With the 2021 NFL Draft now in the books, all eyes look towards the upcoming season and getting to SBLVI.
32 teams and front office officials welcomed 259 new names in hopes of making it to SoFi Stadium next February.
Finishing in last place in the NFC West, 2020 revealed weak areas for the 49ers on both offense and defense.
Firstly, all five running backs and all but one cornerback carry contracts set to expire in 2022.
Secondly, last season the 49ers’ offensive line gave up the most hits on their QB while passing (83).
Thirdly, inconsistency at the QB position due to injury was another major factor contributing to San Francisco’s offensive struggles.
A closer look at the following picks shows how the 49ers fared in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Trey Lance (QB) – North Dakota State (Round 1 #3 from HOU)
Although Lance played Division-I football in 2019 and sat out after one game in 2020, Trey built an impressive resume.
The 2019 AP second-team All-American and NCAA National Championship winner offers phenomenal arm strength and agility to the 49ers.
Capable of improving the players around him, Lance has the leadership ability to help the 49ers return to the post-season.
Immediately after selecting Trey with the No. 3 overall pick, Lynch related how much the former Bison impressed him:
“We got to know a person that impressed us as much on the field as he did off the field and he was outstanding in both ways… We were blown away by the person, the aptitude, and way he carries himself.”
Having targeted Lance for a number of weeks, San Francisco is pleased with their new rookie QB, as Lynch added:
“As we’ve said, we’ve been convicted and excited for a long, long time, so we went right back to where we’ve been and that’s really excited about adding Trey Lance to the 49ers and we’re thrilled about that.”
Furthermore, coach Shanahan explained the progression needed to evaluate a rookie QB and stated how Trey checked all the boxes:
“It always starts with me with the film. I just loved his natural ability to play the position, which was very impressive.”
In addition, Kyle further expressed their confidence and how much the team admired the North Dakota State alum’s character:
“I got to know him and he’s a guy that I think is a very good person… He’s going to be impressive in whatever he’s in.”
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) April 30, 2021
Although time will tell how Trey fits into San Francisco’s offense, preliminary reports favor the 49ers’ third overall selection.
Aaron Banks (G) – Notre Dame (Round 2 #48)
Standing at 6-5 and weighing 325 lbs., Aaron Banks is not the proto-typical San Francisco offensive guard.
Running a 5.32-second 40-yard dash and 4.89-second 20-yard shuttle, Banks lacks the agility to engage the defensive second level.
However, what Aaron lacks in speed, he makes up for in pass protection; not giving up a sack in 2020.
With some downside, critics suggest the 49ers should have drafted Banks later in the third round.
But if the 2020 AP first-team All-American proves solid in protecting Trey Lance’s blindside, then none of that will matter.
Trey Sermon (RB) – Ohio State (Round 3 #88 from LAR)
Trey Sermon’s power, football IQ, and agile first step out of the backfield fit perfectly into Shanahan’s offensive scheme.
Running a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, the blemish on Sermon is his lack of sustained speed in the open field.
But, Trey has a multitude of upsides, including his durability, burst of power, and yards per rush.
Trey expressed familiarity with longtime RB coach Robby Turner and is excited to fit into coach Shanahan’s offensive rotation:
“I mostly talked with coach Turner a lot. We talked a lot throughout the process… I know he’s a great dude. I mean, again, everybody loves him… He just tries to make, tries to bring out the best in everybody, escpecially the running backs… I know [Shanahan] likes to have a group of guys and just get a good rotation going… I definitely feel running the offense… Again, it’s just a great fit. I feel like I’d be able to really bring; have a good impact.”
Furthermore, confident that his skills will be an asset to the 49ers ground game, the Ohio State alum added:
“You’re getting a playmaker. I mean, I’m a versatile running back. I can run routes, catch the ball.”
Trey in The Bay x2
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 1, 2021
Ambry Thomas (CB) – Michigan (Round 3 #102 compensatory)
On the other hand, with only one CB under contract beyond 2022, the 49ers also needed to restock the defensive secondary.
As a result, San Francisco focused the next three of their four draft picks on cornerbacks and safety, beginning with Ambry Thomas.
Firstly, Ambry is a physical cornerback, starting all 13 games in 2019, and recorded 38 tackles, three interceptions, and two fumble recoveries.
Secondly, at 6-0 and weighing 182 lbs., Ambry’s solid size and explosive speed is a welcome addition to San Francisco’s defense.
Jaylon Moore (OT) – Western Michigan (Round 5 #155)
San Francisco needs to tighten up the offensive line and Jaylon Moore is the perfect player to do so.
Moore’s quick feet, natural athletic talent, and 6-2, 190 lbs. stature fits the 49ers’ wide-zone blocking scheme well.
Having played three different positions in college, Jaylon cited how his versatility helps him contribute to the 49ers offensive line:
“I would say, of course, playing those different positions definitely got my quickness and agility to where it is. I definitely feel like I fit in with the 49ers perfectly. Them being a zone scheme, I feel like I fit in very well coming from Western Michigan. I’m also quick and explosive, I feel like. That makes me a great fit.”
When asked about studying film on other current NFL linemen and the thought of protecting Trey Lance, Moore related:
“I definitely watch a ton of offensive linemen, offensive tackles, especially in the zone schemes. I actually haven’t thought about that [protecting Lance] yet, but that’s a great way to think about it. I’m excited.”
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 1, 2021
Starting his last 32 consecutive games, Jaylon’s dependability is an added bonus.
Deommodore Lenoir (CB) – Oregon (Round 5 #172 from NO)
Another player added from the 2021 NFL Draft to help shore up the 49ers’ defensive secondary is cornerback Deommodore Lenoir.
Deommodore has the ability to play outside or corner slot, which affords San Francisco much needed insurance in the secondary.
A Californian native playing in Oregon, Lenoir expressed his excitement to move closer to home with the 49ers:
“I kind of wanted to be back home. I felt like I’ve been missing the California vibe. So, I feel like my name being called at this time, and it being San Francisco, it was just a big plus for me.”
“Just him [Sherman] giving me advice with slowing everything down and just play football. Like, play your game. Like, you know, just being able to have that confidence to line up and just be a dog. Just be yourself. You know, you’ve been successful so far with being yourself, so why change? Very, I’m aggressive, and just got the ‘mamba’ mentality.”
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 1, 2021
Starting the last 34 consecutive games he played at Oregon is another plus to Lenoir’s durability.
Talanoa Hufanga (S) – USC (Round 5 #180 compensatory)
Talanoa Hufanga is a solid, physical player that is not afraid to throw his body into the mix.
The fifth-round draft pick logged 62 tackles, four interceptions, three sacks, and two forced fumbles in six games last year.
Although, Talanoa has had his fair share of injuries, suffering two dislocated shoulders and two broken collar bones.
Another element that kept the AP first-team All-American from going earlier in the draft was his lack of speed.
Hufanga recorded a 4.65-second 40-yard dash at the combine, which turned some general managers away.
However, in a recent interview, Talanoa described himself with humility off the field and with a lot of intensity on:
“Very quiet. I’m very outgoing sometimes, as well… I’m very faith-based and family oriented. So, just love to be obedient, be disciplined, and have ownership… Hopefully the same way [as a player], but just a little bit more of a, I wouldn’t say angry, but a little bit more fierce.”
“I’m blessed just to be around him cause I know I’m going to be over there more than just now… So, I’m very grateful for it… Like you said, talked about earlier, if they want to put me on offense, you got to be willing to do this. So, in any way, shape, or form, I just got to be open to be a sponge and just absorb as much as I possibly can.”
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 2, 2021
Coach Shanahan praised Hufanga, stating:
“Love him as a safety, hits like a linebacker… We are excited to get him here.”
Talanoa’s positive outlook and friendly personality make him a hometown favorite.
Elijah Mitchell (RB) – Louisiana Lafayette (Round 6 #194)
In contrast to Trey Sermon, Elijah Mitchell brings break-neck speed to the 49ers.
Catching the attention of San Francisco with his 4.38-second 40-yard dash, Elijah Mitchell offers another threat to the offense.
With an explosive first step, the 5-11, 217 lbs. back has the ability to score from anywhere on the field.
A sixth-rounder with potential, this diamond-in-the-rough gives the 49ers much-needed depth and helps restock a soon-to-be thinning backfield.
San Francisco 49ers 2021 NFL Draft Profile
Securing the No. 3 overall pick and selecting a prolific QB to groom, like Trey Lance, is a smart football investment.
Protecting that newly acquired asset with Aaron Banks and Jaylon Moore will help bring down the number of QB hits.
Finally, using five of the eight draft picks to address the upcoming expiring contracts in the offensive and defensive backfields is good foresight.
Taking into consideration team needs, draft potential, and trade value, the San Francisco 49ers receive a respectable B+ draft rating for their 2021 NFL Draft.