San Francisco needed to nail this draft after 4 win season. 2018 was a season plagued by injuries and inconsistent play on both sides of the ball. The only solid playtime 49ers demonstrated in 2018 was kicker Robbie Gould who was Mr. Automatic; when he was given the opportunity to kick a field goal. Even now he isn’t with the team, however the 49ers are looking to extend his contract and get him in camp. Yes, it is very early to predict if this 2019 draft class will be a bust, but we can make an attempt based on team needs and player availability.
With that, let’s give some details on the 49ers draft class and I will also be giving the 49ers a final grade for the 2019 NFL Draft class.
Round 1 (2nd Overall) — Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Simply put, the success of this draft class will hinge on the success of Nick Bosa. Fortunately, this is one player that is absolutely worth betting on. Even if Bosa missed a huge part oh his last collegiate year, he has the genes, athleticism and strength to make an immediate impact in most NFL teams.
Considered by many to be the best overall player in this class, Bosa excelled during his time at Ohio State being named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2017 following an 8.5 sack season. He was named a First-Team All Big Ten selection helping lead Ohio State to a Big Ten Conference championship. He has always been a stand out football player going back to his high school days he was a very highly recruited player and he chose Ohio State. He has football in his genes as his father was an NFL player, his brother is a starter for the Los Angeles Chargers and now Nick has his opportunity to place his stamp on the NFL.
Bosa is about as safe of a prospect as you could get from a performance standpoint. He is well rounded as a technically gifted pass rusher as well as being a refined run defender. The only red flags come with prior injury issues but those concerns are more overblown than true deterrents.
Expect the 49ers to kick Arik Armstead inside permanently with Bosa and Ford assuming the starting edge roles, leaving little room for Thomas at least in the starting lineup. Changes will come in the defense with free agent acquisitions have been added, players are back from injury. Thus, improving this 49ers on defense, as one area of concern was the few turnovers this defense came up with in 2018. This has to improve in order for the 49ers to improve as a team and challenge the Los Angeles Rams for the Division title.
Either way, the selection of Bosa solidifies the 49ers front four as the clear strength of the defensive unit, especially when you factor in rising star DeForest Buckner. While some will have preferred Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, there should be no complaints about the direction the 49ers chose to go in.
If there are complaints, expect them to be silenced once the season gets underway and Bosa begins to show his true value. If this defense can stay healthy it will improve dramatically in 2019.
Round 2 (36th Overall) — Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
After solidifying a strength with their first pick, the 49ers decided to improve upon a weakness with their selection of wide receiver Deebo Samuel in the second round.
The 49ers entered the draft desperately needing help at the position after a 2018 season in which no receiver totaled more than 500 receiving yards. Now, injuries certainly played a part in that, but it’s still concerning nonetheless.
Samuel is an intriguing prospect who should be asked to do a variety of different things in head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s offense. The South Carolina product is a shifty, superb route runner who excels after the catch when he could move in open space.
While some have anointed him as simply a slot receiver, Samuel has the ability to play on the outside if he could work on his initial release a bit more. Too often he found himself getting jammed at the line of scrimmage while playing for South Carolina which is why many analysts have projected him as more of a slot guy.
Still, his skill set should mesh well with the likes of Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Kendrick Bourne, and Jordan Matthews who will help round out a hopefully improved 49ers receiving core. Factor in the addition of the next entry on our list and there’s the potential for a really solid group of receivers.
That said, this selection could be considered a slight reach and it’s worth noting that there were other receivers on the board who could have been more appealing such as Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown. Regardless, Shanahan was able to get an up close look at Samuel during this year’s Senior Bowl and he clearly liked what he saw, making this pick a bit more sensible.
Perhaps not the highest upside you look for in a top-40 pick, but Samuel should still be a solid contributor on offense even if he never becomes a true No. 1 receiver.
Round 3 (67th Overall) — Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor
The 49ers decided to double up at a position of need with their selection of Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd in the third round.
Hurd is an ideal developmental receiver with the physical traits to be a star receiver at the next level. The former Tennessee running back is a physical specimen who possesses soft hands and superb YAC ability.
However, there are certainly a few areas of his game that could use some refinement. Having played just one season at the wide receiver position after transferring from Tennessee, Hurd isn’t the most technically proficient route runner and could use some work on his releases.
In an ideal scenario, San Francisco will first use him in a similar role to how the New England Patriots have used Cordarrelle Patterson with the potential to see more snaps as a true receiver as his game develops over time.
Still, it is fair to question the team going with the developmental Hurd here instead of a defensive back, especially with multiple corners such as David Long and Justin Layne still on the clock. Because of that, the overall grade drops a bit as this selection could have been used to address a bigger need with a player who projects less as a project.
Round 4 (110th Overall) — Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah
This is the pick that most people will be up in arms about, and with good reason because when his name was called a plethora of people wondered why the 49ers would take a punter so high in a draft they need to improve the team in many areas.
Still with a myriad of needs to address, including the aforementioned secondary, the 49ers decided to use a top-110 draft pick on a punter. Now, I’m all for the whole punters are people too movement and believe that punters can be and are very important parts of a team.
Look no further than Seattle’s Michael Dickson who made waves last year and played a major role in the outcome of many games. That said, Dickson was considered by many to be one of the best punters to enter the league in recent memory a nd he still was drafted a full 39 picks after the 49ers elected to pick Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky.
It isn’t that Wishnowsky won’t be a good NFL punter; he may very well play 10+ years with the franchise. But to get the return on value that you would need for this pick to be worth it, he pretty much would have to be a perennial Pro Bowler and decade long veteran of the team.
Still with a glaring need in the secondary, the team opted to pass on the position altogether even with the likes of Kendall Sheffield, Amani Hooker, and Deionte Thompson, three players who could have really helped out a struggling 49ers defensive back group.
Instead, they selected a punter who now must become an All-Pro caliber player for the selection to be validated. Not an ideal selection here, and not a great way to kick off Day 3.
Round 5 (148th Overall) — Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas
The 49ers made another questionable pick in the fifth round as they decided to select Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw with the 148th overall pick.
Round 6 (176th Overall) — Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford
With their sixth round pick, the 49ers decided to stay local drafting Stanford tight end Kaden Smith.
Unlike some of their other mid-round picks, this selection is actually pretty solid value for a player of Smith’s caliber. The Stanford product should slot in immediately as a depth tight end and challenge veteran Garrett Celek for the primary No. 2 role.
Smith is a big, strong tight end who was used a lot as a blocker while in college but also excels when used as a vertical passing threat. He has no trouble running routes up the seam and making grabs in traffic, something that gives him an advantage over Celek.
Either way, expect Smith to compete for a roster spot and likely find his way on to the field before long. He could be the ideal complement to George Kittle that they have been searching for.
Round 6 (183rd Overall) — Justin Skule, OT, Vanderbilt
With the second of their three sixth-round draft choices, the 49ers opted to select offensive tackle Justin Skule to compete for a backup tackle spot.
Round 6 (198th Overall) — Tim Harris, CB, Virginia
The 49ers finally decided to address their secondary albeit with their final pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. That said, the selection of Virginia cornerback Tim Harris makes a ton of sense at this stage in the draft.
Harris is a prototypical high ceiling, low floor player. He possesses a rare blend of size, speed, and athleticism to go along with plus ball skills. Harris has a high ceiling as a prospect with the potential to become a valuable NFL starter but he must overcome a litany of injuries that have plagued his career to this point.
The Virginia product suffered season ending injuries in both 2015 and 2016 playing just three games over that timespan. The upside is there, but it’s fair to wonder if injuries have permanently stalled his career or not.