Roundtable: What will the 49ers do with their first-round picks?

Apr 21, 2020 at 7:05 AM0

The NFL is about to have an unprecedented draft format. The commissioner, players, general managers, coaches, and everyone else involved will be conducting business from their homes, as they have been doing for well over a month.

There have been no team visits. Only a handful of schools held pro days before the events were shut down. Interviews have been limited to video conferences. That makes it difficult to predict what many NFL organizations will do later this week. But we'll try it anyway.

The 49ers Webzone staff was asked to predict what the Niners will do with their two first-round picks. Who will they select? Will they trade down? Writers were free to be as specific or vague as they felt.

Below are the responses in the order in which they were received.

Levin T. Black

There's only one thing I'm willing to say with confidence. The 49ers will trade down at least once. I see no way they stay at No. 13 and 31 when that means the sit out the second, third and fourth rounds of a deep draft.

Are you looking for a specific player prediction? You won't get one from me. It's hard in normal years, but this year's restrictions due to COVID-19 make it a fool's task.

No Pro Days, no chit-chat amongst scouts and general managers at those Pro Days, and no in-person interviews mean teams will vary on evaluations more than normal.

Some players will go much earlier than thought and some much later. This is why the 49ers MUST get some picks in the mid-rounds via a trade down or two.

Gilbert Brink

No. 13 overall

When the 49ers traded DeForest Buckner, they had a plan in place for that 13th overall pick that they received from the Colts. Kyle Shanahan has been able to make magic with not much from the wide receiver corps. In 2019 the addition of a past-prime Emmanuel Sanders made the 49ers a Super Bowl contender. After Sanders left in free-agency, it left no doubt in my mind that the 49ers had their eyes on the trio of Jeudy, Lamb & Ruggs as their first priority.

Despite what Shanahan's buddy Chris Simms says, I believe Jeudy is the player Shanahan prefers the most. Jeudy's most heralded ability is his route running technique. If you examine the receivers that Shanahan has drafted, the ability to separate has been one of the key qualities to fit into the 49ers offense. Shanahan fell for receivers like Trent Taylor and Dante Pettis based on the ability to separate from the defender. Jeudy's elite route makes him the preferred pick for the 49ers here. If he is there, the 49ers will pick WR Jerry Jeudy.

One name being connected to the 49ers that doesn't seem to be a great fit is Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs' speed puts him in rare company, not only is he fast, he's 4.27 in the 40 fast. As much as that speed amazes Joe Sixpack, I don't believe Shanahan will be as enamored with the speed as others will. As mentioned prior, when you think about Shanahan draft crush wide receivers, they don't fit the profile of Ruggs. In the past three drafts, Shanahan has fallen for Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel & Jalen Hurd. When examining their 40 times, you'll see a commonality; Trent Taylor 4.65, Dante Pettis 4.53, Deebo Samuel 4.48, and Jalen Hurd 4.47. None of these players were classified as burners. Ruggs' greatest quality isn't something the 49ers put a high value on. Add to this, the 49ers signed WR Travin Benjamin (4.36 40-time) in free agency and still have WR Marquise Goodwin (4.27 40-time) on the roster.

Rule out Ruggs. If Jeudy is available, there is no doubt they take him. If he is off the board, they go with the next best thing in WR CeeDee Lamb.

No. 31 overall

I am convinced the 49ers trade out of this selection. I'm certain all my fellow WZ writers are echoing the same remarks, but there's a reason for that. Trading down for more picks is a no-brainer for a team with zero selections in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds. The key here is finding a trade partner and finding quality trade value. If the 49ers get the offer of a 2nd and a 3rd in this draft, that is an offer they can't pass by. The 49ers need to only look at trade offers where the picks coming back their way are in the 2020 draft. Being fully entrenched in win-now mode, the 49ers can't afford to trade a first-round pick this week for a first-round pick a year from now.

As far as teams that could be trade partners, look towards the teams with aging QBs. I can see Pittsburgh & Tampa Bay looking to grab that QB at 31 as a young QB can sit under the learning tree for the next season or two as Brady or Roethlisberger close out their careers. The 49ers may even get on the phone with their latest trade partner, giving the Colts a call a shot to take their QB of the future to replace Phillip Rivers.

For a dark-horse scenario, the 49ers could end up taking this pick if they somehow traded down with their 13th pick. If they do that, I would expect them to have already taken a WR at this point with the pick they received for the 13th (possibly moving down to the late teens or early 20s). If this scenario does happen, I can see the 49ers taking a cornerback like AJ Terrell or for a real long-shot, maybe even Antione Winfield Jr as a possible Jimmy Ward replacement.

Sasha Robinson

The 49ers should address their wide receiver and cornerback positions. With Emmanuel Sanders signing with the Saints, the uncertainty of Ahkello Witherspoon and Richard Sherman having two of the worst games from the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LIV, the Niners may want to use the two picks on the skill positions.

