The San Francisco 49ers struggled to a 4-12 record last season and haven’t had a winning season since 2013. They were 21st in scoring at 21.4 points per game and even worse defensively, ranked 28th allowing 27.2 points per game. In need to bolster the defense, the 49ers got their man with the second pick. The team’s top six selections are analyzed below.
Round 1 (2nd) Nick Bosa (DE) Ohio State
Bosa had five sacks and 29 tackles as a freshman, playing in all 13 games. The following season, he had eight sacks and 34 tackles, which were all the more impressive since he started only four games. Bosa’s efforts earned him first-team All-Big Ten honors. He was off to a great start last season, recording four sacks and 14 tackles in less than three games before sustaining a core muscle injury. The rest of the season was lost for the Heisman hopeful, who spent his recovery time preparing for the NFL Draft.
The 49ers were in much need of improving their pass rush, which is part of what Bosa brings. The 49ers have used their top pick on defensive linemen four times over the past five seasons. With very little weaknesses to his game, Bosa immediately turns a glaring weakness into a strength, which should cause nightmares to opposing quarterbacks.
Round 2 (36th) Deebo Samuel (WR) South Carolina
Samuel played in just five games as a redshirt freshman in part due to a hamstring injury. He shared team MVP in 2016 after hauling in 59 balls for 783 yards and added 431 yards on kick returns. Scoring three touchdowns during his first three games in 2017, Samule suffered a broken leg, sidelining him for the rest of the season. In 2018, Samuel was first-team All-SEC after catching 62 for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns, adding 570 return yards and another touchdown.
Although defense was a top issue, the 49ers needed to improve the receiving group. Samuel has plenty of ability to compete for starting spot. The question is his durability, as he’s missed significant time in two seasons at South Carolina. Should he stay healthy, Samuel could be a significant contributor this season.
Round 3 (67th) Jalen Hurd (WR) Baylor
Hurd started as a running back at Tennessee, rushing for 899 yards as a freshman and 1288 yards as a sophomore. Following a concussion in 2016, Hurd wanted a position change. Tennessee refused and then Hurd transferred to Baylor. Although sometimes used as a running back at Baylor with 48 attempts, but lead the team in receiving with 946 yards and 69 catches.
Hurd fills the need for a big receiver coming in at 6’ 5” and 226 pounds. He displays great versatility and could play tight end. The big issue is overcoming injury problems and improving overall receiving skills after spending most of his time at running back at college. At some point, Hurd should be a consistent contributor, but the 49ers may need to have patience with him.
Round 4 (110th) Mitch Wishnowsky (P) Utah
Originally from Australia, Wishnowsky punted at Santa Barbara Community College in 2014, averaging nearly 40 yards per punt. Away from football in 2015, Wishnowsky earned honors as top punter in the country in 2016 averaging 47.7 yards per punt and lead in net at 44.6 per kick. He ranked 6th in gross punting in 2017 at 43.9 yards per punt and was first-team All-Pac 12 as a senior, ranked 10th in the country with a 45.2 gross punting average.
After Brad Pinion left as a free agent, the 49ers wanted to find the best punter available. They believed that Wishnowsky was their man. With more pressing needs particularly on defense, the pick is a bit intriguing and likely could have filled the punter position later in the draft. Having said that, Wishnowsky was the top punter coming out and should have an immediate impact.
Round 5 (149th) Dre Greenlaw (LB) Arkansas
Greenlaw was a significant contributor from the beginning, recording 95 tackles as a freshman. Although he missed six games with a broken foot as a sophomore, Greenlaw had 42 tackles. In 2017, he topped the 100 tackle mark for the season, but again has injury issues as a senior, but still had 80 tackles in nine games.
Despite being relatively small, Greenlaw should provide good depth at linebacker. There as questions with his durability after the injury problems he had in college. However, if Greenlaw stays healthy, he could see time on special teams and eventually become a solid contributor at linebacker.
Round 6 (176th) Kaden Smith (TE) Stanford
Smith didn’t play as a redshirt freshman, but was a solid back up in 2016, scoring five touchdowns on 23 catches in 2017. As a junior last season, Smith as second-team All-Pac 12 after catching 47 passes for 635 yards. In addition, Smith was in the running for the Mackey Award given for the top tight end in the country.
George Kittle is entrenched as the starter and one of the better tight ends in the NFL. Smith adds depth to the roster. He’s has the opportunity to get stronger and become a very good run blocker. Being selected in a late round, if Smith develops into a good special teams player and some time on the field on offense, the pick will be worthwhile.