49ers Players Who Will Be Most Impacted by 2021 NFL Draft Picks
The NFL draft is a time of hope for fans and a cause for celebration among prospects beginning their NFL journey. It can also be a pivotal time in the lives of league veterans already on rosters.
Rodgers knew the Packers had just drafted his successor, potentially putting a cap on his remaining time in Green Bay. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo may have had a similar reaction last month when the 49ers traded up to the No. 3 pick in the draft.
San Francisco's move to No. 3 can only mean it's targeting a quarterback, and the clock is probably already ticking on the 29-year-old's time as the team's starter.
Here, we'll take a close look at Garoppolo's situation and the players most likely to be impacted—both positively and negatively—by the upcoming draft.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo
While we don't know which quarterback will be the pick at No. 3, it has become clear that San Francisco will select a new signal-caller. This doesn't mean Garoppolo will immediately be out as the team's starter, though.
"I believe Jimmy Garoppolo will be our starting quarterback going into this season," running back Raheem Mostert told SiriusXM Radio (h/t Michael Fabiano of Sports Illustrated).
Still, the Eastern Illinois product could spend the season looking over his shoulder and/or feeling the pressure of the ticking clock. It's also difficult to envision him starting for San Francisco beyond this season—unless the incoming rookie really struggles to develop.
He will be under contract in 2022, but he'll carry a cap hit of $27 million. That's not an egregious number, but it's a lot to pay if San Francisco believes its youngster is ready to start. Garoppolo will only have $1.4 million in dead money left on his deal after this season, so releasing or trading him will be a financially viable option.
Rodgers is a future Hall of Famer who will likely keep Love on the bench for some time. Garoppolo simply isn't in that category.
CB K'Waun Williams
Like Garoppolo, nickelback K'Waun Williams could have his future with the 49ers heavily impacted by the 2021 draft. Given the importance of the position to San Francisco's defensive game plan, it could be an early draft target.
"Pass rush, and not outside corner play, has been the star of the show for them—and the nickelback position is much more involved with what happens at or near the line of scrimmage," he wrote.
Williams will likely be the starter in 2021, but his future beyond that is questionable. The 49ers only re-signed the soon-to-be 30-year-old with a one-year, $2.38 million deal this offseason.
While Williams has been a fine contributor for San Francisco, his low-level salary and short-term contract suggest it doesn't view him as a significant long-term building block.
If, as Lombardi indicates, the 49ers target a nickelback early, Williams will probably be looking at his last season with the team.
TE George Kittle
While Garoppolo and Williams could be playing for another franchise in the not-too-distant future, George Kittle isn't going anywhere. He's one of the game's most impactful tight ends when healthy, and he is signed through the 2025 season.
The 27-year-old is a player who could be positively impacted by San Francisco's draft choices. The 49ers appear interested in adding a second pass-catching tight end to their roster. According to Justin Melo of The Draft Network, they have "constantly" been in contact with Miami tight end Brevin Jordan.
Having a second weapon at tight end could help Kittle in two ways. It could allow him to have snaps off, which could be great for his durability. He played 88 percent of the offensive snaps in 2018, then missed 10 games over the next two seasons.
Having a second pass-catcher at the position could also help the Iowa product find receiving room in two-tight end sets. Opposing defenses may be less apt to double-team him knowing there's another tight end capable of burning them in the middle of the field.
While drafting a tight end could reduce Kittle's target share, it could also help extend his career and help him deliver more big plays.