This marks year five of my Shadow Drafts, but there is a new regime in charge of the 49ers in 2017. GM John Lynch is the head of that group. There is no track record for the first-time exec, but we do know a little about the yin to his yang, head coach Kyle Shanahan, and the type of players that may be a fit in his scheme. 49ers fans also know too well the type of talent defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will be looking for, seeing his scheme in action in Seattle for years.
As always, there’s only one rule in the Shadow Draft. When San Francisco is on the clock, I’m on the clock. You can check my work in past Shadow Drafts here.
— Brian Peacock (@BDPeacock) January 31, 2017
2017 Shadow 49ers:
1. Jamal Adams, S, LSU
1. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
3. Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State
3. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
4. George Kittle, TE, Iowa
5. Blair Brown, LB, Ohio
5. T.J. Logan, RB, North Carolina
6. Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
6. Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, DT, USC
7. Joe Mathis, DE, Washington
1. Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
1. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
3. Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
3. C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa
4. Joe Williams, RB, Utah
5. George Kittle, TE, Iowa
5. Trent Taylor, WR, LA Tech
6. D.J. Jones, DT, Ole Miss
6. Pita Taumoepenu, LB, UTah
7. Adrian Colbert, DB, Miami
It feels weird coming into the draft with a selection so high. I feel rushed knowing the 49ers pick is only 10 minutes after the Browns go on the clock. Ideally Cleveland takes Mitchell Trubisky, as rumored in the lead up to draft day, but I’d be shocked if Myles Garrett isn’t the selection. If not, a trade down would be the next best outcome. The Trubisky rumors have been hot and heavy this week, being linked to Chicago, NYJ, Buffalo and Cleveland. A bidding war is a best-case scenario for Lynch and Co.
Garrett is the clear No. 1 on my board, followed by one other defender, Jamal Adams, and a pair of quarterbacks in Trubisky and Deshaun Watson. One or two of them could still be in play if the Niners are able trade out, and there is a second tier of about a dozen players I’d be happy with if those four are gone.
As expected, Myles Garrett goes 1 to the Browns. And BOOM! We have a trade. The Chicago Bears are now on the clock at 2. 49ers move down just one spot and get Chicago’s pick in round 3 (67), round 4 (111) and a 2018 3rd. I wholeheartedly approve! Presumably they are moving up for Trubisky or another QB.
Shadow pick: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Bears made this selection easy, taking my top QB in Mitch Trubisky after trading up to 2. Jamal Adams is the most complete player on the board to me, and that’s why he ends up here, positional value be damned. I’d have no problem giving Adams a shot at FS and believe his instincts, speed (4.38 at LSU pro day) and coverage ability would play well in center field. If not, he could kick down and become an All-Pro strong safety in the league. High floor, high ceiling player that checks Lynch, Shanahan and Saleh’s boxes for leadership, work ethic and physicality.
49ers pick: Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
I can’t hate on this pick. Thomas is a very good prospect and still a pup as a redshirt sophomore, so there could be a ton of growth ahead. Right now, Thomas is a bit of a tweener. He isn’t a flexible edge rusher and can’t hold up inside vs the run at 273 lbs. He shines as a power disruptor who has burst and gives effort. I look at Thomas as a solid double as John Lynch’s debut selection, but he could be a home run if he can develop more of a pass rush arsenal on the edge or grow into a 285 lb interior terror.
Shadow pick: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
A surprise trade back into the first round for San Francisco from pick 34 to 31. Stunningly, it’s the rival Seattle Seahawks who are the trade partner. SF gives up the extra 4th rounder from Chicago. Hoping DeShone Kizer isn’t the target here, as there is only one player available from my 1st round tier of players. That man is Reuben Foster. Foster is a human missile and would be a massive steal if his injuries and character problems, the reason for his fall, are overblown. This would give the 49ers two of the top-10 talents in the draft.
49ers pick: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Niners fans will have fun watching this dude play. Hat tip to the Seahawks for allowing this to happen, they may regret it. I’m just gonna put this right here.
