Clear Eyes: How the 49ers Used the 2019 Draft for the Present and the Future

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Coming into the 2018 offseason, the biggest perceived needs for the San Francisco 49ers were the pass rush, offensive playmakers and fixing an underperforming secondary. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan had their work cut out for them. For every home run selection like tight end George Kittle, there has been busts like linebacker Reuben Foster and the front office could ill-afford any more major disappointments in the draft. Once the dust had settled, the 49ers had addressed two of the largest holes on the roster early but failed to focus on the third until very late.

With the second overall selection, Ohio State defensive lineman Nick Bosa became the third Bosa drafted in the first round following his brother Joey in 2016 and his father John in 1987. Nick Bosa is also the most talented rookie pass rusher to join the 49ers since the selection of Aldon Smith with the seventh overall pick in 2011. He possesses a rare combination of size, speed and pass-rush counters that should translate to the next level. Paired with edge rusher Dee Ford, acquired via trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, the 49ers defense now boasts one of the most talented duos in the league, turning a debilitating weakness into one of the top positions on the entire squad.

The 49ers lack of playmakers, especially at wide receiver, has been a hinderance of Shanahan’s offense since he took over three years ago. Wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin were both brought in to fill that void; however, injuries and personal issues have kept them sidelined for a majority of their time with the team. Garcon is now gone and his replacements are second- and third-round picks Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. Both have big-play ability, explosiveness after the catch and, most importantly, will pair very well with the existing supporting cast. Kittle has proven to be elite and WR Dante Pettis showed flashes of greatness while fighting injuries last season. Finally, it appears as if Shanahan has a full stable of playmakers on the outside to make his offense hum like it did in Atlanta.

The secondary was, for lack of a better word, disappointing in 2018. Setting an NFL record for fewest interceptions as a team is something this franchise hopes to never see again as long as it exists. Lynch and Co. seemed destined to address either the safety or cornerback positions early on in the draft. That turned out to not be the case as the entire position group was entirely ignored until the sixth-round selection of University of Virginia CB Tim Harris. Harris was unable to remain healthy during his college years but does come with the ideal length for their defensive scheme. It remains to be seen whether this gamble will pay off in the long run.

All told, the 49ers are in a much better place entering 2019 than they were in 2018. Failing to address the secondary is one of the bigger mistakes this front office has made since they took the helm, but with the improvements among the pass rushers, resting on their laurels is not the worst strategy to date. The rest of the draft was used to fill holes on the depth chart, replace specialists and force out aging veterans. This year’s draft class should push the 49ers into being a competitive squad that cannot be counted out in any game this season.

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