San Francisco 49ers' 2017 draft class: Kiper's grades, McShay's best pick, more
NFL Draft Insiders
Posted: 2017-05-01

The 2017 NFL draft is over, and it's time to review how your favorite team fared. Where did it reach? Did it get a potential steal in Round 5? Is there a bust waiting to happen?

ESPN Insider's draft experts break down each draft class, starting with Mel Kiper Jr.'s grade, Todd McShay's favorite pick, and Scouts Inc.'s analysis on how each player fits into his new team.

San Francisco 49ers

Mel Kiper's Draft Grade: A-

Kiper: John Lynch went straight from the booth to a general manager role, but didn't look like a rookie GM in his first draft. On the first night, he made two smart trades and added two prospects (Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster) I ranked in my top eight overall. To move down one spot from No. 2 to No. 3 with the Bears, the Niners got pick Nos. 67 and 111 this year and a third-round pick in 2018. That's a heist. The added draft value allowed them easy passage to slide up for Foster. Even if you didn't love these players, you'd have to say bravo to the maneuvering.

Elsewhere, the 49ers were able to target clear needs at cornerback with Ahkello Witherspoon in Round 3, and at running back with Joe Williams in Round 4. George Kittle is the best fullback/tight end hybrid in the draft. D.J. Jones and Pita Taumoepenu are useful D-line depth pieces and Trent Taylor could help at receiver.

If there's a puzzler here, it's the use of a third-rounder on C.J. Beathard, a guy I had rated well behind a few other QBs available at the time. The divide on Beathard is whether you see physical tools that translate to a potential starter. I'm not quite in that camp.

Overall, the 49ers did well to not just settle for picking good players and make a play for adding a second elite player. Reuben Foster carries some risk, but at No. 31? Bring it on. This is a good start to the Lynch era.

1/3 Solomon Thomas DT STANFORD
1/31 Reuben Foster ILB ALABAMA
3/66 Ahkello Witherspoon CB COLORADO
3/104 C.J. Beathard QB IOWA
4/121 Joe Williams RB UTAH
5/146 George Kittle TE IOWA
5/177 Trent Taylor WR LOUISIANA TECH
6/198 D.J. Jones DT OLE MISS
6/202 Pita Taumoepenu DE UTAH
7/229 Adrian Colbert CB MIAMI

Todd McShay's favorite pick

Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford (No. 3 overall)

The analysis of this pick is two-fold. First, Thomas is one of the most complete players in this draft, possessing an outstanding combination of size, quickness and power. And second is the trade GM John Lynch manufactured as part of the pick. Lynch could've easily selected Thomas No. 2 overall, but Lynch traded down one pick with the Bears and got a ransom in return: Third- and fourth-round picks in 2017 and an additional third in 2018. They used the fourth-rounder this year to trade up and get ILB Reuben Foster (our No. 8 overall player) with the 31st pick. And then they traded the third-rounder they received in the initial deal to the Saints for a 2017 seventh (DB Adrian Colbert) and 2018 second. So the 49ers got two top-10 players in this class and 2018 second- and fourth-rounders. This is the most ridiculous series of trades I've seen in all of my years doing this.

Scouts Inc. on 2017 class

1 (3) Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford | Highlights

What he brings: A highly disruptive and versatile defensive lineman who can play in multiple roles along the front line. Thomas possesses explosive hands with an excellent combination of quickness, power and agility. -- Kevin Weidl

How he fits: New general manager John Lynch needed to address a defense that finished last in scoring defense in 2016 and gets an excellent value in Thomas after trading back one spot. Look for new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to make the most of Thomas' versatility by moving him around the line and using him in a variety of ways. -- Steve Muench

1 (31) Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama | Highlights

What he brings: Arguably the best pure football player in the class, Foster is an impact defender who owns the physicality and power to hold up in tight quarters and the range to cover sideline to sideline. An explosive hitter and underrated blitzer, he is a three-down player. -- Kevin Weidl

How he fits: Foster is an excellent pick from both a value and need standpoint. New general manager John Lynch needed to improve the league's worst run defense, as NaVorro Bowman has had problems staying healthy and free-agent signee Malcolm Smith is a better situational player than an every-down player. -- Steve Muench

3 (2) Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado | Highlights

What he brings: Witherspoon possesses a rare blend of height, length and top-end speed. He tested well, especially for a taller corner, in the agility drills. While he only intercepted three passes in three seasons at Colorado, he broke up 22 passes during the 2016 season. -- Steve Muench

How he fits: New general manager John Lynch continues to address a defense that allowed 480 points (tied for ninth most in NFL history) and 6,502 total yards (eighth most) last season. He also fills the 49ers' most pressing need outside of quarterback by taking Witherspoon, who projects as a Day 1 starter in new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's scheme. -- Steve Muench

3 (40) C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa | Highlights

What he brings: Beathard lacks an elite physical skill, but he is an unselfish leader and tireless worker -- all of which may allow him to overcome his physical deficiencies. He possesses a strong combination of competitiveness, toughness and football IQ to potentially develop into a serviceable backup. --- Kevin Weidl

How he fits: New general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan didn't target a quarterback ready to make an early contribution in the first two rounds, but they get a developmental prospect in Beathard here. -- Steve Muench

4 (15) Joe Williams, RB, Utah | Highlights

What he brings: An average-sized back who has below-average power, Williams put the ball on the ground too much last season. He also comes with some off-the-field baggage, including stops at different colleges, an arrest and a brief absence from the game. On the flip side, he's an explosive runner who has good top-end speed and vision and he flashes as a receiver. -- Steve Muench

How he fits: Carlos Hyde has yet to play a full 16-game season, so the 49ers needed to improve their depth behind him. In addition, new head coach Kyle Shanahan has a potent one-two punch like he did with RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in Atlanta. -- Steve Muench

5 (2) George Kittle, TE, Iowa | Highlights

What he brings: Kittle needs refine his skill set, but he has the raw athleticism (tested extremely well at the combine) and competitiveness to turn into a quality move-TE (F) while also contributing on special teams. -- Kevin Weidl

5 (34) Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech

What he brings: Taylor is a hard worker with an outside chance of developing into a sub-package slot receiver. He also has some punt-return skills. But he has a diminutive frame, small hands and marginal top-end speed. -- Kevin Weidl

6 (14) D.J. Jones, DT, Ole Miss | Highlights

What he brings: Jones lacks ideal height and has shorter arms (31 1/2-inch arms) but plays with natural leverage and is a stout run-defender. Jones has a chance to develop into a rotational interior defender and potential starter down the road -- ideally as a 4-3 nose tackle. -- Kevin Weidl

6 (18) Pita Taumoepenu, DE, Utah

What he brings: Taumoepenu is a developmental prospect who only played one year of high school football and started just seven games in four seasons at Utah. He is extremely raw but he flashes the potential to develop into a disruptive pass-rusher and he fits best at 3-4 OLB. -- Steve Muench

7 (11) Adrian Colbert, S, Miami

What he brings: A graduate transfer from Texas, Colbert moved from safety to corner at Miami. He flashed signs of developing into an effective press corner, and there's a lot to like about his upside -- he ran a 4.38 at his pro day -- but he missed five games with injuries last year and needs more time to develop. -- Steve Muench

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