The 2017 draft is loaded with unique and interesting talents, and high quality ones at that. The 49ers have an opportunity to nail this draft by bringing in starters and impact role players over multiple rounds, helping kick start the rebuild of the roster.
One thing to consider heading into this draft is that the 49ers are moving back to the 4-3 base defense, and they will need new personnel to help with that process. General manager John Lynch and his team in all likelihood look to the draft for front seven players, selecting maybe two or three.
Another thing to consider: Kyle Shanahan is in the building, and the cupboard is very bare on offense. And he knows it. Everyone knows it. The offensive-minded first-year head coach needs weapons not just to excel, but simply to get this unit to basic functionality. So that, combined with his appreciation and eye for weapons, makes it seem like a sure thing the 49ers go after a few in this draft.
Additionally, Shanahan being a molder of talent allows the 49ers to select offensive skill players over all three days of the draft.
The following is a list of four players the 49ers can consider with their expected 11 total draft picks this year.
Haason Reddick, Temple, EDGE
Career: 149 tackles, 47.0 TFL, 17.5 sacks, 1 INT, 4 FF, 2 FR
Reddick’s claim to fame is arriving at Temple and walking on as a corner, and going on to dominate the EDGE position, emerging as a star for the program. He’s a tenacious player that can man the WILL linebacker spot in the 49ers’ new 4-3 defense, and occasionally put his hand in the dirt. Right away Reddick would bring pass rush, perimeter run defense, underneath and middle-of-the-field coverage, and provide the LB corps with another alpha.
Reddick makes sense for San Francisco because of his bat-outta-hell approach and super-athletic traits, which would seem to fit well for this particular defense at this particular time for two reasons. 1) This defense has a fair amount of young talent but no identity, and no confidence. To me, Reddick is a player that will help in their quest to discover both. 2) Expect some amoeba-like looks from this new unit. With that said, Reddick has the athleticism to enable them to try (and perhaps succeed at) attacking teams in new ways.
Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State, RB
Career: 1,059 carries, 6,405 rushing yards, 6.0 YPC, 62 TD/99 receptions, 1,039 receiving yards, 5 TD
Kyle Shanahan is often lauded specifically for one thing: his ability to scheme to optimize the talent he has, while also getting everyone involved. Whether you’re an unfamiliar free agent or a sixth-rounder, he will design ways in which you deliver blows to the defense in almost no time at all.
We tell you that to tell you this. While maybe not built for every-down work, Pumphrey looks like one of the most dangerous open-field runners in this entire draft. He is one of this class’s true ankle-breakers – and he’s got home-run-hitting ability. Pumphrey, in Year 1, can evolve into a fear-inducing X-factor for the 49ers.
He can be a weapon in relief of Hyde, but also play on the field with him, lining up as a receiver. And like Jordan Plocher of Pro Football Focus said in reference to Christian McCaffrey, his versatility is going to let the offensive coordinator—or head coach in this case—shift from one-back to empty sets to exploit mismatches.
Ejuan Price, Pittsburgh, EDGE
Career: 143 tackles, 53 TFL, 29.5 sacks, 3 PBU, 4 FF, 1 FR
Bendy, explosive, persistent, productive, fundamentally sound – but still a bit underrated. At 6-feet, Price is a fun watch coming off the edge. He explodes off the ball, gets underneath blocks and keeps those feet driving until he reaches his target. Maybe a situational pass-rusher that grows into a full-time player, Price appears to have the exact set of skills the 49ers are missing in their front. In this new D, he can play WLB and rush from a 3-point stance.
Price, along with Ronald Blair, would make for two tough-to-account-for roaming weapons in blitz packages. Especially with all that size around them. These types of athletic, low-center-of-gravity players would be complementary and ultimately successful working with and around players like DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead.
Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M, WR
Career: 164 receptions, 2,788 yards, 17.0 YPC, 30 TD
Reynolds stands out as one of those draft prospects that’s going to be had at great value. He hasn’t garnered much talk in a deep class of wide receivers, but he possesses the traits to help teams at the NFL level. At 6-foot-3, 187 pounds, Reynolds would provide the type of long-strider the Niners have been missing. It also gives them a target with a sizable catch radius and one that competes well at the catch point.
Reynolds’ stock probably rises after the combine, but it shouldn’t get much higher than the third round, roughly. This is a player the 49ers should keep their eye on, especially if they’re not the team to land one of the only other big time size receivers, Mike Williams and Corey Davis.
Statistics courtesy Sports-Reference
Hero image courtesy @Temple_FB