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Grades Are In! How Did the 49ers Fare in the 2021 NFL Draft?

The San Francisco 49ers "got their guys" while managing to add depth at positions of need through the draft. San Francisco entered the weekend with nine total picks, and after two trades, the team finalized their draft class with eight selections that include quarterback Trey Lance (No. 3 overall), guard Aaron Banks (No.48), running back Trey Sermon (No. 88), cornerback Ambry Thomas (No. 102), offensive lineman Jaylon Moore (No. 155), defensive back Deommodore Lenoir (No. 172), safety Talanoa Hufanga (No. 180) and running back Elijah Mitchell (No. 194).

So how did the 49ers brass fare addressing team needs? While it is far too early to truly assess the potential, production and fit of a draft pick, NFL pundits have made their early evaluations of San Francisco's selections and provided overall grades for the 2021 draft class. Here's how they graded out:

Table inside Article
Round/Pick Player School
Round 1: Pick 3 QB Trey Lance North Dakota State
Round 2: Pick 48 G Aaron Banks Notre Dame
Round 3: Pick 88 RB Trey Sermon Ohio State
Round 3: Pick 102 CB Ambry Thomas Michigan
Round 5: Pick 155 OL Jaylon Moore Western Michigan
Round 5: Pick 172 DB Deommodore Lenoir Oregon
Round 5: Pick 180 S Talanoa Hufanga USC
Round 6: Pick 194 RB Elijah Mitchell Louisiana-Lafayette

"The 49ers decision to take Lance at No. 3 makes a hell of a lot more sense than going with Mac Jones would have. Still, the North Dakota State star brings plenty of risk, as he lacks experience against top-level competition. While he may need time to adapt to the speed of the NFL, he offers huge upside in both the passing and running games. By subsequently picking Banks, Sermon, Moore and Mitchell, San Francisco furthered its clear commitment to the ground-and-pound lifestyle. I like what the Niners did."

"Much of this grade is tied to the smart aggressive trade up for Lance's unlimited upside in Kyle Shanahan's offense as a big-time passer and runner with high football intelligence. Banks and Moore boost their interior blocking, while John Lynch found excellent safety values for the future in Thomas and Hufanga. Sermon and Mitchell reload Shanahan's always productive zone rushing attack with more big-play elements." A-

"Trey Lance should scare the pants off the rest of the NFL. Kyle Shanahan has had great mobile quarterbacks and great pocket passers, but never this combination of size and speed. In the past he's admitted as much; rarely has he had the opportunity to force defenses into treating the quarterback as a rusher. Lance is powerful and athletic and could revolutionize a system that is already taking the NFL by storm.

"The 49ers invested heavily in the offensive line interior, another talented running back to add to their rotation and picked up a nice mid-round cornerback in Ambry Thomas, who has great size and plenty of time to develop into a full-time starter."

"Day 1: After weeks of speculation, the 49ers find their quarterback of the future with dynamic North Dakota State playmaker Trey Lance. In his one full season at the helm for the Bison, Lance posted a 90.7 PFF grade and didn't throw a single interception on 288 passing attempts. He gives the 49ers a live arm to go along with his explosive running ability.

"Day 2: It's not surprising to see the 49ers address the interior offensive line, but it is a little bit of a surprise to see Banks as the target. Banks is coming off a well-rounded 2020 season at Notre Dame with 80-plus PFF grades both as a pass-protector and run-blocker. However, physical and athletic limitations kept him outside the top 100 on PFF's Big Board, and they make him an interesting fit in San Francisco's offense.

"Sermon could very well end up being the best running back in this class. He doesn't possess elite speed, but he breaks tackles and has tremendous contact balance. Still, trading up for a running back isn't going to be a great value pick. He needs to lower his shoulder pads a bit more on contact, and even though he doesn't have long speed, he does have great agility and elusiveness.

"Thomas plays way above his 6-foot, 191-pound frame. He comes from a pro-ready scheme where he played a lot of press-man coverage, which should translate right away in the NFL. He's fast and plays physically but still isn't that strong. The problem with Thomas is that we don't know much about him. He was a former four-star prospect but didn't play in 2020, so he only has the 672 snaps from 2019 and the 104 snaps from 2018 under his belt. He's a big unknown.

"Day 3: San Francisco's type at the running back position over the past few years has been fast. The 49ers first running back selection in this draft, Trey Sermon, didn't fit that type, but Mitchell certainly does after running a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. That speed gives him some home-run potential in San Francisco's outside zone run scheme if he can stumble upon playing time in a crowded group."


"Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch can keep a secret, huh? After the 49ers went all-in on a quarterback -- trading up nine spots to No. 3 overall and giving up the No. 12 pick, plus next year's first- and third-rounders and their 2023 first-rounder -- I really thought they were targeting Mac Jones. Nearly everyone I talked to in the league over the past few weeks thought the same. Instead, they went with the high ceiling of 20-year-old Trey Lance, who might need some time to adapt to the speed of the NFL but has superstar potential. Here's an interesting list Lance now joins: Since the 2006 draft, six quarterbacks have been taken in the first round with fewer than 20 college starts: Mitchell Trubisky (13), Cam Newton (14), Dwayne Haskins Jr. (14), Mark Sanchez (16), Kyler Murray (17) and Ryan Tannehill (19).

"Lance made all 17 of his starts against FCS opponents. Shanahan and Lynch are betting on the upside of Lance, who takes care of the football, knows when to pull the ball and run and can make every throw, but he is my fifth-ranked quarterback in this class. This is the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect, and now the Niners don't have first-round picks in 2022 or 2023. For this to be declared a surefire win, Lance needs to play well -- early. I don't know if that will happen, and Jimmy Garoppolo might have to stick on the roster as the bridge. (Props to Jimmy G for showing class as San Francisco drafted his replacement.)

"I'm really curious to see how early Lance gets thrown into the fire, because teams rarely wait to play first-round quarterbacks these days. The careers of this quarterback class will be linked for years to come, and Niners fans obviously trust Shanahan to groom Lance. Potential isn't the issue with Lance, so let's see if Shanahan can get him to his ceiling."

"This all hinges on the giant risk at No. 3. Lance cracked our top 10 (No. 6 overall) with his thrilling talent, maturity and superstar potential. We also would have taken the more ready-made Fields over him as a safer projection. The comparison of their career arcs will be made for years (and you could throw Mac Jones in there, too). If Lance hits, it's a huge win for the franchise and perhaps what puts them over the top in their pursuit of a Super Bowl title. If he doesn't, the cost of moving up for him — at a time when they have a win-now roster — might set the franchise back five years. That's the naked truth. Sermon and the three DBs they selected (Thomas, Lenoir and Hufanga) have our attention. Lance remains by far the biggest X-factor in this class' success or failure."