The 49ers will have a number of players dangerously teetering on the ‘bust’ label entering 2022, and they need to go all out to prevent it from happening.
While it’s easy to claim the San Francisco 49ers haven’t been great at identifying and developing talent via the NFL Draft in recent years, the truth to the matter is general manager John Lynch and Co. have been relatively in the middle of the pack.
Sure, there have been misses, such as the 2017 first-round selections of defensive end Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster. Yet the Niners have also had their fair share of great finds, too, namely players like wide receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and linebacker Fred Warner, all of whom weren’t selected in Round 1.
Others more recently drafted, however, are on the fringes.
Some players who were pegged as either top-level talents or, at the very least, decent contributors are coming dangerously close to being cast off as draft whiffs.
As such, these four in particular need to ensure their respective 2022 campaigns are highly successful to avoid being labeled as a “bust.”
49ers ‘bust’ risk No. 4: Offensive guard Aaron Banks
We’ve said enough about San Francisco’s second-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft, offensive guard Aaron Banks, specifically how disappointing his rookie campaign was, one in which he lost the battle to start at right guard, suffered a setback with a preseason shoulder injury, was inactive for nearly the entire first half of the regular season and ended up seeing just five regular-season snaps over the course of the year.
This is precisely the opposite of what expectation levels are for Round 2 draft picks, especially those who aren’t filling in at a skill position.
In fairness to Banks, though, he was a natural left guard in college at Notre Dame, and the transition from the left side of the offensive line to the right isn’t as simple as just lining up there. Plus, with now-New York Jets left guard Laken Tomlinson all but guaranteed that job a year ago, it wasn’t as if Banks was going to assume the role on that side of the line immediately.
With Tomlinson gone, Banks is the shoo-in replacement on paper, yet he’ll still have to overcome what happened last year to justify the 49ers’ notably high investment in him.