Though the Niners traded DeForest Buckner, they are deep on the defensive line. The team should draft WR CeeDee Lamb if he is available with the 13th pick and CB CJ Henderson or AJ Terrell with the 31st pick. Lamb would fit in perfectly with the types of motions, quick screens, and end arounds that Kyle Shanahan likes to use with wide receivers. Lamb could possibly be a good complement to Deebo Samuel. The only question is whether he can develop into a good blocker.

If Lamb is not available, then the 49ers should draft wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. In the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl, we saw what happened when the pass rush was not able to reach prolific passers down the stretch, such as Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. It was the same in Week 17 when the 49ers were able to hold off the Seahawks and win the NFC West. The 49ers will see talented receivers who play in the NFC West from D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzpatrick, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods. San Francisco will need to improve their secondary to stop these talented pass catchers.

Michael Cataldo

An offensive player has to be the pick at 13. The 49ers only managed to put up 20 points against the Chiefs' mediocre defense in Super Bowl 54. In fact, the Texans and Titans scored more points on the road against Kansas City in their postseason matchups.

13th - WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
If Henry Ruggs III is on the board at 13, you take him. Imagine how much more creative Kyle Shanahan can get with Deebo Samuel and Ruggs both on the field? Ruggs will stretch defenses, forcing them to respect the deep ball while opening lanes underneath for George Kittle. He's also a great kid with an amazing story.

31st - Trade Back
It's not an exciting move but the necessary one. After Pick 31, the 49ers aren't on the clock until the 5th round (No. 156). John Lynch has proved that he can find talent on defense in the later rounds if given the picks (Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, D.J. Jones). If they can't trade back, keep an eye out for DT Ross Blacklock and CB Trevon Diggs.

Don Atkinson

Another NFL draft is upon us, and the 49ers benefit this time by bringing back a championship roster that is functionally intact. The team will be looking at immediate replacements for wideout Emmanuel Sanders and defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, and perhaps future replacements for cornerback Richard Sherman and offensive tackle Joe Staley.

There are a few top-notch cornerbacks who likely will be on the board when the 49ers pick, and Florida's C.J. Henderson or Alabama's Trevon Diggs would both be enticing picks. Most of the best defensive line standouts will be gone before the 49ers get there at 13. Still, edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson (LSU) and defensive lineman Neville Gallimore (Oklahoma) might be there at 13 and 31, respectively. Both would fit the 49ers' needs well.

With so much wide receiver talent in this draft class, however, it would be a huge mistake for the team to exit the first round not having picked up a quality wideout. Henry Ruggs (Alabama) could be available at 13, and Tee Higgins (Clemson) might linger at 31. Ruggs is fast and Higgins is big; either could boost the team's pass-game arsenal.

The team's offensive line gaps could be better addressed in a free agent or trade scenario outside the draft, so don't anticipate the 49ers burning a first-round pick there, though there's an outside chance they move in to grab Louisville's Mekhi Becton if he's on the board at 13.

Assuming the 49ers keep both of their first-round picks, look for the team to use Number 13 to get a top tier receiver and Number 31 on either a defensive lineman or cornerback.

Matt Holder

I think it all depends on how the team feels about Henry Ruggs III. There are a handful of rumors about teams trying to trade up to snag one of the top wide receivers, and it looks like the Raiders, and maybe the Jets, are destined to take a wideout. Presumably, that means CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy will be off the board by pick 13.

Ruggs is a good player, but he has a slightly limited route tree which raises some concerns about his status as a number one option. Given this and how deep the draft class is at wide receiver, Lynch and Shanahan could opt to target a cornerback like Kristian Fulton or interior pass rusher like Javon Kinlaw. Personally, I'd take Fulton because I think he's a great scheme fit and there should be plenty of options on the other side of the ball with the 31st selection.

The other side of the argument is Shanahan's system doesn't necessarily require a "number one receiver" because he's able to scheme people open, and Ruggs' speed is too good to pass up. Also, the Alabama product can play on the outside and would be a good complement to Deebo Samuel. At the end of the day, San Francisco's decision makers will have to decide if they can gamble and find another receiver later in the round or take the bird in the hand with the speed demon.

Matt Andruscavage

There is a strong possibility the 49ers would want to trade down in both of their first-round picks, but it would require the right partners and the right prospects to be available.

At number 13, San Francisco is in a prime spot to grab one of the elite receivers, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and CeeDee Lamb. If there is a run on these receivers, Denver could be a good trade partner to acquire more picks and move back only two spots. At number 15, Justin Jefferson would be available and could be a good fit. If there is no trade partner, CeeDee Lamb would be a great player to pair with Deebo Samuel.

