San Francisco 49ers

49ers draft grades: Despite solid opening pick, most aren’t high on team’s 2019 class

It’s not how you start, but how you finish.

This popular (and probably overused) saying seems to fit well with how many national draft analysts feel about the 49ers’ haul in the 2019 NFL draft.

Most observers are high on the team’s first choice: Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick.

At the same time, the 49ers are getting criticism over their fourth-round selection: Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky. The Bee didn’t give that choice good marks.

How does their overall grade look? Here’s a sampling from analysts across the country:

The 49ers’ 2019 draft class

Round 1, No. 2 overall pick: Nick Bosa, defensive end, Ohio State

Round 2, No. 36 overall pick: Deebo Samuel, wide receiver, South Carolina

Round 3, No. 67 overall pick: Jalen Hurd, wide receiver, Baylor

Round 4, No. 110 overall pick: Mitch Wishnowsky, punter, Utah

Round 5, No. 148 overall pick: Dre Greenlaw, linebacker, Arkansas

Round 6, No. 176 overall pick: Kaden Smith, tight end, Stanford

Round 6, No. 183 overall pick: Justin Skule, offensive tackle, Vanderbilt

Round 6, No. 198 overall pick: Tim Harris, cornerback, Virginia


Mel Kiper Jr. noted that the 49ers made key improvements by boosting the front seven and bringing in targets for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He does take aim at the team for where they selected Wishnowsky, who wouldn’t have been drafted according to his rankings.

Kiper: “I like the direction the 49ers are going, even if I don’t love all of these picks.”

Grade: B-

Gennaro Felice gives the 49ers the worst grade of the NFC West teams.

Felice: “Hard to argue with the Bosa pick. San Francisco had already used three straight first-round picks on interior D-linemen from 2015-17, which sapped the allure of Quinnen Williams. And thinking about the 49ers’ defensive front – with Bosa rushing off one edge, Dee Ford off the other and DeForest Buckner coming up the gut – it’s safe to assume San Francisco won’t rank 22nd in sacks again. ... After the first two picks, the 49ers’ draft went in ways that I don’t entirely understand.”

Grade: C+

CBS Sports

Pete Prisco is high on Bosa, saying he’s a potential star in the league, but was among those taking a shot at the 49ers for their punter pick.

Prisco: “I liked their pick of Bosa, but wasn’t as enamored with the rest of their draft. They did add receivers in Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, but there were better options there when they took both, in my mind.”

Grade: C

Sports Illustrated

Andy Benoit points to the potential Bosa could bring to the defense and was complimentary of how Samuel and Hurd can boost the offense.

Benoit: “Nick Bosa’s arrival could catapult this defense to the top of the NFC West. Sound extreme? Consider that San Francisco’s biggest problem last year was an anemic pass rush that not only made their Seahawks-style Cover 3 scheme impotent but also led to an astonishingly low seven forced turnovers. ... The only downside is that San Fran’s secondary still has questions at No. 2 corner and second-string safety.”

Grade: B

Yahoo Sports

Eric Edholm calls Bosa the 49ers’ best pick and lists Wishnowsky as the worst, mostly from a value standpoint. He adds that a possibly better prospect (Stanford’s Jake Bailey) went 53 picks later.

Edholm: “Bosa is the crown jewel of the class, and Samuel was a great fit and a player the 49ers targeted since the Senior Bowl. Hurd is a fascinating prospect, and he gives them much-needed size at the position, but he still needs some positional refinement. After a strong start to the draft, this class leaves us wanting more. Will they get more than three considerable contributors out of the group? There were too many unanswered voids.”

Grade: C+

USA Today

Nate Davis had a positive review for what the 49ers did in the draft.

Davis: “DE Nick Bosa was widely regarded as the top player coming out this year and bolsters what should be a nasty Niners D-line. Spending next year’s second-rounder on a trade for established pass rusher Dee Ford looks like a bargain considering what his former team, Kansas City, subsequently surrendered for Frank Clark. WRs Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd should add zip to a passing game that got a disproportionate amount of its 2018 dividends from TE George Kittle.”

Grade: A

Sporting News

Vinnie Iyer believes past draft classes under general manager John Lynch look better on paper.

Iyer: “John Lynch started with the no-brainer pick of Bosa, the best overall talent in the draft, giving the 49ers a good base. He got creative with Samuel and Hurd, and Smith was good value late. This class pales in comparison to Lynch’s recent work, however.”

Grade: C+

Bleacher Report

Kristopher Knox calls Bosa a great selection, especially if he plays like his brother Joey, who’s with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Knox: “The San Francisco 49ers made the obvious choice at No. 2 and grabbed the top defender on their draft board. ... The rest of San Francisco’s draft was about filling in depth – and adding punter Mitch Wishnowsky at No. 110! If Bosa and Samuel emerge as early playmakers, though, this will be seen as a solid draft class.”

Grade: C+

San Diego Union-Tribune

Eddie Brown dinged the 49ers for a lack of help in one aspect of the defense.

Brown: “GM John Lynch failed to address the secondary in a major way.”

Grade: C+

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Noel Harris is a sports reporter for The Sacramento Bee, with a focus on the Kings. He’s been in professional journalism for more than 18 years. His roles have included sports editor at The Modesto Bee and news editor at two smaller California newspapers, as well as online producer and copy editor.