In the past two years, the 49ers have turned to 14 of the team’s 19 draft picks to start games during their rookie seasons.

Reuben Foster, George Kittle, Mike McGlinchey and Fred Warner worked their ways into the starting lineup for the first regular-season games of their careers. Foster has moved on, but other players from those draft classes – such as Solomon Thomas, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor, D.J. Jones, Marcell Harris, Adrian Colbert, Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore – are in the mix for more-significant roles in 2019.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he heads into every draft trying to determine where the club needs help and what level of immediate contribution is realistic to expect from the rookie class.

“I try to go in and look at where we need a starter, where we need a backup,” Shanahan said. “You have the goals of what you’d like to do. But you also got to make sure you take a very good player at that spot, too.

“You’re hoping in an ideal world as a coach, as a general manager, you have an idea of ideally you’d like to get this, this and this. So you have all that stuff written down, but you get there and, yeah, the player is there but he should really be a fifth-round pick and you’re in the second round. So you got to go a different direction.”

This year, the obvious positions where the 49ers could be expected to land Day 1 starters are edge rusher, outside linebacker, wide receiver and safety. The 49ers have fall-back options at each of those spots, as it is unlikely they will be able to make immediate upgrades at each of those positions.


The 49ers should be expected to select two impactful players with their first two selections – at Nos. 2 and 36 overall.

“You want to take the best player, but you also aren’t in it to just stockpile players,” Shanahan said. “You’re trying to build a team. So you got to weigh both of those into it and you hope it works out the best. That’s why you go target certain things. That’s why we moved up to get Dante (Pettis) last year, because we knew what we wanted in that area and what we were after and all that stuff plays into it.”

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The 49ers have openly kept the door open to trading back from the No. 2 overall to accumulate more selections. But they have also made it clear they will be seeking a lot in return for such a valuable draft pick. With the draft three weeks away, the 49ers currently have six draft picks.

“I think it’s getting harder the longer we’re here,” Shanahan said. “Our first year, I think all of our guys ended up playing. I think they all did start at one time, whether you were a seventh-round draft choice or a first-round draft choice.

“Ideally, I hope that gets harder each year. Just because you didn’t draft a bunch of starters doesn’t mean you had a bad draft, it means you’ve becoming of an NFL team, the foundation has some depth, so we can draft some guys who are good players and they’re going to help on special teams because the guy in front of them is pretty good, too.”

1. First round: No. 2 overall
2. Second round: No. 36 overall
3. Third round: No. 67 overall
4. Fourth round: No. 104 overall
5. Sixth round: No. 176 overall
6. Sixth round: No. 212 overall (compensatory)