49ers' biggest NFL Draft whiff at every position under Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch

The Niners have had some great NFL Draft picks under Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch.

But these picks headline the worst at every position.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (R) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (L)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (R) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (L) / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

Niner Noise looks at the 49ers' biggest position-by-position mistakes from the NFL Draft under Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch.

For the most part, the San Francisco 49ers' front office duo of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have had the kind of success within the NFL Draft consistent with other solid-drafting teams across the NFL.

Dating back to 2017 when the tandem took over a downtrodden franchise, the Niners have had plenty of hits, including late-round finds like tight end George Kittle (Round 5), linebacker Fred Warner (Round 3), safety Talanoa Hufanga (Round 5), and most recently, quarterback Brock Purdy (Round 7).

There have also been a number of slam-dunk early picks, too, including defensive end Nick Bosa (Round 1) and wide receiver Deebo Samuel (Round 2).

For every success story from the draft San Francisco has had, though, there's an equally troubling whiff.

Combing back through each of the 49ers' draft classes from 2017 through 2023, here are the downright worst picks Shanahan and Lynch have made at each position.

Worst NFL Draft picks 49ers have made at each position since 2017

Quarterback -- Trey Lance (Round 1, No. 3 overall in 2021)

A dishonorable mention to C.J. Beathard (Round 3) here, who was taken in 2017. But the Niners are still feeling the sting of aggressively trading up in the 2021 draft to grab quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3 overall.

That now-infamous deal with the Miami Dolphins surely went in Miami's favor:

Lance ultimately started just four games during his two-plus years in San Francisco, which included a season-ending ankle injury early in 2022 that all but ensured he'd be dismissed from duties, particularly in the wake of Purdy's ascent.

Just prior to the start of the 2023 season, Lance was traded off to the Dallas Cowboys for a fourth-round pick.

At least the 49ers got the highest trade exchange back for Lance out of the four Round 1 quarterbacks from 2021 who ended up being dealt.

Running back -- Tyrion Davis-Price (Round 3, No. 93 overall in 2022)

Infamous shout-outs to both Joe Williams (2017) and Trey Sermon (2021) for their failures in a Niners uniform, but the 2022 third-round selection of running back Tyrion Davis-Price takes the mantle here.

Sermon was bad his rookie season, rushing for a mere 167 yards before his one-and-done San Francisco career came to a close. While Davis-Price stuck around after a paltry 99-yard rookie-year effort by landing on the 49ers' practice squad in 2023, his two-year total of 120 rush yards still falls well short of whatever Sermon did.

At least both saw the field, which Williams can't claim. But the former two were third-round draft choices, not Round 4 picks like the latter.

Wide receiver -- Dante Pettis (Round 2, No. 44 overall in 2018)

The Niners traded up to land wide receiver Dante Pettis in 2018, and early on, it appeared as if it was a smart move.

Pettis finished his rookie year on a strong note, ending the year with 467 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

Unfortunately, those remain career-high numbers for him.

A year later, Pettis was firmly in Shanahan's proverbial "doghouse," and reports of the wideout not taking his role seriously and contributing in other ways ultimately led to a seriously diminished role in 2019 before he was waived a year later.

Tight end -- Cameron Latu (Round 3, No. 101 overall in 2023)

The door isn't entirely closed on tight end Cameron Latu and his San Francisco tenure, but things certainly didn't get off to a great start.

The former Round 3 pick out of Alabama was downright awful during his rookie training camp, struggling to run routes properly and having all kinds of issues catching the ball. Then, during the preseason, Latu suffered a knee injury that knocked him out for the rest of 2023.

The 49ers subsequently inked two more veteran tight ends entering 2024, Eric Saubert and Logan Thomas, to help support Kittle, and that probably tells you all you need to know about how the team feels about Latu's future.

Offensive line -- Mike McGlinchey (Round 1, No. 9 overall in 2018)

It's not entirely fair to put right tackle Mike McGlinchey on this list, as he ended up carving out a five-year Niners tenure to start his career, then capitalized on a massive deal in free agency with the Denver Broncos in 2023.

But, as far as expectations go, the No. 9 overall pick of any draft should probably be a bona fide cornerstone piece, particularly if that player is used to bolster the offensive line.

Granted, McGlinchey was a fine run blocker, but his inadequacies in pass protection were more than apparent. Frequently among team leaders in sacks allowed during that five-year span, McGlinchey also averaged more than five penalties per season, too.

His replacement, Colton McKivitz, (Round 5, 2020) might be a downgrade, but at least he didn't come with the same expectation level.

Defensive line -- Solomon Thomas (Round 1, No. 3 overall in 2017)

Shanahan and Lynch's first-ever draft selection, defensive end Solomon Thomas, is also one of San Francisco's biggest draft busts in recent memory.

Sure, the 49ers did him few favors early by playing him out of position, but Thomas never materialized into the potent pass-rusher he was thought to be. By year three of his pro career, he was a rotational piece and a good one at that.

But, for the No. 3 overall pick, there's no other way around the fact this was a massive whiff. Thomas recorded a mere six sacks and 23 quarterback hits during his four-year Niners tenure.

To think, San Francisco could have grabbed now-Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a perennial MVP candidate, instead.

Linebacker -- Reuben Foster (Round 1, No. 31 overall in 2017)

Making the 2017 class even worse, the 49ers doubled down in (by trading up and back into) Round 1 by grabbing Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, widely viewed as a top-10 prospect but someone whose draft stock slipped considerably because of both injuries and off-field concerns.

Both negatives accompanied Foster during his short time with the Niners, including multiple arrests and absences because of injury.

While there were certainly flashes of brilliance during his rookie year, more legal run-ins in 2018 ultimately led to San Francisco parting ways with him in November of that season, not two full years into his brief NFL career.

Foster hasn't played a regular-season down anywhere in the league since.

Secondary -- Ambry Thomas (Round 3, No. 102 overall in 2021)

Ahkello Witherspoon might be in the discussion here, but cornerback Ambry Thomas has to take home the dishonor of being the 49ers' worst drafted at this position since 2017.

Aside from a brief stretch late in 2021 during his rookie season, Thomas has mostly been a liability the Niners would rather avoid having to play on defense. Despite the strong finish that particular year, Thomas was relegated almost entirely to special teams duties in 2022 and saw just 41 defensive snaps (four percent) his sophomore year in the league.

The liability prompted San Francisco to sign veteran cornerback Charvarius Ward entering 2022, though, so at least Thomas helped out in that regard, albeit in a not-so-productive way.

Special teams -- Jake Moody (Round 3, No. 99 overall in 2023)

The 49ers have drafted only two specialists under Lynch and Shanahan, and punter Mitch Wishnowsky hasn't been much of a liability at all.

Sorry, kicker Jake Moody.

Moody was the first specialist off the board in the 2023 draft, and the Michigan product was supposed to be as automatic as it gets with a powerful leg to boot.

Instead, Moody made 21 of his 25 field-goal attempts (84 percent), and one can only wonder if he hadn't missed a crucial extra-point attempt in the Super Bowl to close out his rookie season.

At least Moody has plenty of time to get himself off this list in the upcoming future.

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