Many needs to fill on days two and three and plenty of picks to address them, or move up if the right player starts to slip. There are a handful of players that could be worth trading into the 2nd round for, including; Budda Baker, Kevin King, Obi Melifonwu, Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Tyus Bowser and a personal favorite Derek Rivers. A few wide receivers could be a trade up consideration, but I’m okay waiting to see if one of Zay Jones, Juju Smith-Schuster, Chris Godwin, Curtis Samuel, Ardarius Stewart or Carlos Henderson falls to round 3.
Shadow Pick: Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State
After going with a DB/LB in round 1, I was praying one of the edge rushers would fall to 3rd round and there were a handful of really good ones. Jordan Willis, Tim Williams, Tarell Basham and Carl Lawson were all surprisingly available. Rivers is one of my pet players in this draft and I can’t pass him up here. Would fit as LEO, but could probably play SLB as well. Rivers is off the charts from a production standpoint at Youngstown State (second in the nation with 14 sacks in 2016), then proceeded to show out at Senior Bowl week vs big school competition before blowing up the combine. What else does a guy have to do? High character player to boot.
49ers pick: Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
Ironically, Witherspoon was about to be my pick at 67, but that selection has been traded to New Orleans for a 2018 2nd rounder. So obviously, I really like Witherspoon, who is a long, athletic CB that should be a nice fit in Robert Saleh’s defense. One big flaw in his game is physicality. Non-existent tackler and apparently had trouble getting up to 198 lbs at 6-3. Another good pick for the 49ers.
Shadow pick: Carl Lawson, LB/DE, Auburn
John Lynch trades up again at the end of round 3. So many of the players I would have targeted just went off the board, so a little late with the move up. Not a lot left that I feel strongly about. Lawson is a player that should have gone much earlier, but there are some injury concerns. I don’t know the extent of his injuries, but this is a value, so I’ll double down on pass rushers in the 3rd after passing on one in the 1st.
49ers pick: CJ Beathard, QB, Iowa
First pick that I’m not a fan of for SF in the 2017 draft. Looked like a late round/UDFA type from what I saw. You don’t trade up in the 3rd round for a quarterback unless you think he can develop into a starter. I thought QB was a possibility after the trade up, but assumed it was Nathan Peterman, who seemed like a fit for Shanahan. This is a bit of a shocker.
So, to recap where the 49ers are at from a trade perspective. Pick 2 and 34 have become Thomas, Foster, 2018 2nd (NO) and 2018 3rd (CHI). Early returns: GM John Lynch > GM Trent Baalke.
Just about all of the players I was targeting at CB are gone. What a run for DBs in this draft. Almost a quarter of the top-100 picks were DBs. Tedric Thompson and Brian Allen are two scheme fits at FS/CB that will be day 3 targets. Still a ton of good TEs available (Kittle, Butt, Sprinkle). Not much left at a mediocre WR class, but Ryan Switzer and Isaiah Ford could be around at the top of the 5th. My boy Blair Brown, LB from Ohio is still on the board. Day 3 is also the time I would start looking at RBs and there are a few of them left that I like that should be there through the 7th. Was bummed to see Kareem Hunt get selected by Kansas City late round 3.
John Lynch and Co. continue to be active in the trade market, adding RB Kapri Bibbs and a 5th rounder from the Broncos, sending a 2018 4th. That doesn’t take RB off the board for me. Bibbs has not done much in his short NFL career, but Adam Peters must have seen something he liked from Bibbs in Denver. And now another trade! 49ers have moved up with the Colts and are the clock at 121.
Shadow pick: George Kittle, TE, Iowa
CJ Beathard’s TE at Iowa, Kittle displays a complete game on film. He’s a really good blocker, can play inline and also blocks well on the move. Kittle also is a sneaky athlete and threw down a 4.52 40 yd dash at the combine at 6-4, 247 lbs. Gotta believe he would have been a day 2 selection in a TE class that wasn’t so deep. Considered TE Jake Butt here, but happy to leave #TeamACL in the past.
49ers pick: Joe Williams, RB, Utah
I’m not surprised to see the 49ers go RB on day 3, and Williams is a good prospect at 5-11, 210 while running 4.4 flat. Thought Williams could have been around much later, though, due to personal issues that got him dropped from the UConn program before quitting on Utah, then coming back to the team and having a really good season in 2016. Explosive runner with upside. If his head is screwed on straight, could be a great fit for Kyle Shanahan and nice complement to Carlos Hyde and potentially a starter, though Williams didn’t display much as a receiver and blocker.
