49ers 2024 NFL Draft takeaways: An influx of speed and muscle

The San Francisco 49ers went for speed and muscle in the 2024 NFL Draft. Two of their fourth-round draft picks, running back Isaac Guerendo and receiver Jacob Cowing, ran their 40-yard dashes in under 4.4 seconds while their top pick, receiver Ricky Pearsall, wasn’t too shabby with a 4.41-second 40.

Their other fourth-rounder, safety Malik Mustapha, had 80 tackles last season for Wake Forest and was known for explosive strikes that sent ball carriers tumbling backward.

The 49ers’ fourth-round maneuvering left them with no fifth-round picks, a bit alarming considering how successful they’ve been in that round since 2017 (George Kittle).

They ended the draft by taking athletic USC offensive lineman Jarrett Kingston in the sixth round and Florida State linebacker Tatum Bethune in the seventh round.

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The picks

Round Pick Name Pos. School



Ricky Pearsall





Renardo Green


Florida State



Dominick Puni





Malik Mustapha


Wake Forest



Isaac Guerendo





Jacob Cowing





Jarrett Kingston





Tatum Bethune


Florida State



San Francisco 49ers NFL Draft picks 2024: Grades, fits and scouting reports

Best value pick

It might be Guerendo, whose combination of size and speed translates nicely to the 49ers’ zone-blocking offense. It was no coincidence the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans were among the teams that showed the most interest in the run-up to the draft. Both are run by former Kyle Shanahan assistants and feature offenses similar to San Francisco’s. Guerendo made 30 visits to those teams as well as the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers.

Guerendo ran his 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds, a time usually associated with wispy wideouts and cornerbacks. Guerendo, however, weighs 221 pounds, giving him a size-speed profile that’s similar to that of one-time 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, who had 18 rushing touchdowns for the Dolphins last season.

Christian McCaffrey clearly is the 49ers’ No. 1 runner heading into the 2024 season. The injury history of his top backup, Elijah Mitchell, could give Guerendo opportunities as a rookie. Mitchell also is heading into the final year of his rookie contract.

Most surprising pick

The Pearsall fan club has been vocal since the 49ers used the No. 31 pick on him. But not many draftniks were touting him as a first-round pick before the draft began and the 49ers seemed to have bigger needs at offensive tackle, guard and cornerback

With Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Jauan Jennings on the roster, it’s hard to envision a big role for Pearsall this season. He returns punts, too, but so does veteran Trent Taylor and fourth-round pick Cowing, an electric player who ran his 40 in 4.38 seconds. Pearsall will have to beat out those players to return punts this season.

Pearsall could be a major factor as a rookie if there are injuries to any of the main three wideouts. But he seemed to be picked more with 2025 in mind. Like all wideouts drafted by Shanahan, he probably will need a year to adjust to the demands of the position. And while there are three receivers ahead of him this season, the situation is far more murky next year. Aiyuk and Jennings aren’t signed for 2025 while the 49ers have an escape hatch in Samuel’s pricy contract.

Biggest question mark

Will cornerback Renardo Green, the 49ers’ second-round pick, be able to crack a deep cornerback rotation to give the secondary an immediate boost? Green is a solid athlete — he registered a 4.49 40-yard dash — but he’s not an exceptional one, and the 49ers are as loaded at corner as they’ve ever been under this regime.

Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaac Yiadom and Rock Ya-Sin seemingly occupied the top spots at the position entering the draft, with more competition coming from the likes of Darrell Luter Jr., Ambry Thomas and Samuel Womack III. The 49ers would love for Green — a tenacious defender who broke up an ACC-best 13 passes last season — to thrust himself into the mix for early playtime. They’d like Green to be seasoned for a big role in 2025, when the top four corners listed above are no longer under contract.

But that will be easier said than done. That’s not a terrible problem for the 49ers to have, but such is life for a team drafting players onto a loaded roster: Making an immediate mark can’t be considered an automatic, even for a second-round pick.

Can second-round pick Renardo Green crack the cornerback rotation in Year 1? (Peter Joneleit / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Remaining needs

Although Puni might be able to play all five positions up front, he can only play one spot at a time and the 49ers initially envision him as an interior lineman — just like their sixth-round pick, Kingston. That means the team might still need to add an offensive tackle in the relatively near future because stalwart Trent Williams will soon turn 36.

Also consider that both of the 49ers’ starting guards, Aaron Banks and Jon Feliciano, are only under contract through 2024. The team will need solutions at those positions. Maybe Puni and Kingston can seamlessly step into those rules, but that’s far from a guarantee this early in the process.

Simply put, the offensive line requires a larger replenishment effort. The 49ers scored one key, versatile piece in this draft with Puni, but they still have work to do in the future. The same can be said of the defensive line, where the 49ers recently signed several players to two-year contracts — meaning that longer-term investment will soon be necessary.

Post-draft outlook

The 49ers kept both Aiyuk and Samuel while adding a crop of players that certainly seems to have real potential at the NFL level. There’s a lot of college production in this draft class to go with real athletic upside across multiple positions. Beyond that, it’s impossible to know how rookies will perform — the league is a different beast. But the 49ers are excited to find out, and we do at least know that they didn’t get worse over the past few days.

In an ideal world, Puni will help shore up the offensive line (perhaps as a roving sixth man to begin before earning a starting role), Pearsall will add another element to the passing attack with his slippery burst, Green and Mustapha will fortify the secondary and Guerendo and Cowing will add explosive depth — which can be huge for a team’s special teams efficiency. The final two picks, Kingston and Bethune, can most realistically be projected to the practice squad — although the 49ers might know better than anyone that late-round picks can deliver a pleasant surprise.

Of course, no one expects a hit rate of 100 percent. That’s why the 49ers worked so hard to seal holes and raise the floor of their roster in free agency. That approach enabled them to take a swing for the ceiling in this draft. It’s time to see what these prospects can accomplish.

(Top photos of Ricky Pearsall, Malik Mustapha and Isaac Guerendo: Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images, David Jensen and Jordon Kelly / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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