The San Francisco 49ers entered the 2023 NFL Draft as the last team making their first pick. Two years ago, they traded their first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins as part of the deal that landed them Trey Lance. Last fall, they traded their second- and third-round picks to the Carolina Panthers in the Christian McCaffrey trade.
That left them making their first pick at No. 99 overall in the comp pick section of the third round. They made a move up with their No. 102 pick and ended up making their first pick at No. 87, but regardless, they were waiting a while to get that pick in.
That means fewer projected early impact players coming out of this draft. And in turn, it makes grading them a little better if you’re not as keyed in on both the draft prospects after the first two rounds and you’re not as certain about the team’s perceived vs. actual needs.
Round 3: No. 87 (from Vikings) — Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State
Round 3: No. 99 — Jake Moody, K, Michigan
Round 3: No. 101 — Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama
Round 5: No. 155 (from Dolphins) — Darrell Luter, Jr., CB, South Alabama
Round 5: No. 173 — Robert Beal, Jr., DE, Georgia
Round 6: No. 216 — Dee Winters, ILB, TCU
Round 7: No. 247 — Brayden Willis, TE, Oklahoma
Round 7: No. 253 — Ronnie Bell, WR, Michigan
Round 7: No. 255 — Jalen Graham, OLB, Purdue
The 49ers had tongues wagging when they took the first kicker off the board. And they chose not to select an offensive lineman, which was something most mock drafts had them doing sooner than later. And yet, there is a lot of athleticism in this group. It’s easy to snicker at a kicker pick, but for a team that came a game away from a Super Bowl appearance, they made some picks that offer special teams value early and some potential down the road.
Did the 49ers fill needs?
This comes into perceived vs. actual needs. Most analysts thought the 49ers would draft an offensive tackle with one of their third-round picks. Instead, the team made it clear they’re comfortable with Colton McKivitz and Jaylon Moore competing at right tackle. They filled needed depth in the secondary, replaced their departed kicker, and added some pass rush and linebacker depth. The team could use another quarterback in free agency, but there was no real need to draft one.
Moody could be the only one pick to have a real fantasy impact. Barring a disastrous preseason, he’ll be the team’s starting kicker in Week 1. He’s joining an offense that moves down the field with ease, but faces enough questions at quarterback that he could turn into a top-ten kicker as a rookie.
Latu and Willis will compete for some opportunities behind George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk, so it’s hard to see either emerging as a fantasy option. Bell will get some opportunities in the Shanahan offense, but there are too many options in front of him to do much as a rookie.
Brown is the guy most likely to get significant playing time as a rookie and Moody is the guy guaranteed to get a lot of opportunities as a rookie. However, Luter could be the one who we view ten years from now as the best player in the 49ers class. He’s got impressive physical skills to go along with plenty of confidence. Scouting reports suggest a corner who played down to competition, which will not be an option against most NFL receivers. But he’s the guy who could continue the 49ers run of fifth-round picks turning into key contributors.