The San Francisco 49ers immediately became one of the 2021 NFL Draft's most intriguing teams when they made a bold trade up into the top three. There was a ton of speculation about which direction they'd go with that pick, but it wasn't the only thing they had to take care of on draft weekend. In addition to securing their quarterback of the future, the 49ers had other things to do.
How did they do in their attempt to fill their roster holes? As part of our ongoing series here at CBSSports.com, we are going to discuss one thing the 49ers didn't do in the 2021 NFL Draft, and also break down one thing they definitely got right.
In 2019, the 49ers built one of the NFL's best defenses on the strength of arguably the NFL's best front four, but also an underrated group of defensive backs that played far better than anyone had expected them to coming into the season. Richard Sherman is still a free agent, but he won't be returning to San Francisco. Ahkello Witherspoon signed with the division rival Seattle Seahawks. Emmanuel Moseley and K'Waun Williams remain, but the group behind them has some question marks.
Jason Verrett was healthy for the first time in seemingly forever last season, and if the Niners get a similar year from him in 2021, they might be in pretty decent shape. If not, though, they might be in some trouble -- especially because Williams will turn 30 later this offseason and Moseley has only occasionally been able to hang on to his starting job.
San Francisco added two cornerbacks in the draft with picks No. 102 (Michigan's Ambry Thomas) and 172 (Deommodore Lenoir). A compensatory third-round pick and a fifth-rounder are unlikely to be starter-level contributors during their rookie seasons, leaving the 49ers a little bit thin in that department unless everything goes perfectly well for them. It's not an enormous missed opportunity, but it's one that could come back to haunt them if things don't go right.
There's a definitive plan under center
When the 49ers surrendered two future first-round picks to move up from No. 12 to No. 3, we knew they had a quarterback in mind. We know now that contrary to popular pre-draft belief, that quarterback was not Mac Jones, but Trey Lance.
San Francisco had been in something of an arranged marriage with Jimmy Garoppolo over the past few years. When Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch got there, Brian Hoyer was their starter under center. Garoppolo became available for the price of only a second-round pick, so they pounced. While the contract extension they signed him to was a large one, it has essentially been a year-to-year deal since the first season. They committed to him, but not with full force.
That's not the case with Lance. When you give up that much draft capital to select a player with the third pick in the draft, he's your guy. Lance has the skills to operate well within Shanahan's offense -- and let's be honest, pretty much every quarterback does -- but he also has skills that none of Shanahan's previous signal-callers, aside from Robert Griffin III, have had. Lance has terrific speed and vision, and he'll be able to contribute in the run game like no previous Shanahan quarterback.
The 49ers already have one of the most diverse and effective running games in football, and dropping Lance into the mix will only make it more dangerous. But he's also going to be put in position to succeed as a passer, due to the environment the 49ers have cultivated around him. They have a strong offensive line bookended by two terrific tackles in Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey. They have arguably the best tight end in football, and a crew of dynamic pass-catchers who can make hay with the ball in their hands.
Lance can play point guard, getting the ball quickly into the hands of his playmakers, but he can also bring his own skills to bear and add elements to the offense that haven't been there in the past. Given the level of talent and creativity on hand, this offense should be able to reach a whole new level over the next few years.