Day 2 of the NFL Draft is in the books and the San Francisco 49ers added depth, skill and versatility to their roster. Offense remained the focus, but the day ended in the secondary.
“…[W]e just want people who love football,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “There’s lots of people who are looking for reasons, maybe not lots, but maybe not to play. Or maybe, ‘This is hard, but I’ll do it because it provides me a lot of good things.’ But those are the guys that, they can do well, but they usually aren’t built to last. This league is tough. I mean, it provides you a lot of really good things and a good living and everything, but you’re going to be questioned. You’re going to be doubted. Everyone’s always trying to replace you, whether you’re a player, whether you’re a coach, whether you’re general manager. I mean, it’s, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ If you don’t truly love what you’re doing and really do it, not just for a lifestyle or something like that, then you aren’t built to last and you’re usually on your way out. It’s just a matter of time. I think that’s why we like people who, we like to say, live for this. Yeah, you got to make a living and everything, so it starts with that. But you want people who do it for a lot more than that reason.”
Let’s take a look.
Aaron Banks, G, Notre Dame
When you pick your franchise quarterback with the third pick in the NFL Draft, you want to protect him. Enter Aaron Banks, G, out of Notre Dame. Banks, who is from Alameda, CA, is 6’5″, 33o lbs.
“I think obviously you always want the guy that’s big, that can move and is a scheme fit,” said general manager John Lynch. “And I think in this case, we believe that we found a candidate for that. We really grew to appreciate Aaron throughout the process. His film was very good at Notre Dame. The Senior Bowl was a positive look in person for us, continued to grow there. And then, Mike McGlinchey’s incessant cheering for him. He is a bigger guy, but he moves exceptionally well. And so we think he’s a really nice fit.”
The 49ers took Banks with the 48th pick in the Draft after trading the 43rd pick and a seventh-rounder to the Las Vegas Raiders for the 48th and a fourth-rounder, and for the hometown kid, it’s a dream come true.
“It is insane,” Banks said. “It’s funny because all of my high school coaches are here and every single one of them are 49ers fans through and through, wearing their 49ers gear. I got the call and I was able to point at the TV and say, ‘Hey,’ the place just erupted. It was insane. It was the best moment of my life by far.”
Banks started all 12 games in 2020 and was named First-Team AFCA All-America and AP First-Team All-America. He was a pass-blocker for over 1200 snaps and allowed two sacks. Two.
“…[O]ffensive linemen are at an all-time value,” Banks said. “If you can’t protect your quarterback, you can’t really win games. I don’t know where else to go with that. Most teams need offensive linemen. We had a saying at Notre Dame, ‘The team goes as we go.’ By ‘we,’ I mean the offensive line. If you don’t have an offensive line that can protect the quarterback and assert the run game, then you’re going to have a tough time.”
Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
Keeping the trades going, the 49ers traded two fourth-round picks (117 and 121) with the Los Angeles Rams for the 88th pick in the draft. With that pick, they took running back Trey Sermon out of Ohio State.
“…We always look for guys that we think can play as a starter, whether they are or not,” said 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan. “If you look at our third back, the last two years, they’ve had about 38 or something percent of our carries. Sometimes because of injury, sometimes because of just rotations. Just how it worked out. And I think that’s been pretty, it’s been by far over anywhere else in the NFL. We have two guys who have played for us that have done really well. Bringing in another guy that’s we’re looking to help us to. We have some young guys who haven’t really done it yet, but we’ll see. And to be able to add Trey to this group, with this skill set, what we think he can do, you just add them in the mix and you see how it unfolds…[W]e’ve also, feel like we’ve gone through about four backs, four years in a row here. Really every year, except our first year. So that’s something, with losing two guys in free agency, adding one, that’s something that we felt we needed to address at some time in this draft.”
In 2020, Sermon, who transferred from Oklahoma, played in eight games and rushed for 870 yards and four touchdowns. In his three years at Oklahoma, the running back had 339 carries for 2,076 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns, as well 36 receptions for 391 yards and three touchdowns. And then there were those 331 yards rushing in the Big Ten championship.
