John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, wearing dapper suits and cat-that-ate-the-canary grins, rightfully took pride in Thursday’s draft debut as the 49ers new power couple.
Stanford defensive tackle Solomon Thomas at No. 3, plus three extra draft picks from the Chicago Bears? Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster at No. 31, in exchange for the No. 34 pick (second round) and one of those Bears picks (fourth round), a deal executed with division rival Seattle that must now face Foster twice a season, starting Sept. 17?
Better yet, the 49ers know they’re only getting started on a rebuild that warranted six-year contracts for both of them, Lynch as the personable yet shrewd general manager and Shanahan as the X’s-and-O’s, mastermind coach.
“When we went into this draft, I felt like we wanted to get whoever we thought were the best players available at the time, but it was also a huge goal of ours to add some more picks,” Shanahan said Thursday night. “We definitely don’t think we’re just one or two players away. We want to add a nucleus of people.”
Add. Add. Add. The 49ers have done a lot of that the past two months. They’ve added (or re-signed) 24 free agents, stacked mostly on offense with quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, running backs Tim Hightower and Du’Juan Harris, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, offensive linemen Jeremey Zuttah and Garry Gilliam, and wide receivers Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Jeremy Kerley, Aldrick Robinson and DeAndre Carter.
More offensive help is coming. The 49ers surely will get around to drafting a quarterback, running back, interior lineman, perhaps others. This new regime seems to know what it must do.
Thursday’s agenda was to dive into the deep pool of defensive prospects and further rebuild a unit that allowed the 49ers’ most-ever points and rushing yards in last season’s 2-14 procession.
“We could not be more happy with the day, and it’s just getting started,” Lynch said. “We come back tomorrow and we’ve got a lot of picks and we’re looking forward to improving our team tomorrow.”
OK, so what awaits in Friday’s second and third rounds?
Well, the 49ers dealt their second-round pick (No. 34 overall) to Seattle as part of their package that netted Foster. That means Tom Rathman, this year’s inductee to the 49ers Hall of Fame, won’t have a second-round pick to announce at the draft in Philadelphia, unless the 49ers trade up for one.
Justin Smith, who embodied their stout defense before his May 2015 retirement, is slated to announce their third-round pick. Perhaps Rathman and Smith can shout out third-round picks back-to-back, as the 49ers own both the Nos. 66 and 67 picks, with the latter coming via the Browns deal.
Here is a quick look at which positions the 49ers might address with those Friday picks (or perhaps among Saturday’s six picks):
Quarterback: Three down (Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson) and plenty more to go in this draft, even if this isn’t the most lauded class. With only Hoyer and Barkley on the roster, the 49ers need another arm or two. Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman and Miami’s Brad Kaaya all seem like possible fits, and don’t forget about Cal’s Davis Webb.
Running back: Only Leonard Fournette (Jaguars) and Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) came off the board, leaving Florida State’s Dalvin Cook as an intriguing option and Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon as a controversial one.
Pass rusher: Kansas State’s Jordan Willis is still on the board. Maybe the 49ers try pairing Foster with former Alabama teammate Tim Williams.
Cornerback: Tramaine Brock’s replacement already could be on the roster in the form of Dontae Johnson, Will Redmond or Keith Reaser. With five cornerbacks gone in the first round, the 49ers’ remaining draft options include Kenny King and Sidney Jones of Washington; Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon of Colorado, and Teez Tabor of Florida.
Safety: Jimmie Ward’s transition to single-high safety can proceed as planned, and Eric Reid can resume his switch to an in-the-box safety, but more depth is needed, no disrespect to Jaquiski Tartt. Keep an eye on Washington’s Budda Baker and Colordado’s Obi Melfonwu.
Guard: Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, Temple’s Dion Dawkins, Indiana’s Dan Feeney and San Diego State’s Nico Siragusa are there for the taking. Reminder: the 49ers used a first-round pick last year on Stanford guard Joshua Garnett.