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49ers 2024 NFL Draft takeaways: An influx of speed and muscle

The San Francisco 49ers went for speed and muscle in the 2024 NFL Draft. Two of their fourth-round picks, running back Isaac Guerendo and receiver Jacob Cowing, ran their 40 yards in under 4.4 seconds while their first pick, receiver Ricky Pearsall, wasn’t too shabby with a 40 of 4.41 seconds.

Their other fourth-rounder, safety Malik Mustapha, made 80 tackles last season for Wake Forest and was known for his explosive strikes that knocked ball carriers backwards.

The 49ers’ maneuvering in the fourth round left them with no picks in the fifth round, a bit alarming considering their success in this round since 2017 (George Kittle).

They finished the draft taking athletic USC offensive lineman Jarrett Kingston in the sixth round and Florida State linebacker Tatum Bethune in the seventh round.

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Choices

RoundTakeNamePos.School

1

31

Ricky Pearsall

W.R.

Florida

2

64

Fox Green

CB

State of Florida

3

86

Dominique Puni

g

Kansas

4

124

Malik Mustapha

S

Waking up forest

4

129

Isaac Guerendo

R.B.

Louisville

4

135

Jacob Cowing

W.R.

Arizona

6

215

Jarrett Kingston

OL

U.S.C.

7

251

Tatum Béthune

kg

State of Florida

GO FURTHER

San Francisco 49ers 2024 NFL Draft Picks: Grades, Fits and Scouting Reports

Best Value Pick

It could be Guerendo, whose combination of size and speed translates well to the 49ers’ zone-blocking offense. It’s no coincidence that the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans were among the teams that showed the most interest heading into the draft. Both are led by former Kyle Shanahan assistants and feature similar offenses to San Francisco. Guerendo made 30 visits to those teams as well as the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers.

Guerendo ran his 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds, a time typically associated with wideouts and wispy cornerbacks. Guerendo, however, weighs 221 pounds, giving him a similar size and speed profile to former 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, who had 18 rushing touchdowns for the Dolphins last season.

Christian McCaffrey is clearly the 49ers’ No. 1 rusher heading into the 2024 season. The injury history of his top backup, Elijah Mitchell, could give Guerendo opportunities as a rookie. Mitchell is also heading into the final year of his rookie contract.

The most surprising choice

The Pearsall fan club has been vocal since the 49ers used the No. 31 pick on him. But few draftniks touted him as a first-round pick before the draft began and the 49ers appeared to have bigger needs at offensive tackle, guard and cornerback.

With Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Jauan Jennings on the roster, it’s hard to envision a big role for Pearsall this season. He also returns punts, as do veteran Trent Taylor and fourth-round pick Cowing, an electric player who ran his 40 in 4.38 seconds. Pearsall will have to beat these players to return punts this season.

Pearsall could be a major factor as a rookie if one of the three main players were injured. But he seemed to be chosen more with 2025 in mind. Like all players Shanahan drafts, he will likely need a year to adjust to the demands of the position. And even though there are three receivers ahead of him this season, the situation is much murkier next year. Aiyuk and Jennings are unsigned for 2025 while the 49ers have a loophole in Samuel’s expensive contract.

The biggest question mark

Will cornerback Renardo Green, the 49ers’ second-round pick, be able to move into a deep cornerback rotation to provide an immediate boost to the secondary? Green is a solid athlete — he recorded a 4.49 40-yard dash — but he’s not exceptional, and the 49ers are as loaded in the corners as they’ve ever been under this regime.

Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaac Yiadom and Rock Ya-Sin seemingly held the top spots at the entry-level position in the draft, with more competition coming from Darrell Luter Jr., Ambry Thomas and Samuel Womack III. The 49ers would love to have Green — a tenacious defender who broke up the ACC’s top 13 passes last season — thrown into the mix for early playing time. They’d like Green to be seasoned for a significant role in 2025, when the first four corners listed above will no longer be under contract.

But that will be easier said than done. It’s not a terrible problem for the 49ers, but such is life for a team drafting players to a loaded roster: making an immediate mark can’t be considered automatic, even for a second-round pick .


Can second-round pick Renardo Green succeed in the cornerback rotation in year one? (Peter Joneleit/Sportswire Icon via Getty Images)

Remaining needs

Although Puni can play all five positions up front, he can only play one spot at a time and the 49ers are initially considering him as an interior lineman – just like their sixth-round pick, Kingston. This means the team may still need to add an offensive tackle in the relatively near future, as stalwart Trent Williams will soon be 36 years old.

Also consider that the 49ers’ two starting guards, Aaron Banks and Jon Feliciano, are only under contract through 2024. The team will need solutions at those positions. Perhaps Puni and Kingston can easily comply with these rules, but it’s far from a guarantee this early in the process.

Simply put, the offensive line requires a greater rebuilding effort. The 49ers scored a key, versatile piece in this draft with Puni, but they still have work to do moving forward. The same can be said of the defensive line, where the 49ers recently signed several players to two-year contracts, meaning a longer-term investment will soon be necessary.

Post-project outlook

The 49ers retained Aiyuk and Samuel while adding a selection of players who certainly appear to have real potential at the NFL level. There is plenty of college production in this draft class to go with real athletic upside at multiple positions. Beyond that, it’s impossible to know how the rookies will perform – the league is a different beast. But the 49ers are eager to find out, and at least we know their situation hasn’t gotten worse in recent days.

In an ideal world, Puni will help bolster the offensive line (perhaps as a roaming sixth man to start before earning a starting role), Pearsall will add another element to the passing attack with his slippery burst, Green and Mustapha will strengthen the secondary line. and Guerendo and Cowing will add explosive depth – which can be huge for a team’s special teams effectiveness. The final two picks, Kingston and Bethune, can be more realistically projected onto the practice squad — although the 49ers perhaps know better than anyone that late-round picks can provide a pleasant surprise.

Of course, no one expects a 100 percent success rate. That’s why the 49ers have worked so hard to plug holes and raise the floor of their roster in free agency. This approach allowed them to aim for the ceiling in this project. It’s time to see what these prospects can accomplish.

(Top photos of Ricky Pearsall, Malik Mustapha and Isaac Guerendo: Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images, David Jensen and Jordon Kelly / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

News Source : theathletic.com
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