Strategizing the Draft: John Lynch Engages with a First Round Pick for 2024

The San Francisco 49ers have developed a reputation for hitting on later round picks over the course of the Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch era. Many of the 49ers veteran leaders and current stars were second and third day draft picks from All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner (2018 third-round pick, No. 70 overall) to All-Pro tight end George Kittle (2017 fifth-round pick, No. 146 overall) to Pro Bowl quarterback Brock Purdy (2022 seventh-round pick, No. 262 overall) just to name a few. The ability to pinpoint talent in later rounds of the draft has come especially handy in recent years with San Francisco trading away its first-round selections in 2021, 2022 and 2023 as part of a move up to acquire quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

However, in 2024, the 49ers will get to do something they haven’t had the opportunity to do in the previous two drafts – make a first round selection. San Francisco is slated to pick at No. 31, one of 11 total picks they currently own in 2024. Four of the team’s 11 selections are compensatory picks allotted to the 49ers for the departures of Jimmy Garoppolo, Samson Ebukam, Jimmy Ward and Azeez Al-Shaair during free agency.

“We’ve got a first-round pick for the first time in a long while,” Lynch said at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine. “That’s nice, but we really try to focus on making them all count. They’re all an opportunity to improve your organization, and we look at each one of those as such. We pride ourselves on putting as much into the late rounds as we do into the early. We’ll take them where they come, and we’ll try to make the most of them.”

So how does having a first-round draft selection change the 49ers approach to evaluating talent during the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine and leading up the draft?

“It really doesn’t. It gives you a little more to do on Day 1,” Lynch said. “Day 1, we’ve been doing a lot of prep and obviously stay by the phones and things like that.”

During the combine, prospects will go through interviews, on-the-field testing and medical evaluations, all of which will provide the 49ers with important insight about potential fits for the team’s roster.

“It’s a lot of different things. The medical information we gain, our doctors, the entirety of the league’s medical staff are here, and so you get really valuable medical information on players. That’s integral to your decision making. I think the other thing, we have the interviews with the college players, albeit in 15 to 20 minutes to get a chance to get to know these people and what makes them tick. You have to be effective with that time. I think it helps to have continuity, to have been together a long time and to know what you’re looking for. We try to be extremely effective with that time. A lot of people are here, coaches on zoom typically, and we get a lot out of that.”

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