Over the six seasons general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have directed the San Francisco 49ers, they've proven their ability to find late-round draft gems. Many of the team's star players such as Fred Warner, George Kittle, Talanoa Hufanga and Brock Purdy were selected in the third round or later and have proved that it doesn't matter where you're drafted to make an impact.
According to the 49ers general manager, the formula to finding elite talent later in the draft takes plenty of collaboration, discussion and research amongst the team.
"Our personnel and our coaching staff are in lockstep and there's constant communication, there's constant challenging of each other's views," Lynch said. "We really take pride in doing that and we do it from the top down. Kyle and myself spend a ton of time watching players together. I think when you do that and you do that throughout the draft, that gives you an opportunity to really hit throughout the draft at any pick.
"One of the things we forced ourselves to do early on is really not just be vague about what we wanted at each and every position, but really talk about the traits we want at each position, both physically and mentally and in the spirit, we call it, of each position. I think we've done a nice job of defining that so that when you're in those meetings, everyone knows who's a Niner and when you have that as a starting point, I think you can start finding those guys."
Well, what is it that makes a player a "Niner"? Here's Lynch's definition:
"It's an evolving deal as to exactly what we are and who we want, but I can tell you the bedrock of those things.
"We want tough, dependable, fast. We don't need rocket scientists, but we need smart football players. We want people that are contagiously competitive, do you make people around you better because you're so darn intent upon getting better and competing each and every day. Those are the kind of guys that play well. We like physical players – we play with such a physical mentality, I think our mentality is a lot about attacking on both sides of the ball and on special teams, such that when you have someone who's not a fit, it stands out."
It's not just about a prospect's skills and talent on the field, but what makes the player stand out to San Francisco is the love they have for the game and how they lead a team.
"The talent we're pretty good at identifying," Lynch said. "I think it's probably the spirit.
"We spend a lot of our focus on trying to learn as much as possible and that's where the scouts come in, you really have to rely on the scouts to get to know these players over a course of time. And then sometimes you have the opportunity to meet them yourself and you put as much time as you can there."
In this year's draft, the 49ers are set to have 11 opportunities from rounds three to seven to find a "Niner fit" in prospects.
"We have priorities on what we've identified, but ultimately you want to take football players that are going to make your team, going to be around here for years to come and make you a better team," Lynch said. "Kind of a combination of all those things is how we take as it comes and it's going to be a long wait. Watching a lot of players that you really appreciate go, but I keep saying it because I am truly confident that we'll come up with some players that we really like there and that are going to help us right away and into the future."