With the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft, along with a high-profile Round 2 selection, the 49ers have to be wary of the ‘bust’ moniker.
The last time the San Francisco 49ers owned the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft was back in 2017. And despite there being some future Hall of Fame talent on the board, then first-year general manager John Lynch elected to take former Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas with the pick.
While Thomas is a fantastic human being and a solid depth player, he never came anywhere close to justifying the third overall pick.
Henceforth, he’ll forever be associated with “bust” status.
Granted, if there was an exact science behind all of this, no team ever would select a prospect early who’d flame out. The Niners certainly aren’t alone in drafting prospects early who never panned out.
Heading into 2021, though, and especially after trading up to the No. 3 overall spot in the NFL Draft, Lynch and Co. have to get this pick right. While it’s almost entirely going to be a quarterback selected in Round 1, San Francisco’s own pick in Round 2 is going to be almost as important.
Any one of these five 2021 prospects could be fantastic NFL players. But there’s also a massively high level or risk associated with each of them, too, and the 49ers better be wary of that as they prepare to make their first two picks.
49ers Boom-or-Bust Risk No. 5: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Prior to the Niners trading up to No. 3 overall, one of the top-mocked prospects to San Francisco was a cornerback, and there was initially a neck-and-neck battle between Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley to be the top corner selected on draft day.
Farley’s stock has slipped, however, probably due to a back surgery last March. While he’s told reporters he should be good to go by training camp, there are still other concerns why Farley’s stock has slipped.
For starters, Farley sat out 2020 and hasn’t seen a regular-season game since 2019. And while the 6-foot-2, 197-pound fast-moving corner has plenty of upside, there’s a rawness to his game that might take a lot of refining.
His draft stock now slipping, the 49ers can think about whether or not they have a Round 2 grade on him. Considering the need to add a corner is still there, one could make the argument Farley’s negative traits and back surgery would be worth gambling on in the second round as opposed to the first.
At the same time, though, the Niners need to hit on their second-round pick and must be cautious about Farley if he falls that far.