49ers NFL Draft: O-line, secondary reinforced in Round 5

Talanoa Hufanga (15) Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Talanoa Hufanga (15) Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Francisco 49ers had three fifth-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Who were they and how will they fit in with the team?

The San Francisco 49ers were one busy franchise during the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, boasting three selections during the round, at 155th, 172nd and at 180th overall.

With the 155th pick in the draft, the team selected Jaylon Moore, an offensive tackle out of Western Michigan University. Moore marked another Senior Bowl standout to be selected by San Francisco. And one can only hope Moore follows in a trajectory at least somewhat close to another lineman the 49ers took out of the same school, the now-retired Joe Staley.

In 2020, Moore was a second-team All-MAC selection, and his Broncos gave up a season-low seven sacks for a MAC team that played the full six-game season.

Although tackle is his primary position on the offensive line, he has the potential to play at guard as well. He should have a chance to make an impact on an interior offensive line that struggled mightily last season.

Don’t be surprised to see him jump into a starting role in 2021.

49ers spend two Round 5 draft picks on depth in the defensive backfield

With the 172nd overall pick, the 49ers snagged another cornerback in Deommodore Lenoir out of Oregon. He was a Pac-12 standout being named to both the AP and coaches all-conference second team.

In 2020 Lenoir started in all seven games in the season shortened by COVID-19. In those seven games, he recorded 30 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception.

He should be thrust into a great camp battle with the Niners’ other cornerback draft pick, Ambry Thomas of Michigan, who was taken on day two. The cornerback depth chart is steadily growing, but Lenoir should have a chance to play in some nickel corner packages. And it wouldn’t be too shocking to see San Francisco look to use Lenoir as a possible long-term replacement for its current nickel corner, K’Waun Williams, who is a free agent after this upcoming season.

At their third and final pick in the fifth round, the 49ers selected went with another defensive back and another player from the Pac-12 conference. At 180th overall, the team selected Talanoa Hufanga, a safety from USC.

Hufanga appeared in six games in the 2020 Pac-12 season. In those six games, he recorded 62 total tackles, 40 of those being solo tackles. In addition, he recorded three sacks, two forced fumbles and four interceptions.

In pre-draft notes, Hufanga was said to be the type of safety who plays up on the line and scrimmage and is an adept run stopper. On top of his run-stopping skills, he also the ability to be a great pass rusher, which is evidenced by his three sacks in his final college season.

His coverage skills are where there is room for improvement, though. He is more comfortable in zone coverage than in man coverage. That fact right there could potentially limit the number of snaps he has in his rookie season.

The 49ers could potentially use Hufanga similar to the way that the Seattle Seahawks and, before them, the New York Jets used safety Jamal Adams. Hufanga could help the 49ers put pressure on opposing quarterbacks by providing additional pass rush skills from the secondary.

The fact current strong safety Jaquiski Tartt came back to the Niners this season on a one-year deal means Hufanga might actually have been drafted to be his replacement. He could spend one season learning the ropes from Tartt and eventually take over the starting role from him in 2022.

If Hufanga can show some additional growth with his ball-coverage skills, he may just be playing himself into a starting role sooner than later.

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