John Lynch unveils the process of being flexible in the draft

Apr 24, 2024, 12:11 PM | Updated: 1:28 pm

San Francisco 49ers General Manager John Lynch looks on during pregame before the game against the ...

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The San Francisco 49ers under John Lynch have been known for their flexibility when it comes to the NFL Draft. And this year promises to be no exception.

The 49ers general manager was detailed in his approach to the draft process when speaking with the media Monday, delving into his thinking and how the organization feels. SF has 10 picks in Thursday’s draft, enough to replenish the depth chart after mass exoduses this offseason. The Red & Gold also have a first-round pick for the first time since 2021, making it even more vital for them to hit on a blue-chip talent for another Super Bowl run.

All of those things considered, Lynch has preached flexibility throughout the process, knowing that they’ll need to act quickly if a player of interest drops within their reach.

“The big thing is just, be prepared for every scenario. I think you have to be flexible. Human nature is to underestimate the uncertainty of a draft. I think we try to account for that and the only way you do that is being prepared for everything,” John Lynch said Monday.

The 2024 NFL Draft features a plethora of talent across the board, more so than in previous years. SF agrees with that notion wholeheartedly and reflects such on their draft board.

“So 22 is kind of where we’re at, 22 first-round grades. We do have a high standard there that is up from the last couple of years. So, I think that’s a good thing,” Lynch stated.

Additionally, Lynch and the 49ers have their own scoring system for draft prospects called “Gold Helmet”.

These players check all the boxes the 49ers look for in prospects, with only a select few making the cut each cycle. Recent examples have been offensive tackle Colton McKivitz (fifth round, 2020), safety Talanoa Hufanga (fifth round, 2021), safety Ji’Ayir Brown (third round, 2023) and tight end Brayden Willis (seventh round, 2023).

In 2024, the 49ers have a bunch on their draft board, a welcoming surprise for Lynch and Co.

“I believe we were about 16 gold helmets,” the GM added. “We like keeping that standard high. You always want to give more because our hit rate with those guys. Then you start, let’s stick to our standards because of the reason our hit rate is high is because it is such a high standard. So we’re at about 16 gold helmets. We do well with those guys because it takes into account everything we believe in. That’s talent, that’s spirit and playing like a 49er.”

While the 49ers’ GM wouldn’t elaborate on who those prospects were exactly, one can assume the offensive line is a priority.

SF’s protection for quarterback Brock Purdy was an Achilles heel during the Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Luckily, this draft class has a plethora of first-round talents at the position group, making it even more possible the 49ers buck tradition and draft one (or two) with their early picks.

But again, it comes down to versatility for the Red & Gold, looking to find OLs that can play across the line of scrimmage.

“I think it’s good tackles. It’s good linemen. The interesting thing with those linemen in this draft, we think a lot of them have flexibility to be tackles and or guards. So, that’s nice that you take somebody with some versatility,” John Lynch said. “I think there are some options and part of the draft is not always for this, you’re not always drafting for the immediate. Sometimes it’s drafting for future needs…I do think a strength of this draft, to me, a lot of premium positions are strong. So that’s exciting.”

The second part of the previous quote could be a trade-up possibility for the right prospect, especially in the first round. However, the counterpoint to that idea is what the past has presented, particularly what happened three years prior.

The 49ers traded up from 12th overall to third to draft their quarterback of the future in Trey Lance. That deal handicapped their draft capital for the next three years. And in the end, it didn’t work out, trading him to Dallas for a fourth-rounder.

Thankfully, the emergence of Brock Purdy saved the day for the front office’s draft blunder.

“And yeah, we gave up a lot. We did it for reasons that we had and motivations and it didn’t work out. But thank God for Mr. Irrelevant. He helped us,” Lynch said with a chuckle. “And I always am careful of this because Trey Lance’s story hasn’t been written yet. He’s in Dallas right now and I still think Trey’s got good football in him.

Could that draft mistake there years prior factor into the 49ers’ decision this time around? Potentially. But until Thursday night when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is on stage, all bets are off for John Lynch.

Key offseason dates for the San Francisco 49ers

  • April 25-27 – 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit
  • May 20-21, May 23, May 28-29, May 31–OTAs
  • June 4-6 Mandatory Minicamp

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