The 49ers come away from the 2021 draft with their quarterback for the future, and a new identity. While most of the NFC West spent their picks on speed, the 49ers went with a combination of power and speed throughout. Everything points to this team being extremely physical for years to come.
This draft has the potential to set the 49ers up for years to come, much like the 1986 draft did for the franchise 35 years ago. Heading into the 1986 draft the 49ers were two years removed from winning their second Super Bowl, but had a rough season in 1985 and Bill Walsh realized that the roster was getting old and needed an infusion of youth. Through a number of trades, Walsh was able to add Tom Rathman, Tim McKyer, John Taylor, Charles Haley, Steve Wallace, Kevin Fagan, and Don Griffin. These seven players would rebuild the roster and prove to be the catalysts to a run that nearly brought the 49ers franchise three straight World Championships.
The addition of these eight players to an already solid roster may be just what it takes to set the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan up for another historic run for the storied franchise.
I thought it would be a good idea to track the progress of each selection throughout the preseason. Each week there will be a grade assigned to their performance along with some comments. It will be just like when you used to receive your report card back in school.
Week 1 vs Kansas City
Trey Lance: Grade B-
Lance would complete only five of his fourteen pass attempts for 128 yards and a touchdown. While those numbers don’t look all that impressive, they fail to tell the whole story. Lance had three of his passes dropped, one Brandon Aiyuk, Richie James, and River Cracraft. In addition to the drops, Lance had two completions to Jauan Jennings ruled as laterals.
On the downside, Lance struggled at the end of the first half. With only 1:42 left in the second quarter, Lance threw inaccurately to a wide-open Richie James over the middle. The rookie would then nearly throw an interception on a throw to Charlie Woerner who was running a corner route and then miss Woerner on the next play with another inaccurate throw over the middle.
On the drive following his touchdown throw, Lance would drive the offense down to the Chiefs 15-yard line. Facing second and six, Lance would hold onto the ball instead of throwing quick to a wide-open Wayne Gallman resulting in a sack. This is something that Lance needs to clean up.
While the performance wasn’t flawless by any stretch, head coach Kyle Shanahan liked what he saw from the young signal caller and was happy that he was able to see Lance be put into a number of tough situations. There will definitely be some things to improve on as they review the film.
It needs to be pointed out that Shanahan was open keeping things very vanilla offensively with Lance so as not to give opponents the ability to gameplan for him. For example, Lance wasn’t asked to use his legs other than the touchdown throw and another bootleg play later in the game. When Shanahan finally takes the wraps off the offense with Lance, watch out.
Aaron Banks: Grade C
Banks showed off his run blocking early on, opening holes for Trey Sermon on three running plays that went behind the Notre Dame product. On the first of those runs, Banks would put the defender on his back.
Late in the second quarter the wheels would start to come off a bit for Banks. Known for his stellar pass blocking in college, Banks would surrender a sack when Chiefs defensive tackle Terhsawn Wharton beat him to his outside.
Banks would leave the game with a shoulder injury. Kyle Shanahan said they expect Banks to miss 2-3 weeks. A tough blow for Banks and a 49ers offensive line that was already lacking depth.
Trey Sermon: Grade C+
Sermon would get the start and pick up 16 yards on three touches during the first possession of the game.
The running back would finish the game with 26 yards on nine carries and 14 yards on two receptions. He also had one fumble that the 49ers were able to recover. Sermon never really got going other than one possession late in the first quarter. Sermon would carry the ball three plays in a row gaining 5, 4 and 3 yards. It was on the three-yard run that Sermon would cough up the ball, but Colton McKivitz would land on the ball to maintain possession.
Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir: Grade B
The rookies would show off their man coverage skills. While they both gave up a few short receptions, they were instrumental in limiting the Chiefs to only 121 yards passing while in the game.
Lenoir came away with the lone 49ers turnover when he grabbed a throw from Chad Henne that bounced off the hands of Chiefs receiver Noah Gray.
After a slow start to training camp, Thomas and Lenoir have been coming on strong over the last week. Both of the rookies mentioned how difficult the transition to the NFL was early on, feeling a bit lost at times. They credit each other for helping find their way, and it is beginning to show on the field.
Jaylon Moore: Grade C
Moore made the start at left tackle in place of Trent Williams. As could be expected, it was a bit of an up and down performance for the fifth-round draft pick. Playing with the starting unit, Moore got off to a strong start. Late in the first half with only 1:10 left to play and the offense facing third and ten, Moore would get beat around the edge by Tim Ward for a sack. Not a bad performance overall for the former Western Michigan Bronco.
Talanoa Hufanga: Grade B-
With Jimmy Ward having the night off, Hufanga was moved into the starting lineup and he would finish the night with four tackles. Hufanga showed his ability to tackle in the open field when he brought down former 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon short of the first down on a long third down catch and run.
Hufanga was called for pass interference during Kansas City’s second possession of the game on a pass from Henne to Tyreek Hill.
Elijah Mitchell: Did not play due to an abductor strain that was discovered on Friday. Mitchell is expected to miss at least the next two weeks.