The 49ers' 2023 NFL Draft class wasn't so much about immediate impact, but a handful of first-year players could make a serious dent in the roster.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a lot of glowing reviews about the San Francisco 49ers' 2023 NFL Draft class from analysts and pundits.
If anything, the Niners using a third-round pick on Michigan kicker Jake Moody cemented the idea for many that general manager John Lynch's efforts over all three days were pretty rough, even though San Francisco potentially has some more late-round gems on its hands.
Moody is going to make an impact right away. Sure, the 49ers have an offseason kicker competition between him and the veteran, Zane Gonzalez. But it's a competition the Niners won't let Moody lose, plain and simple.
You might be intrigued by watching Moody this upcoming season, but he probably won't be your favorite rookie to watch.
Which rookie would you want to pay close attention to the most, though?
49ers 2023 NFL Draft class
Lynch entered the draft with 11 picks and took home nine prospects after trading up for San Francisco's first selection, Penn State defensive back Ji'Ayir Brown.
Brown, the first of three third-round selections, might be the crown jewel. As for the full class, here you go:
- Round 3, No. 87 overall: DB Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State
- Round 3, No. 99 overall: K Jake Moody, Michigan
- Round 3, No. 101 overall: TE Cameron Latu, Alabama
- Round 5, No. 155 overall: CB Darrell Luter Jr., South Alabama
- Round 5, No. 173 overall: EDGE Robert Beal Jr., Georgia
- Round 6, No. 216 overall: LB Dee Winters, TCU
- Round 7, No. 247 overall: TE Brayden Willis, Oklahoma
- Round 7, No. 253 overall: WR Ronnie Bell, Michigan
- Round 7, No. 255 overall: LB Jalen Graham, Purdue
Additionally, the 49ers grabbed 12 undrafted free agents after Round 7 wrapped up. While most (if not all) of these players have almost zero chance of making the Niners' regular-season roster, a few could be intriguing nevertheless.
Perhaps someone like fullback Jack Colletto, who also doubled as a quarterback and linebacker at Oregon State, winds up being fun during preseason games. Ronald Awatt is a promising running back, and cornerback D'Shawn Jamison could end up making a rise, thanks to a relatively thin position group ahead of him, which also works in Luter's favor, too.
Which 49ers rookie will be the most exciting to watch?
There are no wrong answers here, but it's always fun to discuss.
Brown could potentially start at free safety over the veteran, Tashaun Gipson, or the third-round draftee potentially gets his start at nickel cornerback.
The two tight ends, Latu and Willis, aren't going to unseat All-Pro George Kittle anytime soon. But head coach Kyle Shanahan has been seeking a good-quality No. 2 option to pair with Kittle for years now, yet to no avail. If either Latu or Willis winds up impressing enough during camp, perhaps Shanahan will finally get his wish.
The road is a little trickier for the two linebackers, Winters and Graham, however. Neither is going to unseat Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, and even the spot for the No. 3 SAM backer has a number of veterans clamoring for it, namely Oren Burks and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles.
For my money, though, the rookie who'll likely be the most exciting to watch is the seventh-round wide receiver, Bell, who should have been selected earlier but wasn't.
San Francisco has some modest questions toward the back end of its wide receiver depth chart behind Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and it's feasible that Bell rapidly ascends the depth chart into becoming the No. 3 or No. 4 option behind those two.
Plus, there's always the added bonus of Bell being a seventh-round pick. A year ago, the 49ers struck a gem in one with quarterback Brock Purdy, the final pick of the 2022 draft.
Now, Bell might not have a Purdy-like rise of his own.
But he'd be fun to root for nonetheless.