Niner Noise plays a bit of revisionist history, and goes back to redraft the San Francisco 49ers’ NFL Draft class from 2018. Some names stay, while others don’t.
Don’t judge an NFL Draft until at least three years after its creation. And for the San Francisco 49ers, it’s hard to be entirely judgmental after a 2018 season that saw a number of depth and late-round players thrust into roles they weren’t necessarily prepared for.
Still, since the Niners’ offseason is now full bore and there’s plenty of room for speculation and silly exercises, let’s go back on that idea and redraft general manager John Lynch’s 2018 49ers draft class for him.
It’s revisionist history, yes. And I typically hate revisionist history, because it delves into fiction and “what if” isms.
But with free agency well over a month away, and the 2019 NFL Draft not kicking off until April, there’s precious little to do aside from having some fun with this kind of analysis, right?
Granted, we’re not going to change out every single San Francisco draft selection just for the sake of doing so. And suggesting changes doesn’t necessarily mean Lynch’s own pick at that spot was a bad one.
Yet if he could do it over, with what transpired over the course of 2018, here’s how the Niners’ NFL Draft class last year should have developed.
Round 1, Pick No. 9 Overall: Safety Derwin James
Original Pick: Offensive Tackle Mike McGlinchey
Granted, offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey is looking like a cornerstone piece for the 49ers offensive line. Late in his rookie year, Pro Football Focus even listed the Notre Dame product as the No. 1 rookie lineman in the NFL. Not too shabby.
That said, the Niners passed on Florida State safety Derwin James, who was widely viewed as a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He ended up slipping all the way to No. 17 overall to the Los Angeles Chargers, eventually finishing his rookie year with a whopping 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three interceptions and 13 passes defended en route to a Pro Bowl selection.
San Francisco experienced all kinds of issues at safety this year, both in terms of performance and injury attrition.
James would have immediately emerged as a key lockdown defender for the Niners’ beleaguered defense and would have been a star player to build around in coming seasons. Plus, when McGlinchey was selected, the 49ers already had a starting-caliber tackle in Trent Brown, whom they dealt off to the New England Patriots after selecting McGlinchey.