The San Francisco 49ers needed a big 2021 NFL Draft to get themselves back in the playoffs. The 49ers were Super Bowl LIV in 2019 and while one season later, the 49ers missed the playoffs due to injury concerns. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan had key decisions for multiple position groups. The 49ers drafted eight total players with five of them on offense and three on defense. All three of the defensive players were brought to address the secondary.
- First-round, 3rd overall: Trey Lance, quarterback, North Dakota State
- Second-round, 48th overall: Aaron Banks, guard, Notre Dame
- Third-round, 88th overall: Trey Sermon, running back, Ohio State
- Third-round, 102nd overall: Ambry Thomas, cornerback, Michigan
- Fifth-round, 155th overall: Jaylon Moore, guard, Western Michigan
- Fifth-round, 172nd overall: Deommodore Lenoir, cornerback, Oregon
- Fifth round, 180th overall: Talanoa Hufanga, safety, USC
- Sixth-round, 194th overall: Elijah Mitchell, running back, Louisiana
San Francisco 49ers 2021 NFL Draft Grade: 8/10
2021 NFL Draft Review: San Francisco 49ers
The Top Player: Trey Lance
The 49ers took a big gamble by trading from the 12th overall pick to the third overall pick. By trading away three first-round picks (2021, 2022, and 2023) and a third-round pick (2022), they needed to make the pick for the best available franchise quarterback. The 49ers have been rumored to get Alabama quarterback Mac Jones since trading for the pick. Instead, the 49ers drafted the dual-threat quarterback Trey Lance from North Dakota State.
There isn’t a lot of highlights for Lance, as he has only started in 17 collegiate games. The ceiling is higher for an impact player like Lance than Jones. He has the arm strength, accuracy, leadership, and athleticism to be a high-profile quarterback in the NFL.
As a redshirt freshman, Lance led the Bison to a perfect 16-0 season. Lance helped the Bison win their 16th National Championship and was named the 2020 Most Outstanding Player. Lance takes his talents to the NFL early for a 49ers team seeking the same kind of impact in the NFL.
He’ll come as in as an eventual replacement to Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting quarterback for the 49ers. He will more time to develop in the development under coach Shanahan, which is why they have not traded or released “Jimmy G.” Lance will be the starting quarterback eventually for San Francisco and it may be sooner rather be than later.
The Overreached Player: Aaron Banks
Outside of quarterback, the interior offensive line needed to be addressed on the offensive side of the ball the most. When it came time to decide for San Francisco to make in the second round, the 49ers decided to overreach for a guard rather than draft the best player available for a position needed like a cornerback.
Many teams are high on Norte Dame guard Aaron Banks as a starting guard in the NFL. The 49ers selected Banks with the 48th overall pick in the 2021 NLF Draft after several key offensive linemen were picked, including some in the interior. While Banks is a productive player for the offensive schemes that the 49ers are implementing, there could have been a chance that the 49ers drafted Banks too high.
ESPN ranked Banks as the 92nd overall player and the sixth-best guard in the draft. Outside Alabama’s Landon Dickerson, who plays center, Banks was the second interior offensive lineman drafted. There were plenty of opportunities for the 49ers to draft a highly efficient guard with one of the picks in the third round.
Banks is a highly efficient blocker in the run game and pass protection. He will fit perfectly with the schemes that will be installed in their offense. While it is a reach, the 49ers felt that his talents and productivity will be a great fit for the offense as they look to get back in the same efficiency as their Super Bowl contending season two years ago.
The Instant Contributor: Trey Sermon
The 49ers have an offense that requires numerous contributors at the skill positions. Particularly, at the running back position, they require three running backs to get a running game established. The 49ers return two of their top three rushers from this past season. The offense ranked 15th in the league in rushing yards per game (118.1).
With the 49ers needing some reliable contributors to their run-schemes, a dynamic rusher like Sermon will be able to come in immediately and contribute to the offense. Sermon is a player that has power, speed, agility, and versatility as an extra receiver in the backfield. He is the type of running back that coach Shanahan likes to use for his offense since he was the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.
Having a young but highly talented backfield with Sermon and Lance will make San Francisco one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFC West. Sermon is more capable of being a starter in the league than their other running backs in Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert.
The Project and Future Starter: Ambry Thomas
The 49ers didn’t address their defensive concerns on their team until later in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. With Richard Sherman gone, the 49ers are leaning on Emmanuel Moseley and Jason Verrett to be their full-time starters at the cornerback. The 49ers drafted Michigan cornerback Ambry Thomas to be in line for their next starting cornerback. He will be able to play almost immediately by being an extra defensive back in the slot. He is fast and long but he will need work fixing his abilities to mirror the receivers in route running. Thomas will be noted as a tough and efficient tackler in the backfield. Even if Thomas isn’t ready to start as the main cornerback, he will be trained for a season or two before his time will come.
The Most Veristale Player: Jaylon Moore
The 49ers are drawn to players who have highly versatile talent on one or both sides of the ball. They needed to continue to acquire more help with the offensive line. This led the 49ers to draft Western Michigan tackle Jaylon Moore in the fifth round with the 155th overall pick. Moore is a player that can become a highly efficient run blocker and stellar pass protector for San Francisco. He is a dominant player who can generate push on the edge and towards the inside. Moore’s experience in college could have him at tackle but his ideal size and length could have him start on the interior.
The 49ers made three more picks in the 2021 NFL Draft with the first two of them occurring in the fifth round. With the 172nd overall pick, the 49ers drafted another speedy cornerback in Deommodore Lenoir from Oregon. This is to provide more help in man coverage. One pick later for the 49ers, they continue to add more efficiency in their pass defense with USC safety Talanoa Hufanga. Finally, their last pick in the draft was another highly efficient running back in Louisiana’s Elijah Mitchell with the 194th overall pick. These are players that will add significant depth to both sides of the ball for serious position group needs.
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