Shadow pick: Blair Brown, LB, Ohio
This is my guy. Can’t let Brown fall any further, even though this position was addressed in round 1. Foster and Bowman each have injury concerns, so it would still be smart to add a tackling machine like Brown who could backup both MLB and WLB spots and should be a terror right away on special teams.
49ers pick: George Kittle, TE, Iowa
John Lynch is late to the party. The cool kids liked Kittle in round 4. Obviously, I approve of this selection. If John Lynch continues to draft this well, I may need to retire the Shadow Drafts.
Shadow pick: T.J. Logan, RB, North Carolina
I was all set to select Utah CB Brian Allen, missing that Pittsburgh swooped him up a few picks before. Bummer. Still need a big press corner, but the value isn’t lining up. Looking for an explosive player on offense in what has been a defense-heavy draft. I keep missing out on RB targets, so going to pull the trigger on Logan and his 4.37 speed here. Logan is an explosive runner who might not be a lead back, but runs tough for his size (5-9, 196) and is a plus receiver out of the backfield. He stole my attention every time I tried to watch UNC tape of his QB Mitch Trubisky.
49ers pick: Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech
I thought Taylor would go undrafted just because of his measurables at 5-8, 181 with a pedestrian 4.63 40 time and tiny 8 1/4″ hands. What he lacks in long speed, he makes up for with quicks, solid hands and punt return ability. I wonder if Lynch and Shanny were interested in Ryan Switzer earlier in the draft, because Taylor is sort of a poor man’s version of him.
Shadow pick: Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
Blown away that Ford is still on the board. Ford lacks triangle numbers at 6-1, 194 and a 4.61 40, but he gets open with sudden routes and has good ball skills at the catch point. Classic skills over tools prospect that can outplay his draft slot.
49ers pick: D. J. Jones, DT, Ole Miss
Built for the role, Jones is a boom or bust 1-technique in this defense. I didn’t see enough disruption even though he can move well for his size (6-1, 319) and looks the part.
Shadow pick: Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, DT, USC
I was also looking at nose prospects DJ Jones and Elijah Qualls in the 6th round. “Big Stevie” is a one-dimensional fireplug of a nose tackle at 6-1, 330 lbs. He has the size, lower and upper body strength to control the line of scrimmage as an early down run plugger. Can move around a little and has strong punch and hands to disengage from blocks, but isn’t going to give you much as a pass rusher.
49ers pick: Pita Taumoepenu, LB, Utah
Didn’t watch much of Pita leading up to the draft. Good athlete who ran 4.67 at the combine while weighing in 6-1, 243 lbs. Probably a situational rusher or strong side linebacker in Robert Saleh’s defense. Not big enough to play an early down edge role and will need development as an off-ball LB.
Shadow pick: Joe Mathis, DE, Washington
Mathis was a stud in the production department before a foot injury derailed his senior season after six games. Not an elite athlete and the wasn’t able to workout pre-draft, but he has some of the best tape as an edge rusher in the class. Could be a steal if he’s able to get healthy. Had a feeling Mathis would fall quite a bit due to injury concerns. Easy pick for me here. You can’t have too many pass rushers and I’ve taken three.
49ers pick: Adrian Colbert, DB, Miami
Didn’t study Colbert much at all. He was a bit overshadowed by his teammates at Miami, but he fits from a size and length perspective at 6-0, 205 and ran a 4.49 at his pro day. From what little I watched of Colbert, he was physical and could be a nice special teams player while developing his game on defense at either corner or safety.
Overall, I feel very good about the Shadow Draft, as is usually the case. But I can’t remember liking the real 49ers haul as much as John Lynch’s inaugural class in 2017. Certainly not in the Trent Baalke era. If I had to critique myself, I would have liked to add a long press CB, but the board didn’t fall my way, especially with that run of corners in the 3rd round. With Adams in round 1, though, the idea is Ward would stay at CB, so that lessens the need. Also thought a couple more running backs would make their way into day 3 with how deep of a class it was.
What do you think? Feel free to reply here or hit me up on Twitter @BDPeacock.