left. While we have no evidence that the connection between the 49ers and Jets is significant enough to make this true, we can speculate as much.
Now on to the pick. If you’re looking for a quarterback that fits the Shanahan mold to a T, Zach Wilson is that guy. Playing with the 49ers system that relies so much on play-action passing would be a match made in heaven for both team and player. When watching Wilson’s pro day last week, (just as news of the 49ers trade up to three was breaking) it wasn’t difficult to envision him in red and gold, executing designed roll outs and hitting one of the many weapons he would have in George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk.
49ers Round 2 Pick, #43 overall: Guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
The 49ers have addressed the offensive line this year in bringing back Trent Williams but also in signing center Alex Mack to a three-year contract. Mack has played with Shanahan before and should help to anchor the line in front of whoever is behind it this season. This is no reason to rest on their laurels though and getting a player of Vera-Tucker’s ilk will only help to solidify the pass protection and the zone blocking the 49ers employ.
Vera-Tucker has played mostly at left tackle for the Trojans but is very agile and possesses a level of athleticism that Shanahan covets. This move will also allow him to potentially move to one of the tackle positions in the event that Williams gets hurt or the team moves on from right tackle Mike McGlinchey after this coming season.
49ers Round 3 Pick, # 102 overall: Cornerback Keith Taylor Jr., Washington
Standing 6’3, 195 lbs, Keith Taylor has shown the ability to become at least a number two cornerback in the NFL. He has the size and length that the 49ers look for in their corners and could battle Emmanuel Moseley for the right to play opposite projected number one corner, Jason Verrett.
He will have to shore up his mechanics on his backpedals and not lose receivers while in man to man. While Taylor’s draft stock ascended after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl he has a great deal to prove if he is in fact taken this high.
He would see a good amount of press-man coverage when the situation dictates such a defensive call and that would ideally be the way the team would use him at the onset of his NFL career.
49ers Round 4 Pick, #117 overall: Defensive Tackle Darius Stills, West Virginia
When Shanahan and Lynch signed then unheard of, six-year contracts to rebuild the 49ers they made it clear pretty quickly how they intended to accomplish it. The goal has always been to build a strong line and flesh the defense out from there. The 2019 season was a prime example of that philosophy at work.
San Francisco is a more complete defense when they have speed rushers coming fast off the ends and surrounding opposing quarterbacks from both sides. During their last Super Bowl run, they had perfected that with EDGE’s Nick Bosa and Dee Ford.
While this pick isn’t another defensive end it will help to add increased depth along the defensive line with a player like Stills who has the off-the-ball speed the 49ers covet. He would start as a rotational player but with his strength and power as well as his technique he could become a starter along an improved line from 2020.
49ers Round 5 Pick, #155 overall: Wide Receiver Amari Rodgers, Clemson
The knock on Rodgers coming out of Clemson is that he lacks the stature to succeed when challenged by defensive backs at the catch point. As far as Shanahan is concerned that wouldn’t be an issue in his offense since Rodgers would be playing primarily in the slot for the 49ers.
At 5’9, 211 lbs Rodgers possesses a quick and compact frame whose abilities to maximize yards after the catch will fit perfectly in the Shanahan system. When watching what players like Kittle and Samuel bring to the table it’s not hard to imagine Rodgers doing the same with the ball in his hands.
His highlights speak for themselves and prove that he would be adept in running whatever plays Shanahan called for him, much like Samuel does now. Add that to the fact that he could be used as a punt returner and the 49ers will have quite an addition to the receiving corps if they’re able to select him.
49ers Round 5 Pick, #172 overall: Offensive Tackle Adrian Ealy, Oklahoma
The 49ers will have a decision to make as it pertains to current right guard, Mike McGlinchey. He is entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract and is due to earn $6.652 million. It remains to be seen if the team will want to compete for his services when he likely hits free agency next year.
That being said it would make sense for the team to consider a player of Ealy’s stature and experience as a two-year starter at Oklahoma. He could turn into a starter if he cleans up some leverage issues at the next level.
Pro Football Network had this to say about his prospects in the NFL.
“There is quite a bit to like in the run game. Oklahoma pulled him around the backside of the offensive line with regularity, and this is where his athleticism paid dividends. Ealy is able to get out to the second level and make blocks with power. He seems to excel when taking blockers head-on. There are multiple examples of him using his strength to hurl people out of the way to create running lanes.”
49ers Round 5 Pick, #180 overall: Cornerback Camryn Bynum, California
It’s no secret the 49ers entered the 2021 free agency period with significant questions at cornerback. They managed to answer by bringing back Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams, and Emmanuel Moseley. The first two are on one-year contracts though and the team will have to look at ways to build this unit in 2022 and beyond.
Bynum had been a four-year starter at the University of California and in that time was named a captain twice. Standing 6’0, 198 lbs, and possessing great ball skills will serve Bynum well at this level. He does lack speed on deep balls and therefore may have trouble keeping up with the more speedy receivers in the league.
Pro Football Network said, he is “rarely challenged by opposing quarterbacks. Plays faster than his 40 time, takes proper angles and gives effort defending the run. Squares and wraps up tackling.”
Drafting the hometown product could be a pivotal step towards shoring up the secondary after this coming season.
49ers Round 6 Pick, #194 overall: Tight End Matt Bushman, BYU
Kyle Shanahan has been looking to upgrade the tight end position behind Kittle for some time now. The team brought back Ross Dwelley and they still have last year’s sixth-round pick Charlie Woerner in the fold but they need a more solid second option.
Bushman missed the 2020 season to a ruptured Achilles before the campaign began. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson had a stellar 2020, just imagine what it might have looked like if he had his number one target on the field.
Bushman is 25 years old and coming off the injury so teams could be averse to drafting him and that’s fair. However, this could just the kind of low-risk, high reward on a late-round pick that Lynch and Shanahan have made a living off selecting.
49ers Round 7 Pick, #230 overall: Running Back Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas
Could the 49ers have potentially signed the Last Chance U and Arkansas prospect to an undrafted free agent contract? Perhaps. I elected to not take the risk and secure him with the team’s last pick of the draft.
Possessing the speed and vision that Shanahan looks for in his running backs is one thing, but Boyd has the ability to truly excel as a pass catcher in this offense as well. He also has the initial explosion to burst through holes and pop off some nice runs.
The Niners have Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. as the two mainstays but they have both dealt with their share of injuries. Adding a talent like Boyd would give them a good third option.