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The 49ers Could Pass on Draft’s Top Receivers in Favor of a Top Tackle

Levin T. Black
Apr 3, 2020 at 1:48 PM5


The San Francisco 49ers have an abundance of options with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and some aren't at the widely assumed position. It is true that wide receiver seems the likely path, but it is not a slam dunk. The team could surprise and go with another position.

It wouldn't be the first time this offseason that the 49ers shocked fans and pundits around the league. No one thought defensive tackle DeForest Buckner would be traded until it happened. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will ultimately make the draft decision together.

The 49ers have been working out offensive tackles in recent weeks. They could choose to grab Joe Staley's heir at left tackle and play him at guard for a year or two. Or they could go with another position that no one is predicting.

Would the team pass on a Tristan Wirfs if he is still on the board at No. 13?

If the 49ers choose to forego the WR position with the first pick, they would look to grab one at No. 31 or in the second round after a trade down from No. 31. This is an extremely deep WR draft. It may even be the prudent choice to make, especially if their top choices at WR are gone at No. 13. I suspect the 49ers are working out offensive tackles as a back up plan. The top WRs could be gone before the 49ers pick forcing the team to divert from Plan A.

That's just a hunch on my part but for this article I'm going to operate as if the 49ers don't take a WR with their first pick. With that, let's take a look at some WRs who present good fits for the 49ers and are likely to still be available in the late first to early second round of the draft.

Note: Top prospects Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and CeeDee Lamb were not included due to being locks for the top 20. I also excluded Justin Jefferson. A vast majority of mocks have him going before No. 31. There's a small chance he is still available then and the 49ers would likely give him strong consideration but that's been covered in depth by others already.

Jalen Reagor - TCU


Projected anywhere from mid-first round to third round, Jalen Reagor out of Texas Christian University could be the devastating vertical receiver that Marquise Goodwin was supposed to be for the 49ers. Reagor's 40-yard dash time isn't blazingly fast at 4.47 seconds but make no mistake, he is a great vertical threat. His game tape has him almost unanimously regarded as a one of the best deep threats in the draft.

Reagor isn't the biggest at 5 feet 11 inches, but he is great at timing his jumps to high point the ball and has good twitch to get good releases off the line of scrimmage. A 42-inch vertical, second best at the NFL Combine for WRs, will certainly help him win jump balls.

Reagor has two negatives that could see him still available in the second round. First is his production. He produced well as a freshman and sophomore but saw a big drop last season (43 catches, 611 yards, five touchdowns), his junior year. Poor quarterback play is mostly to blame, however. According to Pro Football Focus, only 61.4 percent of Reagor's targets were catchable, which was 118th out of the 120 WRs who saw at least 80 targets last season.

The other negative, that may eliminate him as a option for the 49ers, is his run blocking. He simply didn't do it well in college. He did do 17 reps on the bench press at the combine though, so he has the strength to be great at it.

Denzel Mims - Baylor


I personally doubt Denzel Mims lasts until the late-first round but I also didn't think A.J. Brown or D.K. Metcalf would last as long as they did last year either so I'm including Mims as a possibility.

Mims saw his stock value rise as much as anyone last year. He produced, has a fantastic SPARQ score, ran a 4.38 second 40-yard dash at the Combine and had a great week at the Senior Bowl. All of that could get a team to take him in the mid-first round but if not, the 49ers would likely be delighted to see him available at No. 31 if they still need a receiver.

While Mims needs some time to develop more nuance to his route running, he is a big (6 feet 3 inches, 207 pounds), fast and ready to produce at the NFL level.

Brandon Aiyuk - Arizona State


You want huge upside? Well Brandon Aiyuk has it. A great all-around athlete, Aiyuk would immediately produce as a returner. He averaged 16.1 yards per punt return and a gaudy 31.6 yards per kick return as a senior.

Aiyuk also has true No. 1, Pro Bowl upside as a receiver. He possesses phenomenal short area quickness, making him a fit for Shanahan, as well as a consistent ability to threaten a defense downfield. Perhaps his best ability is what he does once he has the ball. He averaged 10.9 yards AFTER the catch last year.

Problem is, Aiyuk only demonstrated his all-around dominance as a receiver and returner for one season. He spent two years playing junior college before playing second fiddle to 2019 first round pick N'Keal Harry as a junior at ASU. Perhaps due to playing at the JUCO level for two years, Aiyuk also has a limited route tree.

Still his quickness, ability after the catch and ability to stretch a defense are exactly what this 49ers regime are believed to like in a WR.

Michael Pittman Jr. - USC


Late-first round, second round, third round or fourth round, where Michael Pittman Jr. ends up being drafted is anyone's guess right now. Pittman has a lot of great attributes. He's a great blocker in the run game, very physical at the point of the catch, has a massive catch radius thanks to his 6 foot 4 inch frame and has good speed.

Pittman looks like a first round pick in all aspects but one. The problem for him is that aspect is not only one of the most important but he is also worse than simply bad at it. Pittman shows little ability to get a clean release at the snap. He is easy to disrupt. This can make his routes slower to develop and throw off any timing route. NFL offenses, including the 49ers in particular, heavily rely on timing.

This is why Pittman's draft position is so hard to narrow down. Does a team fall in love with Pittman's Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans-like size and athleticism or are teams scared off by the one gigantic negative? Your guess is as good as mine.

Tee Higgins - Clemson


In a normal draft class the big, top producing Tee Higgins would be a lock to be gone by the end of the first round. In this historically deep WR draft, however, Higgins could last all the way to the end of the second round.

