49ers Draft Picks 2017: Results, Grades and Analysis for Each Selection

Peter Panacy@@PeterPanacyFeatured Columnist IVApril 27, 2017

49ers Draft Picks 2017: Results, Grades and Analysis for Each Selection

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    The San Francisco 49ers enter the 2017 NFL draft armed with the No. 2 overall pick, the first of 10 selections.
    The San Francisco 49ers enter the 2017 NFL draft armed with the No. 2 overall pick, the first of 10 selections.Jon Durr/Getty Images

    The 2017 NFL draft officially kicked off at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, and it marks a crucial step for the San Francisco 49ers and their rebuild project under general manager John Lynch and Co.

    Lynch took a number of steps via free agency earlier this offseason to "upgrade the middle class," as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport put it (h/t Kevin Jones of KNBR). Yet the draft provides a much-needed opportunity to reinforce the core group and add specific playmakers at a variety of positions.

    San Francisco entered the NFL draft with a total of 10 picks, including No. 2 overall.

    No shortage of speculation preceded the Niners' first pick. With the Cleveland Browns selecting Texas A&M edge Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, Lynch had the ability to select any player not named Garrett.

    But instead of staying put, Lynch moved down to No. 3 in an exchange with the Chicago Bears, who owned the No. 3 pick in Round 1. In exchange, the 49ers received pick Nos. 67, 111 and a third-round selection in 2018.

    Regardless of this or any movement, this year's 49ers draft class is of the utmost importance as the team looks to make vast improvements.

    This slideshow will be updated with each of the Niners picks, along with analysis and grades for each selection.

    So sit back, relax and enjoy as the 49ers gear up for the most important event of this critical offseason.

Round 1, Pick No. 3: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

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    After moving down from the No. 2 spot, the 49ers managed to land Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas.

    Before looking at the selection itself, let's consider general manager John Lynch engineered a masterful trade by moving down with the Chicago Bears. San Francisco was never going to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, whom Chicago picked up second in Round 1. 

    This added two more 2017 mid-draft picks, and another Round 3 pick in 2018, which makes this deal all the more sweeter. Let's throw that into the equation.

    Insofar as Thomas, he'll reinforce a rebuilding offense line including two first-round picksArik Armstead and DeForest Bucknerfrom the previous two years.

    Thomas and Buckner may be on the same par, and the former is certainly an upgrade over Armstead, who missed the majority of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury.

    Where Thomas excels is against the run, which is an important issue the 49ers are facing this upcoming season. Remember, San Francisco's run defense was historically bad a year ago. 

    Still, the Niners defensive line will be a bit crowded moving forward. While Thomas is a vastly different kind of player than his two first-round predecessors, the 49ers defense may have to do some shifting up front to get some of the team's better talent on the field as often as possible.

    Grade: A- 

Round 1, Pick No. 31: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

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    John Lynch wasn't finished in Round 1 and managed to move back up in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, sending off pick Nos. 34 and 111.

    And with that pick, the Niners picked up Alabama inside linebacker Reuben Foster.

    Any 49ers fan can remember the dynamic linebacker tandem that was Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman not long ago. Willis has since retired, and Bowman is aging and coming off injury. But Foster's dynamic on-field abilities create the potential to make San Francisco's linebacker group elite once more.

    Foster excelled at Alabama, and his performance in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game highlights a stellar collegiate career. 

    But there are a few questions for Foster transitioning to the pro level. His NFL Scouting Combine altercation certainly didn't help his draft stock. And a nagging shoulder injurysomething that may be of concern for a high-tackling linebackercould be a bit of a worry as well.

    Still, Foster was easily a top-10 player not long ago, especially without health. His sideline-to-sideline abilities are amazing, and one could figure he winds up taking the reins from Bowman at some point down the road.

    As far as value goes, the 49ers hit a home run here.

    Grade: A

Round 3, Pick No. 2: Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado

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    The 49ers reinforced their secondary with Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon in Round 3.
    The 49ers reinforced their secondary with Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon in Round 3.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    With zero picks in Round 2, the 49ers still managed to kick off the third round with back-to-back picks toward the top of the third round.

    Pick No. 67 was traded to the New Orleans Saints, per KNBR 680's Kevin Jones.

    But with the No. 66 overall selection, San Francisco brought in Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon.

    Witherspoon, at 6'3" and 198 pounds, should fill a much-needed role within the Niners secondary this season.

    Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will install a 4-3 under scheme this season, which will also feature plenty of Cover 3 and a high safety. This means cornerbacks will be operating in a lot of one-on-one coverage.

