With linebacker Reuben Foster no longer a part of the San Francisco 49ers, general manager John Lynch’s inaugural 2017 NFL Draft looks pretty mediocre.
“It’s extremely disappointing for me, for Kyle [Shanahan], for ownership, for everybody in here,” are the words San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch told reporters shortly after the team announced it would be parting ways with second-year linebacker Reuben Foster.
Foster was arrested Saturday night for an alleged incident with the same individual involved the February 2018 altercation that resulted in multiple felony charges — all of which were dropped or lessened, leading only to a two-game suspension.
The 49ers stood by Foster that time. They aren’t any longer.
“Kyle and I talked last night, brought it to ownership, we were all lockstep in the decision. It was not easy on anybody,” Lynch continued.
Lynch and the Niners took a risk on Foster when they moved up in the 2017 NFL Draft to select the Alabama standout at No. 31 overall. Foster had a checkered past, an incident involving a medical staff member at the NFL Scouting Combine as well as a diluted drug test sample.
Then the earlier 2018 arrests, the other one being for misdemeanor marijuana possession, which was later dropped.
And so it goes, Foster’s pending release now casts a long shadow over Lynch’s first ever NFL Draft.
Perhaps it’s callus to discuss, but that’s the reality of business. Remember this argument — the one suggesting Lynch “aced” his first draft class?
It doesn’t look like that’s the case any longer.
Take into account all of Lynch’s selections from 2017:
- No. 3 Overall: DE Solomon Thomas
- No. 31 Overall: ILB Reuben Foster
- No. 66 Overall: CB Ahkello Witherspoon
- No. 104 Overall: QB C.J. Beathard
- No. 121 Overall: RB Joe Williams
- No. 146 Overall: TE George Kittle
- No. 177 Overall: WR Trent Taylor
- No. 198 Overall: NT D.J. Jones
- No. 202 Overall: EDGE Pita Taumoepenu
- No. 229 Overall: DB Adrian Colbert
Solomon Thomas hasn’t come anywhere close to living up to his top-five draft status. True, the 49ers have misplayed him instead of locking him in as an every-down inside rusher. But it’s looking more and more as if he’ll be, at best, just an OK player.
Meanwhile, Ahkello Witherspoon has been a regular target of opposing quarterbacks — flagged for accepted penalties a team-leading seven times this season, including two more pass-interference calls during the Niners’ 27-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12.
C.J. Beathard now finds himself backing up Nick Mullens — an undrafted free agent from 2017, who has spent the majority of his two years on San Francisco’s practice squad.
Joe Williams is not even on an NFL roster right now, while Pita Taumoepenu is on the practice squad. After being a third-down weapon a year ago, slot receiver Trent Taylor has an underwhelming 19 catches for 150 yards this season.
And Adrian Colbert? The seventh-round draft pick, who flashed so much promise at free safety last year, was Pro Football Focus’ worst-graded starting safety before landing on injured reserve with an ankle injury (h/t Brad Almquist of KNBR 680).
This, from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch, makes last year’s draft class hurt even more:
Out of Lynch’s entire haul, only George Kittle has stood out. While he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level this season, merely one hit on 10 total selections from last year’s draft is a bad, bad look.
Foster, who also regressed in 2018, was dealing with both shoulder and hamstring injuries. Had he stayed healthy and out of trouble, it’s possible he would have been one of those cornerstone pieces the Niners so desperately need.
Perhaps Thomas turns a corner and/or San Francisco elects to use him correctly. Players like Witherspoon, Taylor and Colbert could bounce back after forgettable 2018 campaigns.
Regardless, all those “what if?” scenarios pale in comparison to the reality Foster’s release holds over this entire draft class.
And for Lynch, sadly, his first efforts have gone from eye-popping to frustratingly painful.
All one can hope for is the 2018 and eventual 2019 NFL Draft classes are vastly superior.