The San Francisco 49ers 2022 NFL Draft was back-loaded, with few top round picks to grab immediate impact players. However, with their nine picks, six of which came in the fourth round or later, the 49ers built depth in needed positions. They opted for role-specific positions, and a quarterback with “Mr. Irrelevant”, the last pick in the draft.
The 49ers draft opened at pick 61, landing Drake Jackson, an Edge rusher from USC. The next three picks addressed offensive needs, followed by a back-and-forth offensive/defensive selection in the remaining five picks. The San Francisco 49ers 2022 NFL Draft, however, may not deliver the impact hoped for in the first season. In a draft largely defined by raw, developmental players, the 49ers class fits that mould almost too narrowly.
- Second round, 61st overall: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
- Third round, 93rd overall: Tyrion Davis-Price, Running back, LSU
- Third round, 105th overall: Danny Gray, Wide Receiver, SMU
- Fourth round, 134th overall: Spencer Burford, Guard, Texas-San Antonio
- Fifth round, 172nd overall: Samuel Womack, Cornerback, Toledo
- Sixth round, 187th overall: Nick Zakelj, Tackle, Fordham
- Sixth round, 220th overall: Kalia Davis, Defensive Tackle, UCF
- Sixth round, 221st overall: Tariq Castro-Fields, Cornerback, Penn State
- Seventh Round, 262nd overall: Brock Purdy, Quarterback, Iowa State
San Francisco 49ers 2022 NFL Draft Grade: 6.5/10
San Francisco 49ers 2022 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Drake Jackson
Drake Jackson comes off the edge as an athletic pass rusher with quick techniques to slide off offensive linemen. Jackson shined at USC when asked to blitz the quarterback and use his finesse. He works best on outside pass rushes, chasing the quarterback in late-game, third-down situations. Jackson lands in San Francisco to fill a special role.
Chiefly, he fills a special role due to a lack of success in attacking running backs or inside leverage rushing. Jackson is the best player of the class, but he also has a low-floor and fans may not appreciate his limited application early in his career. To find a second-contact with the 49ers, Jackson needs to add leverage to his pass rush to fight on inside rushes. He is not strong enough to battle big NFL tackles. This selection is as much, if not more, about the potential Jackson has than what he offers in year-one.
Moreover, he also must learn to combat the run, as he has extremely limited run attack techniques. There are a lot of questions about Jackson and the breadth of his role in San Francisco. Taking such a player first overall emphasises this draft is for development.
The Head-Scratcher: Tyrion Davis-Price
Tyrion Davis-Price may be a fine running back in the committee league that is the NFL. The 49ers operate as a committee team to the truest definition of the term. Yet, Davis-Price in the top-100 remains confusing. His 40-yard dash was a touch slow and his highlight tape features a litany of lumbering carries. Other, better committee backs remained on the board. At some point, there is a factor that draft analysts do not see or know all which the team sees or knows; even-less how the team plans to use a player.
Yet, Davis-Price remains a confusing pick so high, also considering not only better running backs remained on the board, but better players in higher positions of need remained on the board. He has a powerful running style that can smash defenders’ heads in. He is athletic and powers-up over a game, running defenders into a wall in quarter four. Yet, if he cannot get going, he remains stuck in mud the whole game; never mind the fumbling problem. The 49ers plan to use him in a committee also goes against Davis-Price’s seeming need to warm-up over the length of a game. He will need to re-learn how to operate in the 49ers offense to make an impact in his early career.
The Surprise: Brock Purdy
Brock Purdy as “Mr. Irrelevant” at pick 262 is almost a steal, if were not the token “almost undrafted free-agent” pick. The stock for Purdy to make an impact as an NFL backup is high, whether that be in the crowded San Francisco quarterback room, or elsewhere.
He is a picture of an NFL from two decades ago, just with running abilities. He is the model of a backup, more mobile, Jake Delhomme or Trent Green. Purdy may do fine if he is patient in training camp, learns the game, and improves his mechanics. He is a leader and fits naturally in a quarterback room. There is plenty to enjoy about the good in his game. However, he is a backup, and his landing in San Francisco comes as a bit of a surprise considering how stuffed that room is. No one will say the 49ers quarterback highlights at training camp are boring.
The Steal: Danny Gray
Danny Gray is a track player who shines in athleticism. If he matches the physicality of the NFL with his lighter, faster frame, Gray should find a role in San Francisco. He lands about where projected, but is still a steal for the value that he can bring to the team. While Gray may not be the ‘best’ player, he has the safest floor in the draft. He can block, play on special teams, and return kicks and punts. He is fast, and may even fill the now infamous Debo Samuel role.
Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: Tariq Castro-Fields
Tariq Castro-Fields fits the pursuit of San Francisco to draft developmental players. He is a long, agile corner who fits perfectly into the deeper secondary fighting wide receivers. If he improves his confidence and tenacity, his agility and length will make a splash during training camp. Coaches must teach Castro-Fields to improve his ball-hawking skills. If he accomplishes that, his size and speed will combine to fit nicely into a secondary. Besides, the last name “Fields” is awesome for a cornerback who can improve to cover sideline-to-sideline.
Kalia Davis (Pick 220) is a linebacker converted to a defensive tackle, making for a scary combination of quickness and size (6’1”, 302lbs.). Davis is recovering from a torn ACL, and may count as a steal if he returns with the ferocity which he started the 2021 season with. He understands how to play football and can grow into a massive disrupter. Samuel Womack (Pick 172) is a leader and ball-hawk, although inconsistent. From a walk-on to team captain, there is a lot to like about Womack. If he can play consistently, Womack can become part of an NFL roster and continue his journey from Toledo.
Nick Zakelj (Pick 187, OT) and Spencer Burford (Pick 134, OG) round out the 49ers offensive draft. Both are developmental linemen, with Burford the more likely to find a spot with the 49ers. He is long (82-inch wingspan) with the knowledge to play across the line. He may not be expansive enough with handwork or technique to line-up and win every rep in the NFL, but he certainly should find a role solidifying a rotational backup position. Zakelj is a four-year, college all-star Fordham. His game plays refined and he knows how to play left tackle. Yet, he also does not have the strength or secure hands to knock over bull rushers. He will need to find a way to fit into a role with the 49ers and practice extra technical skills to anchor himself against stronger, NFL-caliber defenders.