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ESPN: 49ers drafting Ricky Pearsall was ‘largest non-QB reach’ of the first round

Jun 18, 2024 at 1:00 PM

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ESPN's Seth Walder wasn't alone in his surprise that the San Francisco 49ers used the No. 31 overall pick in this year's draft to select wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, a player many graded as a second-round talent. This decision was particularly shocking since most expected the 49ers to address their offensive line early, not a position where they already have abundant talent.

Walder recently assessed each NFL team's offseason. Despite giving the 49ers an overall grade of "B," he found the selection of Pearsall in the first round perplexing.

"Though a fine prospect, that was probably the largest non-QB reach [of] the first round based on expectations of where players would be drafted," Walder explained.

Pearsall reportedly looked impressive during the 49ers' offseason program, with Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area recently praising the rookie.

"What Pearsall brings to the table is he's more like [Brandon] Aiyuk than he is like [Deebo] Samuel," Maiocco said earlier this month. "He's a good route runner, good hands, he can beat man coverage, all those things that the 49ers have in Brandon Aiyuk. I did notice on the practice field Tuesday, Ricky Pearsall just looks the part."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has enjoyed watching the chemistry develop between Pearsall and quarterback Brock Purdy.

"It's been fun to watch both of them," Shanahan said. "I know Brock doesn't always get to watch how the route gets there, but he knows when guys end up in the right spot and they catch it. That's where quarterbacks get comfortable, and I think he can feel that with Ricky right away."

Shanahan added, "I mean, he's been getting to the right spot. And when he has made mistakes, he understands it and corrects it. I think that's why those guys are gonna have a lot of fun working together."

Walder did praise one 49ers move that wasn't made: the team held onto both of its top wideouts, Aiyuk and Samuel, for at least one more season.

"Aiyuk is worth keeping and paying, as he was the top overall receiver in ESPN's receiver tracking metrics last season and is just 26 years old," Walder said. "On the other hand, Samuel is a great YAC receiver but I worry how his style of play will age. At 28, he is two years older than Aiyuk. If the 49ers decide they are overinvested at wideout and want to save money, Samuel is the player to move."
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