As 49ers GM John Lynch and his staff head into their third draft, Lynch admits that they are using lessons learned from Reuben Foster and Joe Williams to help prevent the same draft mishaps from happening again.
Lynch has spoken about needing to be aggressive in taking players that will improve the franchise while taking into account a solid locker room environment. A few of Lynch's picks have backfired, but he says the team has learned from their mistakes. He spoke about how his past two seasons have been a learning process, while also admitting that sometimes you still have to take risks.
“I think a combination of both,” Lynch said. “If you aren’t always learning, shame on you, shame on us. I think with Reuben, I think we somewhat accounted for it by where we drafted him. I think we had him at a certain value. We didn’t draft him there. That doesn’t excuse us. It’s a shame.
“We’re very happy to have Kwon Alexander, but that came at a heavy price. We would’ve much preferred to have Reuben still playing here. So, of course, you learn a lesson.”
The heavy price for the 49ers was Alexander’s five-year $54 million contract. Foster would have cost much less under his four-year rookie contract that was worth just over $9 million.
Foster had a few red flags prior to the draft, including being sent home from the NFL Scouting Combine after a confrontation with a hospital worker and a diluted urine test. His troubles continued with assault allegations and other off-the-field issues.
Lynch detailed the slight variations to their pre-draft vetting process that was made, in part, because of what they learned from Foster.
“There are certain tweaks we’ve made,” Lynch said. “Our 30 visits this year, we brought people more in a group setting. We want to see how they interact with other people. So, those are subtle things that we do.”
Meanwhile, Williams spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve and then was released prior to the 2018 season. He was a player who had great game film, especially just before the draft when he ran for a record-setting 332 yards in the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium.
As with Foster, Williams had his share of red flags as well. He quit football after being at Utah for a season to deal with issues regarding family matters. He rejoined the team when they were in desperate need at running back.
Since drafting Williams, Lynch has been very vocal about acquiring players who love the game of football, almost reminding himself to not forget the miss in his first draft. The positive side is that the team released Williams after his second offseason instead of holding out hope that he would develop and pan out.
“As to Joe, I think that was a pick, it didn’t work out,” Lynch said. “But, in every scenario, whether something worked or didn’t work, you take note. We try to do that in each individual case.”
“There’s so much that just goes into the research of these players. You learn something every year. I think the most important thing, you impart upon your scouts, upon your staff is, ‘We have to be as thorough as humanly possible.’”
[RELATED: Final first-round NFL mock draft]
For a GM without front office experience, Lynch surrounded himself with experienced people. The past two 49ers draft classes have been far from perfect -- but that can be said about every draft class. Lynch just hopes to improve each season by learning from his past.
“Anything we can learn about these guys is valuable information,” Lynch said. “I’m real proud of the work we’ve done with our staff to get as much information to be equipped to make as good a decision as possible.”
“You work hard to try to identify what is the lesson that you learned. We know in-house what those lessons are.”