Kyle Shanahan gives update on 49ers rookies' NFL readiness

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Shanahan offers update on Sermon, Banks, Thomas' readiness originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The 49ers' 2021 draft class has been heavily criticized of late, as San Francisco has received little to no contributions from its top four picks.

Last Sunday during the 49ers' embarrassing loss to the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco received zero offensive and defensive snaps from quarterback Trey Lance, offensive guard Aaron Banks, running back Trey Sermon and cornerback Ambry Thomas.

Lance's timeline continues to be a hot topic around the 3-5 49ers, but coach Kyle Shanahan maintains the rookie signal-caller will play when he and the team are ready for him to take over.

But what about Banks, Sermon and Thomas? The 49ers recently lost right tackle Mike McGlinchey for the season, so Monday's Week 10 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams wouldn't be the best time to insert Banks and start an entirely new right side of the line.

"Well, we have one spot open and when we feel that Aaron Banks is ready to go and can be more consistent than [OL Daniel] Brunskill, and that's the way to go, we'll do that," Shanahan said Thursday. "We obviously don't feel that way yet. On the right side, we lost our right tackle for the year, so we're going to try to figure out who's our best right tackle to replace him. Aaron Banks doesn't play tackle, so he's not in that conversation."

The Notre Dame product, however, has been improving.

"Just being more consistent," Shanahan said. "He's been real good in the run blocking since he's been here, and he's gotten more used to running. Missing all of camp, it took him a while to get his weight down and to get into football shape, which that's come just with each week. But the pass protection is the main thing he's taken steps forward in. And that's what he needs to continue doing."

As for Sermon, who saw a good amount of action in Weeks 3 and 4, the Ohio State product should have an opportunity Monday with JaMychal Hasty likely being out.

"Trey's doing good, too," Shanahan said. "Like I said last week, Trey, I thought, as you guys saw, when he got his opportunities with the injuries when all those guys got hurt, I thought he did better in his second and third game than his first game. And then we've got our guys back, but losing Hasty, who we'll see if he's, he probably won't be up this week, will give Sermon another opportunity to get back at it."

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Lynch and Shanahan have admitted they knew Thomas would take some to develop before being able to play corner at the NFL level. But the Michigan product was active against the Cardinals and did see the field on special teams.

"Yeah, he's had a real good last few weeks," Shanahan said of Thomas. "And I've been excited about him. He's been doing better each week, and he's earning the right to be out there more, earned the right to dress. And hopefully, sooner than later, he'll earn the right to be out on the field on defense."

Conventional wisdom dictates that normally any player drafted in the first three rounds should provide an immediate contribution to the team. However, Shanahan explained earlier this week that the 49ers didn't attack the 2021 class that way, although they did hope Banks would push for a starting role.

“We had a feeling with our quarterback," Shanahan said Monday when asked about the lack of contributions from the draft class. "We knew we drafted a guard in the second round thinking he’d have a chance to push [Daniel] Brunskill and Laken [Tomlinson]. Our biggest thing with all those positions, whether it was running back, third, corner in the third and the fifth, and guard in the second, those are all positions we were very thin at. Now, we had guys there that were starters. They weren't drafted to replace the starter, whether it was at guard or whether it was that corner or whether it was that back.

"I felt good with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson [Jr.] as our starting backs, but we knew we needed some depth. I felt very good about [Jason] Verrett,  [Emmanuel] Moseley and K’Waun [Williams] as our starting three corners. But we also knew we needed some depth behind them for injury and for going into next year, especially with the one-year deal those guys are on. And we had to start getting some youth in here.

"Banks, we thought had the best chance to compete to maybe win one of those jobs over the offseason, but he didn't get that. He wasn't there in training camp, started getting his work in Week 1 and has been behind the 8-ball. I think he's had a couple good weeks here. His best two weeks lately, and he's starting to push him a little bit, but when that time is right for him and our team, we’ll make that move.

"When you look at the running back, yeah, Trey Sermon. We didn't bring him here to come and start at running back. We needed to add some depths, and unfortunately, we lost our two starting running backs within two plays of the first play of the year. And after that, I wouldn't say it's anything against Trey Sermon, but we felt better with Elijah [Mitchell]. Elijah had a strong camp, ended up beating Trey out, and that's why he got that role. Trey got some opportunities when other people got injured. But right now, Jeff Wilson's back healthy and Elijah is healthy, and those are our two starting backs right now with Trey being third and unfortunately, Hasty’s been our third-down back and done the stuff in the pass game. So, he's kind of been the odd man out with that, which is tough on him. It doesn't mean that we don't believe in him. He's just not ahead of those other guys right now in terms of running the ball on first and second down.

"And when you look at our corners, the third-round pick, the fifth-round pick, we weren’t bringing any of them here to, we felt, start. We were hoping that they could add some depth and be guys who could play on our team and possibly do that next year. Unfortunately, having some injuries that we had early, we needed them earlier than we thought we would. And unfortunately, they weren't fully ready for it. And yeah, I wish they were. But the third-round pick and the fifth-round pick, they weren't, and that's why we've gone with veterans instead of them. Trying to get them some time to get to where they need to be.”

The 49ers have received good contributions from sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell at running back and fifth-round pick Talanoa Hufanga at safety. But Shanahan hopes the top of the 2021 class eventually will contribute to a second-half surge for the sliding 49ers.

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