    Witherspoon can handle this kind of work. His 4.45-second 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine allows him to keep up with fast receivers, and as NFL.com's Lance Zierlein put it, the former Colorado product "defends the catch point with tremendous timing."

    He'll need to work on his run support at the next level. And it wouldn't hurt to develop a little bit of aggression.

    But with San Francisco boasting only one true corner—Rashard Robinson—with any promise, the pickup of Witherspoon here is a great find.

    Grade A-

Round 3, Pick No. 39: C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa

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    San Francisco moved back up into Round 3 to take Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard.
    San Francisco moved back up into Round 3 to take Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    San Francisco ended up sending pick Nos. 109 and 219 to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for No. 104 overall, which turned out to be Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard.

    The 6'2", 219-pound signal-caller is certainly a developmental project. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards in 2015 in a 5,562-yard career. He worked in a pro-style system, which should translate well over to what head coach Kyle Shanahan will want to do on offense.

    San Francisco's quarterback situation isn't set, at least not for the long run. Veteran Brian Hoyer is all but guaranteed to start this season and will be backed up by Matt Barkley.

    Beathard likely winds up being the No. 3 option behind these two entering this season.

    As a reserve option, Beathard is a solid choice. At the tail end of Round 3, however, it might have been nice to see the 49ers target some other positions of need—perhaps wide receiver or tight end. 

    And to trade up for him? That part doesn't make much sense either.

    Lynch had mastered the draft through this particular pick, but Beathard is a bit confusing. San Francisco could have likely had him much, much later. And the Niners should have used this pick for other needs.

    Grade: D+

Round 4, Pick No. 14: Joe Williams, RB, Utah

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    The 49ers find their mid-draft running back by adding the speedy Joe Williams out of Utah.
    The 49ers find their mid-draft running back by adding the speedy Joe Williams out of Utah.Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    San Francisco's first move in Round 4 was to send off a 2018 fourth-round pick in exchange for the Denver Broncos' fifth-round pick this year (No. 177) and backup running back Kapri Bibbs.

    And only a few minutes later, the Niners moved up to the No. 121 overall spot to grab Utah running back Joe Williams, giving up Nos. 143 and 161 to the Indianapolis Colts.

    Williams rushed for an impressive 1,407 yards his senior season, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, and 10 touchdowns his senior year. He was also a moderate threat in the receiving game, notching 107 yards on nine grabs.

    One of the things that makes Williams enticing is his speed. The 5'11", 210-pound tailback ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, and he also posted an impressive 4.19 20-yard shuttle time.

    Head coach Kyle Shanahan values speed out of his offensive weapons, and Williams certainly has the ability to fit this mold. 

    If there are some concerns with Williams, they largely center around his off-the-field issues. He was kicked out of the UConn program for using a stolen credit card and then walked away for a short time from Utah's program.

    The 49ers appear to be willing to look past these red flags, and it wouldn't be the first time a Shanahan-led team has added running back talent in the later rounds. 

    Williams is the latest addition, and he should be a nice complement to the Niners' No. 1 tailback, Carlos Hyde.

    Grade: B-

Round 5, Pick No. 2: George Kittle, TE, Iowa

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    The 49ers picked up Iowa tight end George Kittle at the top of Round 5.
    The 49ers picked up Iowa tight end George Kittle at the top of Round 5.Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    The 2017 NFL draft provided a deep crop of tight ends, and the 49ers tapped into this group with Iowa tight end George Kittle with the second pick in Round 5.

    Kittle, a former teammate of now-49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard, hauled in 42 catches in a combined 19 games over the last two seasons. The 6'4", 247-pound tight end posted a decent 4.52 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine as well, so he does have the speed factor in his favora Kyle Shanahan preference.

    In an ideal world, the Niners would use Kittle as an H-back of sorts. San Francisco hasn't had a truly versatile tight end on its roster since the days of Delanie Walker.

    Kittle is still raw and isn't the best route-runner. But the combination of size and speed should make him a worthy tool if developed nicely.

    Currently, the 49ers have tight ends Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Logan Paulsen, Blake Bell and Je'Ron Hamm on the roster. Kittle certainly adds to the depth, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him surpass a good deal of the incumbents from last year.

    Grade: B+

Round 5, Pick No. 34: Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech

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    Former Louisiana Tech wide receiver Trent Taylor brings the 49ers an option in the slot and in the return game.
    Former Louisiana Tech wide receiver Trent Taylor brings the 49ers an option in the slot and in the return game.Parker Waters/Associated Press

    The 49ers hadn't addressed their wide receiver needs up to this point in the draft, largely due to free-agent pickups of Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson.

