The 49ers took home nine players from the 2022 NFL Draft, and while it might not happen right away, these four are primed to become full-time starters.
There’s no one single way to correctly determine whether or not any team’s NFL Draft in any particular career is a successful one, and each one has to be compared relatively to others.
For the San Francisco 49ers, the 2012 draft class was bad, whereas the 2011 class was pretty stellar.
Now, 10 years after that disastrous 2012 Niners draft class, general manager John Lynch and Co. are hoping to maximize their nine prospects into bona fide contributors for the team in 2022 and beyond.
As anyone who has watched rookies for any length of time will know, though, drafted prospects often don’t pan out, and if a team nets three or four starters from a seven-round draft class, it’s usually considered a great success.
Based on what we know in the months following last April’s draft, here are four San Francisco 2022 draftees who eventually turn into starting-caliber material, even if it doesn’t happen in year one.
49ers 2022 NFL Draft pick No. 4: OL Spencer Burford, UTSA
The 49ers had issues with their offensive line depth in 2021, so it was no surprise they spent two picks last spring to reinforce the reserves, a Round 6 selection on Fordham lineman Nick Zakelj and a fourth-round pick on UTSA guard Spencer Burford.
Guard play might not be as critical to head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense as tackles or centers, but the Niners are already facing the possibility of second-year guard Aaron Banks flopping after San Francsico spent a second-round pick on him in 2021. And while right guard Daniel Brunskill has been a mainstay since 2019, he’s an unrestricted free agent next offseason and could be seeking a bigger payout elsewhere.
The 6-foot-4, 304-pound Burford is likely tabbed as a reserve option his rookie season, which is fine. However, if either Banks doesn’t develop properly or Brunskill winds up signing elsewhere in 2023, there’s an excellent chance the 49ers are viewing the rookie as a long-term option to be plugged in at one of the two starting guard spots a year from now.