2023 NFL Draft: How did pundits rate the 49ers’ draft class?

2023 NFL Draft: How did pundits rate the 49ers' draft class?

With the 2023 NFL Draft in the books, the San Francisco 49ers find themselves with a draft class of nine players — five on defense, three on offense, and one special teamer. It’s time for the coaching staff to focus on incorporating their new elements into the plan for the upcoming season. It’s also time for the media “pundits” to hand out their annual grades of each NFL team’s newest rookie.

It may seem pointless to rate players who haven’t taken an NFL snap, especially this early in the offseason. However, it is a way to measure perceptions of how each team has improved based on their predicted pre-design needs.

Below are the notes from some of the more well-known analysts and writers in the media and what they had to say about the 49ers’ 2023 draft class. Quotations accompany the explanations given by each analyst for the grade given.

49ers draft picks

  • Round 3: Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State
  • Round 3: Jake Moody, K, Michigan
  • Round 3: Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama
  • Round 5: Darrell Luter Jr., CB, South Alabama
  • Round 5: Robert Beal Jr., EDGE, Georgia
  • Round 6: Dee Winters, LB, TCU
  • Round 7: Brayden Willis, TE, Oklahoma
  • Round 7: Ronnie Bell, WR, Michigan
  • Round 7: Jalen Graham, LB, Purdue

Mel Kiper, ESPN: B-

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For the fourth year in a row (make sure I’m not looking at a previous year’s grade), the ESPN analyst gave the 49ers a B grade for their draft haul and admitted it was an odd class to rate to the team that owns 11 total selections but has none in the first or second round. There was one glaring criticism though – one of the team’s three third-round picks.

“Yet I like a bunch of those picks, except kicker Jake Moody (99) in Round 3,” Kiper wrote. “I understand it’s necessary, but it’s incredibly early and I didn’t even have him as the best kicker in the class. I had a second-round safety mark, Ji’Ayir Brown (87), so I’m a fan of his potential .Tight end Cameron Latu (101) has advantages, and he’ll be learning the ropes from George Kittle Linebacker Dee Winters (216) made about 60 picks after I expected Brayden Willis (247) will be a rookie special Make an impression as a team.”

Kiper asks if he shouldn’t design a tackle to replace Mike McGlinchey. The 49ers admit they have a lot of faith in Colton McKivitz. Obviously, Kiper is less confident.

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Gilberto Manzano, Sports Illustrated: C+

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Manzano likes the 49ers’ first draft pick and likens it to a talented safety drafted in 2021.

“San Francisco got it right with Talanoa Hufanga two years ago in the fifth round,” Manzano wrote. “Brown has characteristics similar to Hufanga as a physical playmaker with solid ball skills. With a stacked roster, the 49ers had the flexibility to reach for Moody, the top kicker in the draft. Moody could become a reliable kicker in the NFL, but it’s risky to expect a rookie to make game-winning kicks for a team with Super Bowl ambitions. The 49ers have expanded their talented defense with Luter and Beal.

Chad Reuter, B-

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There is no change from the overall mark given to the draft class of 49ers a year ago. Reuter actually issued notes for each day, with San Francisco having no choice for Day 1 due to the Trey Lance trade. That earned the team a C+ for day one.

The team received a B- for Day 2 and a B+ for Day 3.

“The Niners had no first or second round picks after taking trades on Trey Lance (still to be seen if that pays off) and Christian McCaffrey (so far so good),” Reuter wrote. “In the third round they advanced for the instinctive safety they needed in Brown, defied conventional wisdom by snagging the kicker they crave in Moody and achieved a bit for Latu, a solid tight end .

“Luter is a fighting cornerback who will fill in for the Niners as a rookie, while Beal will likely support veterans on the fringes. I love Winters and Graham as linebackers, while Bell plays receiver with linebacker tenacity.”