Higgins doesn't have a glaring weakness, rather, he is merely average at multiple things. He is an average blocker, average after the catch, average on his release and while he has the ability to run a diverse route tree, he simply hasn't had to.

What Higgins is exceptional at is why he'll be taken in the early rounds of the draft. He is quite possibly the most consistent deep threat in the class. He averaged 19.8 yards per reception last season. Furthermore, he tallied 13.4 yards per target, the third highest figure in the draft class, and according to PFF, he caught 15 of 23 deep passes for an astounding 565 yards.

A team looking for a big receiver, capable of going vertical who can win in traffic will have Higgins high on its list. The 49ers do not have a receiver like him.

Laviska Shenault - Colorado


We have arrived at the biggest high risk, high reward receiver who could be a candidate at No. 31. Laviska Shenault has all the physical tools. He has good size (6 feet 1 inch, 227 pounds), is lightning quick off the line and has good top end speed. Shenualt is built like a big running back and was used in the backfield at times, which was evidenced by his seven career rushing touchdowns.

Shenault had an 86-catch season as a sophomore despite playing in only nine games. His production fell off last year as a junior. He had just 764 yards in 11 games. Shenault rarely had the opportunity to run a deep route, which makes it hard to evaluate him in that regard.

The other big risk is his injury history. He missed time due to injury both years he was a starter and had surgery prior to last season.

Shenault could go in the first round. He is a very similar prospect to current 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, who produced as a rookie and was taken towards the top the of the second round. Due to this similarity I have a hard time seeing the 49ers drafting him, however.

Chase Claypool - Notre Dame


This Notre Dame prospect is an interesting one. Chase Claypool took time to develop in college having concentrated on basketball when he was young. As a senior last year, he finally produced at a high level compiling 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns.

He possesses a rare blend of size and speed. At 6 feet 4 inches and 238 pounds, Claypool is one of the biggest receivers in the draft yet he posted a 4.42 second 40-yard dash at the Combine to go with a 40.5 inch vertical.

Adding to the physical gifts, Claypool is an excellent run blocker and a dynamic special teams player in coverage. Those two traits alone mean he'll have a positive impact as a rookie in the NFL.

He is lacking in polish. He needs work smoothing out his routes and needs work on fighting off press coverage. He is more likely to be a 49ers target in the second round in the event they trade out of No. 31 but his upside could convince them to not risk losing him to another team.

Others to consider in 2nd/3rd


  • K.J. Hamler, Penn State: Likely a slot only option in the Shanahan offense due to size. Likely more valuable to other teams but a potential option in late-second or third round for the 49ers.
  • Tyler Johnson, Minnesota: Red flags fly here. Johnson didn't do any drills at the Combine, his athleticism is questionable but his production is second to none. This is one a team bases heavily on interviews.
  • Devin Duvernay, Texas: Top notch athleticism and speed in a below average body. Needs polish but speed could attract the 49ers.
  • Bryan Edwards, South Carolina: Edwards had 324 receptions as a four-year starter for the Gamecocks playing alongside the 49ers' Samuel. A broken foot has kept Edwards from working out during the draft process and forces him in the second or third round.
  • Levin T. Black
  • Written by:
    A graduate of Ball State University in 2009, Levin was an award winning sports journalist until he transitioned into a different career. He's written for Webzone since 2018.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


5 Comments

  • DaNiners
    Here's is what I believe their rankings are: 1) Ruggs 2) Wirf's 3) Lamb 5) Brown 4) Will's 5) Becton 6) Trade back 3-5 spots 7) CJ Henderson 8) Kinlaw. 98.9% chance Wirf's, Wills and Brown are gone. Becton, probably. Reasonable best case, they will be choosing from either Ruggs OR Lamb, Henderson, Kinlaw. I absolutely believe Ruggs is their target.
    Apr 9, 2020 at 9:13 AM
    0
  • Greg
    I think if they pass on a corner it will be for a CB. Sherman, Moseley and Witherspoon all are in their last year of there contract. At 31 they can take a OT or WR.
    Apr 8, 2020 at 2:58 PM
    1
  • Ed
    Like your article, best one I’ve seen regarding the WR’s in the draft and the stance to trade-down later for one. Some quick add-on’s: Reagor is also a 4 phase player in that he is good as a returner; Claypool also add’s value because he can play x - slot - (and could play z with the added plus blocking as well there; you didn’t list V. Jefferson, and while he may not be considered a WR1-he could/would be a solid WR2 with likely the most polished RR in the draft. If the Niners can gather more picks, a great one to look at near Rd4 is WR C. Johnson-another player who can play x-y-and z similar to Claypool=lot of versatility there. Lastly: total ‘gadget’ player: WR L. Bowden-fit him where you need to take advantage to match-ups(late round pick).
    Apr 7, 2020 at 9:59 AM
    0
  • don
    Why did you highlight WR's when the whole premise of your article was passing on a WR for a Tackle? SMH..
    Apr 4, 2020 at 6:37 AM
    5
  • Matt
    Good article. Many great WR options, they should trade down unless they LOVE Lamb. Draft two WR's so they have plenty of weapons 1. Lamb - only draft Lamb if they think he's HOF'er, otherwise trade down 1. Jefferson - if they trade down in the 1st 1-2 Mims 2 Claypool 2 Tee Higgins 2 Aiyuk 2-3 Shenault 4 Antonio Gibson
    Apr 3, 2020 at 9:48 PM
    0

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