The 49ers attacked the 2022 NFL draft differently than any draft of the John Lynch-Kyle Shanahan tenure. They didn’t make any trades and stood pat with their nine picks. None of their selections are the type that shows urgency in getting production this year.
In fact, it would not be a surprise of the 2022 class became a much bigger factor in 2023 when the 49ers are set to lose a handful of players in free agency. They went into this year’s draft needing to establish some better depth and just ensure that they’re putting good players on their roster.
Given that a slew of their nine picks figure to contribute very little as rookies, it’s hard to issue grades. Frankly, nobody knows whether prospects are good picks or not because we’ve never seen them play in the NFL. College success and production doesn’t always reflect NFL success and production.
A more accurate grade of a player can’t really come until they’ve been in the league for a few years. So instead of placing grades that try to guess if a player is going to be a good NFL player, we went over the process for the 49ers.
These grades should be viewed with this question in mind: How good was the idea behind the pick and does it make sense for their roster construction now and in the future?
Let’s get to the grades:
Round 2, Pick 61: DE Drake Jackson, USC
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The 49ers needed depth on the edge and Jackson should provide that as a rotational pass rusher right away. He has the physical tools to become more than that though and give the 49ers a legitimate threat across from Nick Bosa. For a team that centers its defense around its pass rush, this pick makes sense.
Round 3, Pick 93 | RB Tyrion Davis-Price, LSU
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This is the second year in a row the 49ers have taken a running back in Round 3. It’s a head-scratching decision given their track record with RBs. They’ve had success in Round 6 with Elijah Mitchell and with undrafted players. Perhaps Davis-Price is the best RB in the draft and this all works out, but given needs at other spots this pick doesn’t make a ton of sense coming out of the draft.
Round 3, Pick 105: WR Danny Gray, SMU
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A diverse receiving corps is important, especially for a creative offensive coach like Kyle Shanahan. Wide receiver was a need regardless of Deebo Samuel’s status. Round 3 might’ve been a little early, but Gray has game-changing speed San Francisco hasn’t had in a wide receiver since Marquise Goodwin. Adding a WR with unique traits is a strong move late in the third.
Round 4, Pick 134: OL Spencer Burford, UTSA
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Burford started games at four spots on the offensive line in college, and that versatility is something the 49ers have prioritized over the last few years. The good news with him is he can step in and compete at either guard spot. The bad news is he’s never played center which won’t help the 49ers in their quest to fill that position in the post-Alex Mack era. The latter hurts the selection a bit, but it’ll be worth it if he turns into a starting-caliber guard.
Round 5, Pick 172: CB Samuel Womack, Toledo
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The vision with Womack is clear. He’s undersized and tenacious which makes him a good candidate to eventually compete at the nickel corner spot. The 49ers needed some cornerback depth, but they might’ve been able to wait on Womack. He had excellent production in college over his final three years so it’s worth a late fifth-round flier especially if he can play special teams and offer more quality depth at CB.
Round 6, Pick 187: OL Nick Zakelj, Fordham
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Zakelj is a big offensive tackle from a small school. He’ll get moved to guard and his athleticism indicates he’ll be physically capable of making the move. Stacking up more bodies to compete on the interior is the way to go after ignoring the position early. However, he’s probably not going to play any center which is a ding against this choice.
Round 6, Pick 220: DL Kalia Davis, UCF
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Interior defensive line depth was a need for the 49ers, and Davis is a good athlete who only played five games between 2020 and 2021. That inexperience could hold him back from producing right away, but a late sixth-round choice on a good athlete is hard to argue with. Ideally a player would have more than 25 games of college experience, but this late it’s better to bet on the athletic upside.
Round 6, Pick 221: CB Tariq Castro-Fields
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An interesting thought exercise is swapping Castro-Fields and Womack’s draft positions. The selections are probably received a little bit differently, but getting two CBs in the building is a good move. Both are good athletes, and Castro-Fields has legitimate NFL size. Another bet on a big, athletic player at a position of need is good business with the 221st pick.
Round 7, Pick 262: QB Brock Purdy, Iowa State
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Purdy had a productive four-year career. He’s a little undersized, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him stick around in the NFL for a long time as a backup. The 49ers only really need him to run their practice squad this year and he’s certainly capable of doing that. Snagging a third QB that might push Nate Sudfeld for the QB2 job with the final pick in the draft is fine.