A year ago, the 49ers had a terrific draft.
In John Lynch’s first year as general manager, the team took defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster each in the first round, and both flashed potential impact-player talent. They also found a starting cornerback in the third round in Ahkello Witherspoon, a backup quarterback in C.J. Beathard, two talented receivers in Trent Taylor and George Kittle and a safety, Adrian Colbert, with their final seventh-round pick. Plus, a pair of players in running back Joe Williams and defensive lineman Pita Taumoepenu who could contribute in 2018 after injury seasons.
Now, after a long offseason program capped by last week’s full-roster minicamp, the 49ers go into next month’s training camp with a draft class that – so far – appears as good or better than last year’s.
This week, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reviewed this year’s class as training camp approaches and noted the top four picks appear poised to play big roles in 2018.
Those four are first-round pick Mike McGlinchey, the presumed starter at right offensive tackle, second-round pick Dante Pettis, a punt returner and wide receiver, and a pair of third-round picks, linebacker Fred Warner and cornerback Tarvarius Moore.
McGlinchey still must perform well in training camp and during the exhibition season to win the starting job on the right side, taking over for Trent Brown, who was traded to the Patriots. But, as Barrows pointed out, the Niners have made no pretense that they expect McGlinchey to start.
“Most teams will make their top picks go through a faux he-has-to-earn-it phase in the offseason in which he begins practicing with the second- or third-team groups and – surprise, surprise – ends up working his way on to the first-team squad,” wrote Barrows. “The 49ers dispensed with that in McGlinchey’s case.”
In fact, veteran Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley, the longtime starter on the left side, believes McGlinchey has big-time talent and will be a key to the offensive line’s performance in 2018. Staley has taken McGlinchey under his wing.
“I’m real excited about my guy, McGlinchey, in my (offensive line) room,” Staley said recently. “He’s my little brother. I’m finally excited. I have a little brother.”
McGlinchey has yet to sign, but is likely to over the next few weeks before the start of training camp.
Then, wrote Barrows, the 49ers will truly find out if they have a gem.
“The true test for any lineman, offensive and defensive, comes when the pads go on for the first time in training camp and the team has its first one-on-one pass-rush drills,” wrote Barrows. “Still, it was hard to tell in the spring that McGlinchey was a rookie. He looked as if he belonged on the right side of the offensive line.”
Training camp will open in mid-July, on a date still to be announced.