Courtesy of Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
It seems the future of the San Francisco 49ers was determined last week. They selected Trey Lance with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, signaling a new direction for the offense. Along with their new signal caller, the Niners enlisted two more running backs, some offensive line help, and reinforcements in the secondary.
Let's meet the newest members of the Red and Gold.
Many experts had Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch trading up to take Mac Jones from Alabama with the third overall pick. Some experts predicted an attempt to snag Ohio State’s Justin Fields in that position. What happened instead was the selection of the dark horse FCS quarterback Trey Lance from North Dakota State.
While there is no denying his raw talent, he lacks an extensive track record to back it up. His best season with the Bison produced 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns through the air. Even more impressive were the 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns he added with his legs.
Luckily, he won’t be asked to play immediately and can use Jimmy Garoppolo’s final season under contract as an introduction year to the NFL. He’ll benefit from having that seasoning period to adjust to what will be a sizable difference in the speed of the pros versus the FCS. That said, when he does take over, the 49ers offense should be better for it.
It didn’t take long for San Francisco to address the issue of protecting their new franchise quarterback. Grabbing Aaron Banks with their second pick did exactly that. His list of accolades includes multiple first team nods and an invite to the Senior Bowl.
He was a member of one of the highest ranked offensive lines in college football by Pro Football Focus. He also helped pave the way for a running attack that produced over 2,000 rushing yards total. That will come in handy for whichever back is carrying the ball.
Instead of being reunited with his college quarterback, Trey Sermon will represent THE Ohio State University alone on this club. He was the first of two running backs taken by the Niners in the draft. His numbers did not leap off the charts in his time at both Oklahoma and Ohio State, but then again, they didn’t really need to.
His best collegiate year came as a Sooner in 2018. That season he produced 947 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. One thing Sermon is not known for is his pass catching ability. It will be tough to decide where he will fit into this already crowded 49ers backfield. At best he could be a solid rest option for Raheem Mostert on early downs or even a fill in should Mostert get hurt. How he performs in camp will go a long way in determining his place on the depth chart.
Eventually, the 49ers had to begin to put back together a secondary that lost Ahkello Witherspoon and could potentially lose Richard Sherman. Ambry Thomas will have a chance to help that cause if he makes the team.
He opted out of the 2020 season, but has 54 career tackles and four interceptions on the Wolverines. It’s likely he won’t make an immediate impact on the defense, although he will tell you differently. What he does have going for him is the fact that he only allowed one touchdown against him in 2019. To go with that, he allowed a mere 56.3% passing rating when quarterbacks looked his way.
San Francisco stayed in Michigan, but headed west for their next pick selecting Jaylon Moore in the fifth round. He was a member of an effective Broncos offensive line that ranked among the top of several statistical categories. These included fewest sacks allowed, yards per game, scoring per game, and several more.
He’ll have work to do if he wants to see the field this season as Trent Williams is locked in a long term contract now. Also just recently, Mike McGlinchey has seen his fifth-year option exercised.
Expanding the search for new corners, the 49ers plucked Deommodore Lenoir from the Ducks. His physical style of play harkens to a comparison to a Richard Sherman type defender. Lenoir sticks himself to a receiver and does not let up.
He ended his career in Oregon with 154 tackles and six interceptions. It’s highly possible he will have to prove himself on special teams before he earns any significant time with the defense.
Continuing in the secondary, San Francisco used their third pick in the fifth round to select Talanoa Hufanga. The former Trojan is known for his ability to augment the box and has the reputation of being an excellent run stopper. His role on the team is not likely to materialize for a season or two. That said, he’s worth keeping an eye on this year.
With their final pick in the draft, the Niners went for another running back in Elijah Mitchell. In his time with the Ragin’ Cajuns, he amassed 3,267 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns. It will be difficult to break through given the sheer amount of talent already present in the running back room. Despite his speed and his toughness, he’ll have his work cut out for him in camp.
January 12, 2023
September 26, 2021
March 27, 2021
February 1, 2021
December 21, 2019
Safety Jimmie Ward after the 49ers 37-20 win over the Washington Commanders on December 24, 2022.
Wide Receiver Brandon Aiyuk after the 49ers 37-20 win over the Washington Commanders on December 24, 2022.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw after the 49ers 37-20 win over the Washington Commanders on December 24, 2022.