John Lynch had to know there would be an army of doubters when he took his new job.
In one of the most shocking moves of the offseason, the former All-Pro safety-turned-broadcaster was named general manager of the San Francisco 49ers in late January despite having no front-office experience.
CEO Jed York hired Lynch to bring a culture change to the team given his connection to 49ers legend Bill Walsh, who coached the safety at Stanford.
That’s a pretty high standard to live up to, but after a so-so free-agency period, Lynch should follow these guidelines to earn fans’ faith and the league’s respect:
Don’t pass on blue chips
The 49ers own the second pick in each of the first five rounds. Before making these picks, it will be in Lynch’s best interest to take a look at the consensus “best available” boards.
Each team generally sticks to its own rankings, but with Lynch’s inexperience, taking a player who will be viewed as a reach by the fan base could be detrimental. Stick with the safe guys.
The 49ers have a plethora of roster gaps to fill and positions to upgrade, so they shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into filling any specific needs. If a projected top-20 pick slides to pick No. 34 without any red flags, take him. If someone expected to be a first-rounder is still available at No. 66, scoop him up.
Trade back at least twice
With lots of problems to solve, there’s nothing wrong with trading back for more picks – especially early on.
While Myles Garrett is easy to slot in to the top spot, there’s no consensus player to draft for the 49ers at two. If Lynch can get an offer to stay in the top 10 and acquire another top-45 pick, he could avoid a difficult decision while adding picks to still improve his team.
There’s a depth of talent in this draft, particularly on defense, so Lynch shouldn’t be afraid of missing out on one or two specific prospects. The Patriots have been praised for years for constantly trading back – there’s no shame in playing copycat.
Take it easy on Stanford guys
Stanford‘s Solomon Thomas and Christian McCaffrey are two of the most hyped prospects coming out of this year’s crop, and while there’s nothing wrong with drafting either, Lynch needs to be careful about overvaluing products of his alma mater.
Chip Kelly was laughed at for taking several Oregon and Pac-12 players after leaving the Ducks for the Eagles and gaining personnel control. If Lynch goes hard to bring in Stanford guys, there will be an assumption he doesn’t know how to properly evaluate.
Thomas could be a well-evaluated pick at No. 2, but going after former Cardinal receiver Michael Rector, center Johnny Caspers, or kicker Conrad Ukropina will surely garner a comical response from the league.
Avoid red-flag prospects
If Lynch is really here to change the culture in San Francisco, he needs to show it at the draft. That doesn’t mean he should only be looking for “character” guys – but it does mean avoiding bad character guys.
High talent level, but poor work ethic? No thanks. A few arrests on your record? Somebody else’s problem. Three- or four-year starter who wasn’t named team captain? Going to need to explain that.
Ideally, Lynch should be looking for guys who can not only perform on the field, but show leadership, intelligence, and respect off of it.
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