Vinnie Iyer, Sports News: B-

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Iyer is among those who penalized the 49ers for not having a first or second round pick while evaluating the team’s draft haul. Despite this, his grade for this year is better than last year’s C grade.

“The 49’s draft capital didn’t start until the third round, so this grade reflects that,” Iyer wrote. “Brown and Moody give them an immediate punch as a contender as Brown can start alongside Talanoa Hufanga via Tashaun Gipson Sr. and Moody is a bigger leg and needs a young upgrade over Robbie Gould.”

Nate Davis, USA Today: C+

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A slightly lower grade than last year’s B grade. Again, a lack of picks doesn’t help until the third round. However, Davis wasn’t as critical as most when it came to using one of those third rounds on a kicker.

“They didn’t make up their minds until the third round because QB Trey Lance (poor) and RB Christian McCaffrey (good) were traded, although obviously neither move has yet delivered the long-awaited sixth Lombardi trophy,” Davis wrote. “Third round players Ji’Ayir Brown (safety) and Jake Moody (kicker) should be important cogs for a strong team and it’s not so crazy to issue a premium pick to replace free agent K Robbie Gould.”

Pro Soccer Focus: A+

2023 NFL draft grades for all 32 teams

Pro Football Focus was thrilled with the 49ers’ draft, giving the team a full grade, above last year’s B+ mark.

“Brown was a jack of all trades for the Nittany Lions,” the analytics site wrote of San Francisco’s first pick. “He transitioned seamlessly from deep security to boxing to slot to outside linebacker to raiding the A gap, and he performed every role at a high level. Brown’s ball skills, in particular, jump off the screen. He secured 10 interceptions over the last two seasons.”

While Pro Football Focus, like many others, is praising Moody, the site is asking questions with a third-round pick on the kicker. The analytics site didn’t seem to like the Latu selection that much either, saying that the “tight end production just wasn’t there in 2022.”

As for day 3…

“Luter has qualities to work with on the outside, with above average length and decent speed and explosiveness down the straight,” wrote Pro Football Focus. “He took a small step backwards in 2022 from a production perspective after only allowing a 27% completion rate and a 3.9 passer rating in 2021.

“Beal’s numbers from his final season in college aren’t going to blow anyone’s mind. He posted a 67.8 PFF score, won 14.1% of his pass rushing attempts, and made a tackle that resulted in a defensive stop on just 6.7% of his run – defensive snaps special teams will likely be his best be gone to see the field.

“Winters has played 670 or more snaps in each of the last three seasons, but has not achieved a PFF rating of 55.0 or higher since the 2020 season. He missed 16.0% of the tackles he attempted last season.

“Willis played an H-Back role in Oklahoma that allowed him to excel as a blocker, scoring over 80s in both run blocking and pass protection.

“Bell averaged 2.57 yards per route his senior season in college. He struggled with contested catches and got a reception on just 16.7% of his contested goals but still managed a 77.4 PFF reception score.”

Danny Kelly, The Ringer: C-

Evaluating the performance of each team in the 2023 NFL Draft

San Francisco received a significantly lower grade for this year’s draft than in the previous year (B-).

“The 49ers were without first- and second-rounders this year (and missing a third and fourth) thanks to previous trades for Trey Lance and Christian McCaffrey, so they had little premium equity to work with,” Kelly wrote. “But San Francisco ended up picking nine players; my favorite was third-round pick Penn State safety Ji’Ayir Brown. The former Nittany Lions star is a slender, hard-hitting playmaker with superb instincts – and he gives to the 49ers some excellent depth behind Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson.However, the rest of GM John Lynch’s draft class lacked star power — and there was a third-round kicker — so it’s difficult to give the Niners a big note this year .

Rohan Chakravarthi and Marco Martinez discuss whether or not the San Francisco 49ers will trade quarterback Trey Lance during the 2023 NFL Draft. The audio for the show is embedded above, while the video is available below. You can hear “The Rohan Chakravarthi Show” from our

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