SANTA CLARA — The San Francisco 49ers built around quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo early in the NFL draft, then used the rest of their nine selections to fortify defense and fill needs in their push to become a legitimate playoff contender.
After adding both a protector and deep threat for Garoppolo with their first two picks, the 49ers used each of their first four selections Saturday to grab prospects who can bolster a defense that ranked 24th in the NFL last season.
“Really feel we got better as a football team,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Saturday. “We got guys we wanted to come out of this draft with. We came out pretty well in terms of what we wanted to accomplish and are very proud of what we did.”
In their first season under Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan last year, the 49ers won their final five games to finish 6-10 after acquiring Garoppolo near midseason.
San Francisco signed Garoppolo to a $137.5 million contract extension in February, then added key free agents on offense during March before drafting Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey in the first round Thursday, and moving up in the second round Friday to select Washington receiver Dante Pettis.
The 49ers then turned their focus to defense through the next four rounds, selecting BYU linebacker Fred Warner, North Carolina State end Kentavius Street, and defensive backs Tarvarius Moore of Southern Mississippi, D.J. Reed of Kansas State and Marcell Harris of Florida.
San Francisco selected another defender, Temple lineman Jullian Taylor, with its first seventh-round pick before taking Middle Tennessee State wide receiver Richie James with its final pick.
“We’re in Year 2 of our program, and it’s going to be tougher to make our team,” Shanahan said. “It was much harder this year to pick guys on the (later) days that we thought can make our football team. We drafted guys that have a chance to do that.”
Here are some other takeaways from the draft:
The 49ers failed miserably earlier this decade with former GM Trent Baalke using several high draft picks to select prospects coming off significant injuries who never panned out after sitting out their rookie seasons.
San Francisco took another chance in the fourth round Saturday on Street, who sustained a torn ACL during a pre-draft workout and had surgery earlier this month. He’s unlikely to contribute this season.
“We’re not trying to make popular picks, we’re trying to make good picks,” Lynch said. “And we’re very convicted that this was just that.”
Two picks later, the 49ers selected Harris, who missed the entire season last year after tearing his Achilles tendon during Florida’s fall camp.
PLAYMAKER ON PREMISES?
On a conference call after being selected in the fifth round, Reed was describing his game to reporters when he was abruptly interrupted by the man who drafted him.
“I’m a playmaker, man,” Reed said, before Lynch suddenly appeared in San Francisco’s media room and blurted out, “That’s what I’m talking about, D.J.!”
Reed ranked second in the Big 12 last season with four interceptions and was third in the conference with 13 passes defensed. He led the Big 12 with 19 passes defensed while earning the conference’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors in 2016.