Sunday, April 30, 2023

San Francisco 49ers 2023 NFL Draft Grades Roundup

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror, and we have compiled a consensus ranking using NFL draft grades from a variety of sites.

What draft grades have the media given to the San Francisco 49ers? What are they saying about the 49ers' 2023 draft haul?

MORE: 2023 NFL Strength of Schedule - Grade: B-

The Niners did not have first- or second-round picks after making trades for Trey Lance (still waiting to see if that pays off) and Christian McCaffrey (so far, so good). In the third round, they moved up for the instinctual safety they needed in Brown, bucked conventional wisdom by grabbing the kicker they're craving in Moody and reached a bit for Latu, a solid tight end.

Luter is a fierce cornerback who will step in for the Niners as a rookie, while Beal will likely back up veterans on the edge. I love Winters and Graham at linebacker, while Bell plays receiver with linebacker-type toughness.

ESPN - Grade: B-

What a strange class to try to grade. The 49ers entered Day 1 with 11 total picks -- but zero in Rounds 1 or 2. Trades for Trey Lance and Christian McCaffrey depleted their capital. Instant-impact rookies can come from any round, of course, but it's asking a lot to guarantee that any of these guys will play early and often. (And who knows, maybe they found the next Brock Purdy in here somewhere.)

And yet, I like a bunch of these picks, except for kicker Jake Moody (99) in Round 3. I get that it's a need, but that's incredibly early, and I didn't even have him as the best kicker in the class. I had a second-round grade on safety Ji'Ayir Brown (87), so I'm a fan of his potential. Tight end Cameron Latu (101) has upside, and he'll get to learn the ropes from George Kittle. Linebacker Dee Winters (216) went about 60 picks after I thought he would. Brayden Willis (247) is going to make an impact as a rookie special-teamer.

The biggest issue with this class is: Where's the offensive tackle? With Mike McGlinchey gone, is Colton McKivitz really going to be the starting right tackle? That's a miss based on my list of pre-draft needs.

SI - Grade: C+

San Francisco got it right with Talanoa Hufanga two years ago in the fifth round. Brown has similar traits to Hufanga as a physical playmaker with solid ball skills. With a stacked roster, the 49ers had the flexibility to reach for Moody, the best 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 aspirations. The 49ers added to their talented defense with Luter and Beal.

PFF - Grade: C-

Day 2: Brown was a do-it-all safety for the Nittany Lions. He seamlessly went from deep safety to the box to the slot to outside linebacker to mugging the A-gap, and he executed each role at a high level. Brown's ball skills, in particular, jump off the screen. He secured 10 interceptions across the past two seasons.

Moody produced PFF field goal grades of 90.2 and 91.7 in each of the past two seasons, so the idea that he's the first kicker drafted makes sense. But the third round is rich for any kicker in this class.

Latu is coming off a season in which he produced a 60.6 PFF receiving grade, a 50.0 run-blocking grade and a low 1.03 yards per route run. He has the size that teams look for at the position, but the production just wasn't there in 2022.

Day 3: Luter has traits to work with on the outside with above-average length and decent straight-line speed and explosiveness. He took a bit of a step back in 2022 from a production standpoint after allowing just a 27% completion percentage and a 3.9 passer rating in 2021.

Beal's numbers from his final season in college aren't going to blow anyone away. He produced a 67.8 PFF grade, won 14.1% of his pass-rushing attempts and made a tackle resulting in a defensive stop on just 6.7% of his run-defense snaps. Special teams will likely be his best path to seeing the field.

Winters played 670 or more snaps in each of the past three seasons but hasn't produced a PFF grade of 55.0 or higher since the 2020 season. He missed 16.0% of the tackles he attempted this past season.

Willis played an H-back role at Oklahoma that allowed him to excel as a blocker, grading above 80 in both run blocking and pass protection.

Bell averaged 2.57 yards per route run in his final season in college. He struggled in contested catch situations, pulling in a reception on just 16.7% of his contested targets, but did produce a 77.4 PFF receiving grade.

Fox Sports - Grade: C+

The 49ers had no picks in the first and second round this year and made nine picks overall. Penn State safety Ji'Ayir Brown should compete for time in the secondary and tight end Cameron Latu adds another pass catcher to San Francisco's uber-talented offense. With Robbie Gould too expensive to bring back in free agency, the selection of Michigan kicker Jake Moody raised eyebrows. San Francisco selecting a kicker in the third round is the highest a kicker has been taken in the draft since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Roberto Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft.

That did not go well for the Bucs. However, the 49ers had three third-round picks and might not have gotten Moody if they waited until Day 3. And while there are concerns with drafting a kicker that high, it's all good if he plays well, and Moody was excellent in college.

USA Today - Grade: C+

They didn't pick before the third round due to the trades that brought QB Trey Lance (bad) and the one for RB Christian McCaffrey (good), though obviously neither move has yet brought a long-awaited sixth Lombardi Trophy. Third-rounders Ji'Ayir Brown (safety) and Jake Moody (kicker) should be important cogs for a mostly loaded team, and spending a premium pick to replace free agent K Robbie Gould isn't all that crazy.

The Ringer - Grade: C-

The 49ers were without first and second rounders this year (and were short a third and a fourth) thanks to previous trades for Trey Lance and Christian McCaffrey, so they had little premium capital to work with. But San Francisco ended up picking nine players; my favorite was the third-round selection of Penn State safety Ji'Ayir Brown. The former Nittany Lions star is a rangy, hard-hitting playmaker with excellent instincts—and he gives the 49ers some excellent depth behind Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson. The rest of GM John Lynch's draft class lacked star power, though—and included a third-round kicker—so it's tough to give the Niners a big grade this year.

Sporting News - Grade: B-

The 49ers' draft capital didn't start until the third round, so this grade reflects that. Brown and Moody give them immediate impact as contenders, as Brown can start over Tashaun Gipson Sr. next to Talanoa Hufanga and Moody is a bigger leg and needed young upgrade over Robbie Gould.

Touchdown Wire - Grade: B-

The 49ers had until the end of the second day of the draft to sit around and think about things, which led them to take a kicker with their second pick. My favorite factoid about Jake Moody comes from the 49ers' PR department:

Once met his idol, NFL K Matt Prater at a Detroit pizza parlor and was so excited to meet Prater that he blew off HOF WR Calvin Johnson, who eventually introduced himself during the conversation.

Well, at least the kid's a kicker at heart. The pick I like the most in this group is Penn State's Ji'Ayir Brown, who projects well as that kind of versatile safety the 49ers have loved through recent years. Think Jimmie Ward, and you won't be far off. Beyond that, there are some reaches here, and perhaps not as many immediate contributors as you'd like, though I do like Georgia's Robert Beal Jr. as a speed end. General manager John Lynch spoke after the pick of Beal's "GTFO" ability, which is apparently a metric the 49ers' staff uses to discern a defensive lineman's ability to get off the snap as quickly as possible.

More: 2023 NFL Draft Grade Roundups

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