Which 49ers NFL Draft class would John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan like a do-over?
By Peter Panacy
If John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan could go back in time, which NFL Draft class of the 49ers would they want to correct most?
Every year, content creators and analysts go back and "redraft" every team's NFL Draft class from one, two, three, five or whatever years back and admit "what could have been" if said team actually "got it right" with their selections.
Admit it, you've looked at redrafts before. And if you haven't, here's one for the San Francisco 49ers NFL Draft class of 2020.
It's true, no general manager is perfect with draft evaluation and selection. If one was, tight end George Kittle wouldn't have slipped into Round 5, quarterback Brock Purdy wouldn't have been Mr. Irrelevant and that one future Hall of Famer, Tom Brady, wouldn't have been pick No. 199 overall.
The point? It's an imperfect system. And we love it that way because no one truly knows.
At any rate, the Niners' tandem of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have had some notable swings and misses dating back to when they took over the franchise in 2017. Both Kittle and Purdy were among their hits, while there were plenty of gaffes like defensive end Solomon Thomas (No. 3 overall in 2017) and linebacker Reuben Foster (No. 31 overall in 2017) along the way, too.
If Shanahan and Lynch could go back and do one redraft of their own, though, which year would they choose?
Which 49ers NFL Draft class would John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan prefer to redraft?
The 2022 class of prospects, headlined by EDGE Drake Jackson (Round 2) and running back Tyrion Davis-Price (Round 3), ultimately turned into the Purdy (Round 7) show with offensive lineman Spencer Burford (Round 4) emerging as the only two starting-caliber pieces.
Like the 2023 draft class, it's still a bit too early to pass judgment on 2022 just yet. Especially with San Francisco boasting a Super Bowl-caliber roster already and primarily using picks to either stockpile reserves or build for the future. Not immediate impact.
2020s class, one which took away wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (Round 1) and defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (Round 1), also netted wide receiver Jauan Jennings (Round 7) and a potential starting right tackle entering 2023, Colton McKivitz (Round 5).
While Kinlaw has been a miss since that year, largely because of injures, the rest of the class has been notably successful enough, and the 49ers used some of their picks last year to acquire All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams in a trade with Washington in the middle of that year's draft, too.
It doesn't sound like Lynch or Shanahan would like a do-over of that year.
And they probably wouldn't want to redo the 2019 class either, given they walked away with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in EDGE Nick Bosa (No. 2 overall) while also nabbing All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel in Round 2 and linebacker Dre Greenlaw in Round 5, all of whom have been cornerstone pieces for the franchise.
Even 2018, despite a notable miss on wide receiver Dante Pettis (Round 2), gained the Niners All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner (Round 3) and resulted in five productive seasons from now-Denver Broncos right tackle Mike McGlinchey (No. 9 overall).
So, how about the 2017 and 2021 draft classes?
Final verdict: Would 49ers want to redo the 2017 draft or the 2021 draft?
Recency bias might convince some that San Francisco's 2021 NFL Draft should be the worst out of the two between it and the 2017 class, especially considering what the team gave up to get the No. 3 overall pick, subsequently using it on quarterback Trey Lance who has started a mere four regular-season games since that point.
Lance's future remains murky, but it doesn't change the fact the last two years have been disappointing in terms of the 49ers' return on their investment in him. And while two more third-round whiffs in cornerback Ambry Thomas and no-longer-with-the-Niners running back Trey Sermon mark the 2021 class down a lot, Lance's lack of impact remains the biggest blight.
It shouldn't come close to the 2017 whiffs, though.
If Shanahan and Lynch could do it all over, they'd redo the 2017 draft in a heartbeat. Their first after taking over the franchise.
Solomon Thomas was, of course, viewed as one of the safest prospects in that year's class, and it's fair to argue San Francisco misused him early in his career by playing him outside instead of on the interior.
Still, passing up on future All-Pro quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs, No. 10 overall) will resonate with both Lynch and Shanahan for a long time, a fact that'll only be highlighted by the high-risk, high-reward "swing and miss" on Foster later in the round.
If anything, the only major positives from 2017 where Kittle and nose tackle D.J. Jones, who enjoyed five productive years with San Francisco through 2021.
As great as Kittle has been (and Jones was solid, too), it's hard to fathom anything but the 49ers' brass wishing they had a redo and grabbed Mahomes instead atop that year's draft class.