    Yet San Francisco added one of the bigger collegiate contributors late in Round 5: Louisiana Tech wideout Trent Taylor.

    As a senior, Taylor put up monster numbers in 2016136 receptions for 1,803 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also doubled on special teams as a punt returner, averaging 10.5 yards per return last year, which gives San Francisco added versatility here.

    And according to Pro Football Focus' Jeff Deeney, Taylor dropped just four of 142 catchable passes last season. 

    Taylor, at 5'8" and 181 pounds, is certainly undersized for some of the bigger outside roles at the NFL level. But as a slot target, Taylor is an intriguing fit. And what he lacks in size, he more than makes up in separation.

    His special teams contributions might help him land a spot on the roster, and at best, he'll be in solid competition for slot duties his rookie year.

    Grade B-

Round 6, Pick No. 14: D.J. Jones, DT, Ole Miss

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    San Francisco finds its backup nose tackle in former Ole Miss O-lineman D.J. Jones.
    San Francisco finds its backup nose tackle in former Ole Miss O-lineman D.J. Jones.Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    With the first of two picks in Round 6, the 49ers added some defensive line depth by adding Ole Miss defensive tackle D.J. Jones at No. 198 overall.

    Jones, a 6'1" and 319-pound lineman, probably figures to be more of a nose tackle in coordinator Robert Saleh's defense. Saleh prefers the shorter, stocky-framed linemen to occupy the nose spot along his D-line. Jones' frame fits the build.

    Right now, San Francisco has free-agent pickup Earl Mitchell slated to be the starter. But Jones could work his way up the depth chart and act as a primary backup this season and/or down the road. 

    It's safe to say the incumbent backup here, Mike Purcell, isn't a long-term option.

    Jones brings a little interior pressure as well, registering six sacks over two seasons at Ole Miss. Yet he's known more for stuffing interior rushing lanes, which is exactly what the 49ers' last-place run defense from a year ago needs.

    It's a smart move at this point in the draft and should fill an immediate depth need.

    Grade: A-

Round 6, Pick No. 18: Pita Taumoepenu, DE, Utah

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    Edge-rusher Pita Taumoepenu bolsters the 49ers' pass-rushing depth in the team's new 4-3 defensive scheme.
    Edge-rusher Pita Taumoepenu bolsters the 49ers' pass-rushing depth in the team's new 4-3 defensive scheme.Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    The 49ers managed to add another Round 6 prospect shortly after nabbing nose tackle D.J. Jones.

    And with their second pick in the round, the Niners selected Pita Taumoepenua one-year starter out of Utah.

    Taumoepenu's numbers from his senior season are pretty impressive, though. The 6'1", 243-pound defensive end registered nine sacks and 12 tackles for a loss his senior year with the Utes. And while he's not ideally sized as an edge, Taumoepenu does use a solid array of pass-rushing techniques to get in the backfield.

    San Francisco likely features Taumoepenu as a situational pass-rusher and rotational guy, if he's able to make the roster. Teams can always use help in the pass rush, and Taumoepenu provides that.

    It's not a bad pickup for the Niners, and players in Round 6 are always on the fringe of sticking on a roster. But the 49ers probably could have had Taumoepenuor a player similar to himas an undrafted free agent.

    There are still some other needs general manager John Lynch has.

    Grade: C-

Round 7, Pick No. 11: Adrian Colbert, CB, Miami

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    San Francisco's final pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Miami cornerback Adrian Colbert, helps round out a Niners secondary this offseason.
    San Francisco's final pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Miami cornerback Adrian Colbert, helps round out a Niners secondary this offseason.Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    The 49ers added another defensive back to their rebuilding secondary by adding former Miami cornerback Adrian Colbert with the No. 229 overall pick.

    A 6'2", 205-pound prospect, Colbert has good size to his frame for the position. Yet there are injury concerns as well.

    Colbert initially started off his collegiate career at Texas and appeared in 15 games before missing all of the 2015 season. He then moved on to Miami for his senior year, where Colbert got into seven games and registered 13 tackles and one interception.

    This is a project at best. There isn't a lot on Colbert, but Pro Football Focus noted he allowed an average of just 2.7 yards after the catch, which was 10th-best in this year's cornerback class. So that's a good thing.

    The 49ers have a lot of corners and added one—Ahkello Witherspoon—earlier in this draft. Outside of Witherspoon and Rashard Robinson, none of them are terribly promising, especially with defensive back Jimmie Ward likely shifting back to free safety.

    At least Colbert adds some depth here. But he'll have to make some strides on special teams in order to crack the 53-man roster his rookie season.

    Grade: C

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