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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Scot McCloughan is high on one 49ers draftee—not so much on another

Marc Adams
May 4, 2024 at 10:39 AM

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Former GM Scot McCloughan is widely considered the architect of the San Francisco 49ers roster that Jim Harbaugh took to three straight NFC Championships and one Super Bowl. McCloughan led the regime that drafted players like Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, and Joe Staley. He helped restock a team completely void of talent. He's known to have an excellent eye for talent.

These days, McCloughan serves as an advisor to a few NFL teams. Recently, he spoke with Matt Barrows, of The Athletic, to discuss the 49ers 2024 draft picks. There were a few players the 49ers drafted who McCloughan liked, but there was one he really liked. And one he wasn't as excited about.

Who McCloughan really liked: WR Jacob Cowing

The 49ers drafted Arizona wide receiver, Jacob Cowing, in the fourth round. Fans of the team seem to like the pick. Cowing is a playmaker with great speed (4.38 in the 40), and a knack for scoring (13 touchdowns in 2023). Cowing is reliable, having caught a pass in 57 straight games. He's good with the ball in his hands, can create separation, and has the ability to get downfield.

McCloughan really likes Cowing, as well. "Damn good football player," he said. "He's quick, fast. He's instinctive, he's competitive. He scored a lot of touchdowns, too, and can get down the field and go. He's cool. He's really, really cool."

Though Cowing is a bit undersized, he's scrappy, even as a blocker. Perhaps not in the way current 49ers wide receiver, Jauan Jennings, blocks, but Cowing is willing to stick his nose in there, and at a minimum, get in the way of the defender. But McCloughan especially likes him in the passing game.

"He'll tear up rookie minicamp, seven-on-seven, all that stuff," McCloughan added. "You'll be like, 'Wow!' you wait and see. He'll blow your mind. He's fast and quick. He's like a little bolt of lightning—gone!"

Who McCloughan wasn't as crazy about: RB Isaac Guerendo

The 49ers drafted running back Isaac Guerendo out of Louisville. The former Cardinal averaged 6.1 yards per carry in 2023 (4.1 yards after contact), and ran a blazing 4.33 in the 40. He scored 11 touchdowns and is a good receiver out of the backfield. Guerendo is a home run threat who can score from anywhere on the field. What's not to like about him?

McCloughan admits he doesn't pay much attention to combine numbers and such, choosing instead to focus on film. And he didn't see much on film from Guerendo that blew him away. The former GM said, "He had a good year. But (he's) nothing special. Unless he can return kicks and play special teams, I'd be surprised if he makes the team."

Wait, did he say he'd be surprised if Guerendo, a fourth-round pick, makes the team? That would certainly align with Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch's history of drafting running backs. The 49ers have drafted three other running backs in the first four rounds since 2017—Joe Williams, Trey Sermon, and Ty Davis-Price. None of the three worked out.

Despite Guerendo's speed, McCloughan still seemed unimpressed when discussing the running back with Barrows. "He did that in a T-shirt and shorts, buddy, a T-shirt and shorts," he said. "I can understand why he went where he went because of how he worked out. But as you're well aware, I don't deal with that (stuff). That's not how I draft at all."

There are no guarantees that Cowing, who McCloughan liked, will become a productive receiver for the 49ers. And there's no way of knowing that Guerendo, who McCloughan didn't like, will be a wasted pick. It's up to the 49ers coaches to put them in a position to learn and show what they can do. And it's up to the players to grab those opportunities.

McCloughan is well-respected as a talent evaluator. But his opinions are simply that—opinions.
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