Beyond all that, the 49ers now lead the league in rookies named Trey (most likely).
Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
With their final pick of the night, the 49ers took CB Ambry Thomas out of Michigan. Thomas adds much-needed depth to the position, as well as special teams expertise.
“Ambry was a guy who really gained steam…through the process with us,” Lynch said. “I give a lot of credit to [vice president of player personnel] Adam Peters. He kind of championed him…He opted out this year, so you didn’t get a chance to see him play. Again, one thing we really tried to do was give a fair look to these guys. I think sometimes it was really easy to say, ‘Hey, he opted out.’ Some people even went as far as well to say, ‘He doesn’t love football if he opted out.’ No, I’m a father of a kid who played on a college football team this year. The plans were so up in the air. I don’t blame any of these kids for having opted out with going through what we did. Ambry is a kid that we were able to talk as the process went deep and we started to really have a liking for him. We talked to [Michigan defensive backs coach] Michael Zordich who is a guy contemporary of mine in the league and played safety at a really high level. I respect his opinion. He thought the world of him…
“I think his greatest asset is poise at the moment of truth. When that ball’s in the air, he has an ability to locate it, which is not as easy to find as you might think for DBs…We were really fired up to be able to get him. He’s a Michigan kid from Detroit. We were worried Detroit had the pick in front of us, and we started getting worried right there that they may take him, but they took another corner and we were very happy to have him.”
During his four years at the University of Michigan (he opted out of 2020), Thomas recorded 54 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, nine passes defended, five fumble recoveries, four interceptions and a forced fumble. He also had 39 kickoff returns for 808 yards.
“Honestly, I just treated [today] like a regular day and honestly tried not to make too much of it because, at the end of the day, I feel like I’m about to just get ready and get paid to play football,” Thomas said. “And, I love football, so it’s a dream come true to do something you love for your job now. So, I tried to look at it as a regular day, but my mom, she made it bigger than what it actually was, but it was a great experience.”
Speaking of cornerbacks, Lynch and Shanahan did not close the door on a possible Richard Sherman return to the 49ers.
“…[Y]ou never count Sherm out,” Lynch said. “Sherm was a big part of this culture here, a tremendous leader. I think Kyle and I both would consider him a friend. Like I said, you never count him out. We haven’t really been in communication. We do text from time to time, nothing about football. But like I said, as long as he wants to play, I think Sherm’s being patient and kind of waiting it out for the right situation. We’ll see where that goes.”
Welcome to Santa Clara, Trey Lance
Trey Lance and his family got his first taste of Levi’s Stadium on Friday, as he and his family made their way to Santa Clara. After checking out the locker room, photos, meeting some teammates and more, Lance and his family were off to look at houses, but not before getting some valuable advice from his new head coach.
“It was cool to see them in person,” Shanahan said. “We got to meet them in person at his Pro Day, and no different. The same vibes as other times we’ve been with them…I got to meet his parents for the second time and we were hanging out for about 15 minutes and they’re going to look for houses and things like that. I told him, ‘Don’t be too depressed. Everyone is very upset after the first couple of days and you realize you’ve got to change what you were looking for.’ And they’re like, ‘No, everyone’s told us.’ I’m like, ‘No, everyone told me, you’ll see, it’s real.’ So that was mainly our conversation. Then we had to come here and do a couple of things for something.Then it’s back to the draft…And tomorrow might come in and meet with our quarterback coach and do some things, just give him a head start. But I think they’re going to get out of here on Sunday and they’ll come back the Wednesday before rookie mini camp. Then it’ll be full go then.”
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) April 30, 2021
The first teammate Lance heard from Jimmy Garoppolo.
“…I think one thing that was really heartwarming to me you know, I heard last night from [senior manager of football communications Mike Chasanoff] that Jimmy reached out,” Lynch said. “…Trey told us that the first text he got was from Jimmy Garoppolo. That’s pretty special. I think it speaks to his class…”
*Featured image provided by 49ers.com