Kiper explains giving 49ers' draft class mediocre grade


The 49ers made a big splash in the NFL draft, trading three first round picks to move up nine spots to draft North Dakota State QB Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick. 

General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan did not have to give up any additional 2021 draft capital in the trade, which allowed them to select seven other players in addition to Lance in the first round. 

ESPN's Mel Kiper gave the 49ers a B- grade for their draft haul, which he later had to explain. Turns out, he wasn't super high on Lance as a prospect.

"Lance made all 17 of his starts against FCS opponents," Kiper said. "Shanahan and Lynch are betting on the upside of Lance, who takes care of the football, knows when to pull the ball and run, and can make every throw, but he is my fifth-ranked quarterback in this class."

"This is the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect, and now the Niners don't have first-round picks in 2022 or 2023. For this to be declared a surefire win, Lance needs to play well -- early. I don't know if that will happen, and Jimmy Garoppolo might have to stick on the roster as the bridge."

Kiper went on to discuss why he wasn't a fan of the 49ers' Day 2 haul. 

"I wasn't high on the 49ers' Day 2 haul, as Aaron Banks (48), Trey Sermon (88), and Ambry Thomas (102) all were reaches on my board. I watched all of Banks' snaps at Notre Dame, and I'm not sure if he is a definite rookie starter. Sermon is a patient runner without top-tier suddenness, and I was surprised he went here and this high based on Shanahan's past getting production out of undrafted backs."


The 49ers have said that they anticipate Garoppolo sticking around and competing with Lance, although Kiper is skeptical that the 49ers hand won't be forced sooner rather than later. 

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"I'm really curious to see how early Lance gets thrown into the fire because teams rarely wait to play first-round quarterbacks these days. The careers of this quarterback class will be linked for years to come, and Niners fans obviously trust Shanahan to groom Lance. Potential isn't the issue with Lance, so let's see if Shanahan can get him to his ceiling."

Selecting Lance at No. 3 overall was a move that most analysts liked, with their critique usually in regards to the draft capital the 49ers gave up to get there and select a player with so little game film.

There aren't many who doubt Lance's natural ability, but for now, the rookie has to prove that he was worthy of what the 49ers gave up to draft him. 

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