After last season's virtual draft, Cleveland is playing host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.
Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player San Francisco has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 3 overall: QB Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
My take: After taking a big risk to trade up to this spot, it’s only fitting that the 49ers took the biggest risk on the most unknown player. And it's an inspired choice. Who knows whether Lance will reach his tremendous upside, but every player coming into the league via the draft comes with risk. What we do know is Lance has everything you need to become a superstar in this league and the 49ers offer the ideal situation to help him reach that ceiling. A strong roster, a talented coaching staff and an innovative scheme should give Lance every chance to develop and become the type of quarterback who takes the Niners where they want to go.
Ready to play?: The prevailing wisdom on Lance around the league has been that he might need a year to sit and develop before he's ready to play. There are some mechanical and accuracy issues that need to be worked out and it’s a big jump from the FCS to the NFC West. But there are those with the Niners who believe he isn’t as far off as the public perception would indicate. Why? Lance is viewed as one of the smartest quarterbacks in the draft, and he comes from a system that had him doing things the Niners do -- going under center and running play action. He might not be ready Week 1, but it might not take a whole season on the bench, either.
Whither Garoppolo?: The 49ers have their quarterback of the future, but the biggest question remaining relates to what happens to their quarterback of the present, Jimmy Garoppolo. The team has said it plans to keep Garoppolo and allow a rookie to learn under him in 2021, but that stance seemed to soften earlier this week. There will still be teams in need of a quarterback that could be interested in Garoppolo, though that’s complicated by his no-trade clause and the $24 million-plus base salary he's owed this year. San Francisco won't give Garoppolo away for nothing, but anytime a team takes a quarterback this high, it starts the clock on the incumbent's departure.
Round 2, No. 48 overall: Aaron Banks, OG, Notre Dame
My take: After drafting their quarterback of the future, why not bolster the offensive line? The Niners were not as strong up front last season as they were in 2019, particularly on the interior. Banks is a big (6-5, 325 pounds), mauling type who should also help the Niners get back to their aggressive and physical rushing attack in 2021. Banks is one of the top-rated guards in the draft, though he's not considered a great athlete so it remains to be seen how he will fit on outside zone concepts and getting to the second level. He should compete with Daniel Brunskill for the starting job at right guard immediately.
Round 3, No. 88 overall: Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
My take: Niners coach Kyle Shanahan can never have too many talented running backs, and it's a philosophy that has been prudent in recent years because their backs -- Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. -- have struggled with injuries. Sermon doesn't boast the home run speed of Mostert but he has enough to run away from people and pile up big numbers. Sermon should have a chance to contribute immediately. With more pressing needs at receiver and in the secondary, it's a bit of a head scratcher to go running back here but this pick is sort of found money since the Niners dealt two fourth-round choices to the Rams to move up.
Round 3, No. 102 overall: Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
My take: With their final pick of Day 2, the Niners finally landed a cornerback who can offer some depth at a position that needs it. At 6-feet, 191 pounds, Thomas brings the size and length the Niners generally have preferred in their corners since coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch took over in 2017. Most likely, Thomas won't be asked to play right away as he learns behind Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, but it gets pretty thin after that so the sooner he gets up to speed, the better. Thomas offers extensive special teams experience, which is another way for him to contribute early.
Round 5, No. 155 overall: Jaylon Moore, OT, Western Michigan
My take: Moore is a former high school tight end who converted to tackle in college. He has the ability to be an interesting developmental project in the 49ers' wide zone scheme. And there's no need or rush to get him on the field right away with Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey in place at tackle. If Moore proves more ready than expected, he could push for the swing tackle role against the likes of Shon Coleman and Justin Skule.
Round 5, No. 172 overall: Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
My take: More needed depth and competition in the secondary. Lenoir didn't miss any games in college, and though he played outside for the Ducks, his athletic ability might make him an option long term to play nickel or maybe even safety. Perhaps most important, the Niners seem to be continuing to put an emphasis on durability, which was necessary after an injury-plagued 2020 season.
Round 5, No. 180 overall: Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC
My take: This is the first pick the Niners have made to come with any sort of injury history, but it's worth the risk at this point in the draft, when all players have some question marks. Hufanga missed games with a broken collarbone, shoulder and concussion issues but had no such problems in 2020 when he won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. Hufanga is more of a box safety, but with none of the group of Tarvarius Moore, Jaquiski Tartt and Marcell Harris signed beyond this season, there's a chance for Hufanga to win a roster spot on special teams and potentially contribute on defense down the line.
Round 6, No. 194 overall: Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana
My take: Again, the 49ers believe they can never have enough depth at running back, though it's surprising to see them not select at least one wide receiver or tight end given the need for depth at both spots. Mitchell produced a lot of big plays for the Ragin' Cajuns. He'll have an uphill battle to win a roster spot but might be able to stick if he can prove a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield.