John Lynch puts 49ers back on right track with impressive first draft

Through his trades and by adding top defensive talent, the rookie GM's draft put the 49ers on the right track.

If there was concern as to how John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan would handle their first draft, those fears should now have been allayed.

While Shanahan was the best hire the 49ers could have made as head coach, eyebrows were raised across the NFL when San Francisco plucked John Lynch from the broadcast booth to be its new general manager.

Though the 49ers certainly improved their team with an aggressive approach to free agency — which was a refreshing departure from Trent Baalke's attitude to the open market — their eagerness to hand out lucrative contracts to the likes of Malcolm Smith and Kyle Juszczyk did not find favor with everyone.

However, there can be few complaints about how Lynch and his team handled the draft.

Lynch moved up and down the board like a seasoned GM, and set the franchise up well for the next stage of its rebuild by gaining an extra second- and third-rounder in the 2018 draft.

The third-round pick was acquired from the Bears that allowed Chicago to move up one spot to take Mitchell Trubisky.

In making that deal, Lynch was able to fleece a much more experienced GM in Ryan Pace for a 2017 third and fourth and still take the player he wanted in Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas before using the extra ammunition to move back into the first round and pick Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.

Lynch's moves in the first round earned him high praise from ESPN's Todd McShay, who said: "I thought John Lynch killed it. He got two of the top five football players in this year's draft."

Thomas and Foster are legitimate day-one starters who will bolster a defense that ranked last in the league in 2016, and third-round pick Ahkello Witherspoon is a long and supremely talented athlete who fits the mold of the modern-day NFL corner.

The most questionable pick the 49ers made came when they traded back into the third round to select Iowa's C.J. Beathard, a quarterback who comes from a pro-style offense but had a completion percentage of 58.1 in his career with the Hawkeyes.

It could also be argued that the 49ers needed to take a true edge rusher earlier than day three, when they picked Utah's Pita Taumoepenu in round six.

San Francisco still lacks a true No. 1 receiver, with Pierre Garcon set to be its top option in the passing game in 2017, and it is somewhat surprising the Niners did not draft a safety, particularly with Eric Reid having a history of concussions and entering the last year of his deal.

But the 49ers did add a number of complementary offensive pieces on day three, including Louisiana Tech slot receiver Trent Taylor and an athletic tight end in George Kittle, and Brian Hoyer should have far more weapons than Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick had last year.

MORE: NFL Draft 2017: Reuben Foster hung up on Saints when 49ers called | NFL Draft 2017: How great was 49ers’ first round? GM John Lynch puts it in perspective

In Shanahan the 49ers have arguably the brightest young offensive mind in the game and, through the draft, have considerably improved the talent on the defensive side of the ball and collected extra picks to help them restock the roster next year.

The Niners are a long way from contending but Lynch passed his first draft with flying colors.

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