Sakamoto: 49ers “Lynch Pin” doing work like a Boss, wins 1st Round!

San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch had a vision heading into day 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft, and that was solidifying the team’s defensive front seven. The old-school philosophy of building a team from the inside/out, Lynch did that to perfection on Thursday. 

In the early stages of the team’s pre-draft process, Lynch admitted the team was well-positioned to have leverage in potential draft day trades. A question asked by Kevin Jones of KNBR, Lynch gave a candid response:

“If someone calls for the number two pick, do you have an asking price, contingency plans laid out?” [Kevin Jones] 

“Yeah. We have, there’s the traditional trade chart. We’ve got one of our own. I think we know how we value that. As I’ve said, we’re open for business. We’d listen to anything. But, I’ve always said you don’t like being 2-14, but you like having the second pick. I think it puts you in the driver’s seat with a lot of options at your disposal and we’ll explore every single one of them.”

Fast forward to today, and the 49ers yielded two of the team’s top three players on their draft board, this according to Lynch. 

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“I think it was an extremely productive day. I can tell you right off the bat that we had a board, as you guys heard the other day, with just under 200 players and in terms of how we rated them, we got two of our top three players and we were able to do that. We’re thrilled,” Lynch said. 

The 49ers were able to strike a 4-for-1 deal while moving down just one spot with the Chicago Bears. From my tweet above, the 49ers received the Bears first-round pick (No. 3) which they used to draft DE Solomon Thomas, third-round pick (No. 67), fourth-round pick (No. 111) and future 2018 third-round pick. The Bears moved up to No. 2 to draft, wait for it…QB Mitchell Trubisky

The five-time Super Bowl champions clearly received the sweeter end of the deal. It’s not even fair. Kudos to Lynch and Executive VP of Football Operations Paraag Marathe for a job well done. 

However, the 49ers weren’t done yet. I responded to a fan’s tweet earlier, the 49ers would consider jumping back into the first-round if teams ahead of them reached for need. That’s exactly what happened.

The Bears reached for Trubisky, the Tennessee Titans reached for WR Corey Davis (No. 5) and CB Adoree Jackson (No. 18), the Cincinnati Bengals reached for WR John Ross (No. 9), the Houston Texans reached for QB Deshaun Watson (No. 12), and the Oakland Raiders took a high-risk flier on CB Gareon Conley

Those moves directly impacted team’s draft boards, and the 49ers were no exception. 

A top 10 talent at a position of need was descending down the tail-end of the first-round. In the NFL, you need to be prepared for every scenario. This is where Lynch’s expertise as both a player and NFL analyst came into play.

Throughout the pre-draft process, Lynch made sure no stone was left unturned when it came to troubled but talented Alabama MLB Reuben Foster, as the team brought him in for one of their allocated 30 pre-draft visits. In fact, he was the very first player the team brought forth. 

Lynch touched in our pre-draft presser the importance of bringing players to Levi’s Stadium and what they’re looking for when it comes to player evaluation.   

“Yeah, I think a lot of people bring in on the 30 people that they had questions about. Maybe character or a specific issue. That’s not what we did. Ours was kind of a compilation of things. Sometimes, we just wanted to feel a guy’s presence one more time. We saw him [players] at the combine, but 15 minutes, does that give you enough time to really get the feel of a person?

When you bring them in for a visit, your coaches have an opportunity to sit down, watch film. We get an opportunity, lots of times in the draft meetings, we’d be here and Kyle and I would leave and go in there for 10 minutes and sit down with the player. And I think those interactions, just the more you can see and feel these players, I think the more valuable it is and ultimately, you’re still guessing a little bit, but you get a better feel on people,” said Lynch. 

Lynch understanding the importance of locker room dynamics, had to be assured, he can trust Foster both on and off the football field. The cultural identity has to be a perfect match. Apparently he was sold. 

The team then took their due diligence a step further with Foster by sending both VP of Football Affairs Keena Turner and team Chaplain Pastor Earl to Tuscaloosa to meet with Foster over the next two days. Lynch was already sold on the ‘Bama linebacker but needed some reassurance from his peers. 

“We were exhaustive in our getting to know the kid. We met with him at the combine. We had him out here for a 30 visit. Kyle and I both spent a lot of time on the phone with him, face-timing. And then, I think when we really started to zero in and get really serious, we sent [vice president of football affairs] Keena Turner and [team chaplain] pastor Earl [Smith] down to Tuscaloosa to meet with Reuben for two days and they had a tremendous visit,” Lynch said. 

In the end, the 49ers felt good enough about Foster’s character. In an unlikely trading partner, the 49ers worked the phones, striking a deal with division rival Seattle Seahawks. 

The 49ers moved up three spots from No. 34 to No. 31 to secure Foster’s services. In return, the Seahawks received the 49ers second-round pick (No. 34) and fourth-round pick (No. 111) acquired from the Bears trade earlier. 

Immediately after the 49ers made the selection, Mel Kiper of ESPN had nothing but high praise for the 49ers brass. “He was up there in the top five when Todd McShay and I did our GM mock draft. Reuben Foster is one of the best players in this draft. No doubt about it,” Kiper said. 

And I have to agree. 

While many people are skeptical that the 49ers should’ve taken a safer talent, I can’t help but love the pick. In the end, Foster may not only be the draft day steal on day one, but the best defensive player in this year’s draft. He’s that good. 

49ers fans are asking for my analysis on the team’s draft picks thus far. If you’re asking me, they swung for the fences and nailed each pick outta the ball park. Home Run! 

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.

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