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San Francisco 49ers’ first draft under Shanahan-Lynch doesn’t look so hot anymore

November 26, 2018

The San Francisco 49ers selected LB Reuben Foster 31st overall in the 2017 draft, saying afterward that they would have taken the former Alabama standout with the third overall pick, had the Bears stayed put and selected Solomon Thomas.

Of course, the Bears and Niners swapped picks, with Chicago identifying Mitch Trubisky as its future franchise QB and San Francisco tabbing Thomas and Foster as the foundational pieces of its defensive rebuild.

The Niners cut Foster on Sunday, hours after his latest arrest on a domestic violence charge at the team’s Tampa hotel. Foster was arrested three times in less than 18 months with the organization, which rightly decided enough was enough.

Foster is the highest player selected in the 2017 draft to be dumped by his club. Thomas remains nothing if not an unproven commodity entering the back nine of his second season. And it feels like the right time to point out that the 49ers’ first draft under head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch, which most NFL analysts breathlessly praised in its immediate aftermath, currently looks, well, like it was overseen by a pair of men running a draft room for the first time.

* Thomas has four sacks in his first 24 games, when the Niners have been among the NFL’s worst defenses, particularly rushing the passer.

* Foster was nowhere near the same difference-maker during six starts as a sophomore, and the Niners getting only 16 starts from the 31st overall selection is nothing short of a spectacularly busted pick.

* San Franciso sent its second-rounder to New England as part of the Jimmy Garoppolo trade. Torn ACL or not, Garoppolo arrived at a pittance purely in terms of draft capital.

* After a very promising rookie season, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, the 66th overall pick, has been benched twice and struggled mightily to recapture anything close to his rookie form while lining up opposite Richard Sherman.

* After sending the 67th overall pick to the Saints, who used it on RB Alvin Kamara, the Niners traded back up in Round 3 to draft C.J. Beathard, who lost his role as Garoppolo’s starting replacement to undrafted Southern Miss product Nick Mullens.

The Niners did find TE George Kittle in Round 5, which looks like one of the best values in the entire draft; and their other fifth-rounder, slot WR Trent Taylor, and final pick, S Adrian Colbert (No. 229 overall), have been useful players.

It’s quite possible that Thomas and Witherspoon, like Kittle, go on to become stars. After all, it would be unfair to write this piece without acknowledging that it’s still very early for a jury to reconvene on any club’s 2017 draft haul.

But it’s not unfair to point out that one of the offseason’s biggest darlings clubs has a lot more problems right now than merely Garoppolo’s injury, and the fact that the Niners will have more questions than answers regarding their 2017 draft by the time Garoppolo is healthy again entering 2019 signals at least a sligtht early snag in the franchise’s rebuilding process.

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