By Cyril Penn
Special to S.F. Examiner
With the NFL draft in the books, and with rookie mini camps opening this week, the San Francisco 49ers have drastically improved their defensive line and receiving corps. They hit some home runs and made some questionable calls along the way. But if each selection was graded individually, what kind of grade point average would the haul receive?
First Round (No. 2 overall): Nick Bosa, Ohio State Defensive End
Nick Bosa is almost unanimously considered the best overall player in this year’s draft by well-informed prognosticators. And clearly John Lynch agrees, admitting the Niners have “long coveted” the Ohio State product in a Day 1 media presser.
At 6-foot-4 and 266 pounds, Bosa will line up as the “Big-End” in San Francisco’s 4-3 scheme. He brings an array of polished pass-rushing moves and counters to a defense that has struggled to generate sacks and turnovers.
Bosa, Dee Ford and DeForest Buckner form a heroic triumvirate that will pillage opposing offensive lines.
Grade: A (4.0)
Second Round (No. 36 overall): Tyshun “Deebo” Samuel, South Carolina Wide Receiver
Nicknamed for the bully from the movie Friday, Deebo Samuel brings the ultimate tough-guy personality to a finesse position.
With underrated speed (4.48-second 40-yard dash), sure-handedness and elite run-after-catch ability, it’s easy to see why South Carolina moved Samuel all over the field. The Gamecocks got him the ball in the slot, out wide, on jet sweeps and even as a return specialist.
At only 5-foot-11, Samuel isn’t a typical outside receiver, but Kyle Shanahan will love using him on gadget plays, screens and slants to utilize Samuel’s dynamic skills with the ball in his hands. His elite balance, shiftiness and will to keep his legs driving through contact reminds many of Golden Tate.
Grade: B+ (3.3)
Third Round (No. 67 overall): Jalen Hurd, Baylor Wide Receiver
A true offensive weapon, Jalen Hurd started his career as a running back at Tennessee before transferring to Baylor to switch positions. At Baylor, he immediately became the go-to-guy on offense and lined up in the slot, on the edge and even in the backfield as the Bears’ power back.
At 6-foot-5, Hurd gives the Niners the red zone threat they’ve been looking for. Shanahan suggested that he envisions deploying Hurd as a receiver, tight end and running back and said, “I don’t remember being able to say that about any player I’ve ever studied.”
Pairing one of the most creative offensive minds in football one of the most versatile players in recent draft history is a match made in football heaven.
Grade: A- (3.7)
Fourth Round (No. 110 overall): Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah Punter
The most questionable pick of the 49ers’ draft was clearly Wishnowsky. Drafting any specialist in the fourth round looks like a reach.
But as far as punters go, Wishnowsky is top tier. The Australian can punt with either leg and is adept at pinning the opposition deep by placing the ball exactly where he wants. Over Wishnowsky’s last 106 punts at Utah, opponents had less than 100 total return yards.
For a team that was 27th in the NFL in net punt average last season, the Niners defense will welcome their new coffin-corner punter with open arms.
Grade: B- (2.7)
Fifth Round (No. 148 overall): Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas Linebacker
Dre Greenlaw is an undersized (5-foot-11) linebacker with blistering speed (4.52 40-yard dash) and good coverage instincts.
He projects as a solid special teamer and a nickel linebacker in obvious passing situations, but on tape he gets washed out of plays constantly by offensive linemen. Greenlaw should not see the field on running downs until he gains strength and learns to shed blocks.
Grade: C (2.0)
Sixth Round (No. 176 overall): Kaden Smith, Stanford Tight End
Kaden Smith was considered a Day 2 prospect before a poor 4.92 40-yard dash sunk his stock.
However, a deeper look shows his 7.08 3-cone drill time was third among the draft’s tight ends. Smith combines that sneaky quickness with strong hands to catch contested passes and a decent feel as a run-blocker. He will challenge Garrett Celek for the TE2 spot immediately.
Grade: B+ (3.3)
Sixth Round (No. 183 overall): Justin Skule, Vanderbilt Tackle
As a 40-game SEC starter with experience at left and right tackle, Skule is a developmental prospect who will compete with Shon Coleman for the swing-tackle spot.
Across his 473 senior season pass blocking snaps, Skule allowed a single sack. That sack came at the hands of No. 7 overall pick, Josh Allen.
Although he’s bit top-heavy and will need to add strength to hold up against NFL pass rushers, he’ll make his mark early as a run blocker with experience in a zone-blocking scheme.
Grade: B (3.0)
Sixth Round (No. 198 overall): Tim Harris, Virginia Cornerback
With the size (6-foot-2) and speed (4.45 40-yard dash) of an ideal press corner, it makes sense that San Francisco would take a later-round flier on Tim Harris.
Harris played six seasons at Virginia due to two medical redshirts, so his injury past is a concern. He also doesn’t have great read-and-react skills or the “extra gear” to close the gap when receivers get separation.
With a rare physical profile, Harris could fight for snaps at outside corner or convert to free safety like former seventh rounder Adrian Colbert.
Grade: B- (2.7)
49ers Final GPA: 3.1