The other draft pick seems likely to be traded away for more picks. I have to believe that unless Javon Kinlaw were to miraculously fall here, which he won't, cornerback would be the position of choice for either this pick or early in the second round. A.J. Terrell or Jaylon Johnson would be the best available prospects. Johnson might fit the 49ers' scheme a little better, but depending on trade possibilities, both of these prospects could be available early in the second round.

Erik Utter

Stay put and draft a player at No. 13, trade back from No. 31. While the 49ers obviously would like more draft capital, as they don't have a pick in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th rounds this draft, they are in a position to add an elite talent at a position of need at pick No. 13. Super Bowl-caliber teams typically don't have an opportunity to draft this high. Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw are far and away the best defensive interior line prospects in this draft, disruptive interior players with pass-rushing ability, and one or both may be available at 13 if the 49ers want to draft a Buckner replacement; neither will be available at 31. They can also grab one of the elite tackle prospects at No. 13, Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills, or Mekhi Becton, to prepare for life without Joe Staley, whenever that may come. Receiver and corner are also positions of need, receiver more acutely than corner, but those positions are incredibly deep in this draft, and I don't see the value in drafting one in the top 15 compared to who you could get in the 2nd or 3rd round by trading down from No. 31.

Bret Rumbeck

History will look back kindly on the offseason moves the San Francisco 49ers made to prepare for the 2020 NFL season. As much as it hurt to lose defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, obtaining the 13th overall selection in the 2020 draft will pay off in spades.

The 49ers' offensive line continues to be a piecemeal unit, and as much as I want them to take tackle Tristan Wirfs, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will end up with wide receiver Henry Ruggs, III from the University of Alabama. He is the legitimate intermediate and deep threat the 49ers' offense has been missing.

I would not be surprised to see Lynch trade the 31st pick to drop into the second round. Here would be an ideal spot to choose guard Jonah Jackson from the Ohio State University or take a gamble on guard Netane Muti out of Fresno State.

Justin Wong

With two first-round picks and not much else after that, it's important the 49ers play their cards right.

The way I see it, there is a drop off in talent after the top-15 players in this draft class. The 49ers should stand firm at the 13th overall pick and take one of these blue-chip prospects. In particular, the top tackles and wide receivers merit serious consideration at this spot. They should sit back and see if a player such as Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs or Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy falls out of the top-10.

As for their later first-round pick, this would be your classic trade down scenario. Teams are always vying to trade back into the first round for a quarterback because of the fifth-year option attached to first-round rookie contracts. It would be a win-win scenario if the 49ers trade down into the second round and pick up more draft capital. The 49ers are still looking to upgrade their depth at cornerback, defensive line, and tight end.

Jason Aponte

Pick at 13:

I fully expect both Jerry Jeudy and Ceedee Lamb to go two picks in front of 13. The Jets select Jeudy, and the Raiders select Lamb, leaving the player I'm most excited about at 13. Come on down, Henry Ruggs III. While it's true that he doesn't profile as a number one receiver size-wise and I agree with that assessment, for me, it comes down to scheme fit and impact on the 49ers offense. Ruggs can offer a vertical threat that the team sorely needs and is a good blocker. This is truly a case of choosing a better fit for the team. One thing people forget is Ruggs is a good fit for the culture of the locker room. A good kid with a good head on his shoulders. Running a 4.27 40 is also pretty good, many routes he ran at Alabama are all staples of Kyle Shanahan's offense. Choosing a wide receiver in the first round would be entirely out of character for this regime as it has addressed both sides of the line in each draft, but Ruggs is the home run pick at 13. Deebo, Kittle, Ruggs, and this rushing attack? Look out NFL.

Pick at 31:

Pick 31 gets a bit tricky as I expect the team to wheel and deal during this draft. This pick feels like the most likely to be traded to acquire more draft capital and shore up some other positional concerns. Offensive and defensive lines are likely to be addressed in this draft with the eventual retirement of Joe Staley and the departure of DeForest Buckner. My prediction for this pick is it's traded, but that does that include Matt Breida in the deal? One team I can envision trading into the first round is the Tampa (Tompa?) Bay Buccaneers, who have a need at running back. Acquiring more capital raises the teams' chances of hitting on contributors sooner than later. If the team sticks at 31, I would not be opposed to taking someone like Ezra Cleveland if he's available.

Terence O'Leary

I really think that Alabama WR, Henry Ruggs III, is someone Kyle Shanahan has rated very near the top of his draft board. We know that Shanahan places a premium on speed, and speed is Ruggs' calling card. Ruggs is scary fast. There is a smoothness to his sprint mechanics, even at top speed, that you just don't see every day or in every draft class. The guy is simply in an uber-elite percentile of athleticism, a fact borne out by his 10.25-inch hands (91st percentile), 42-inch vertical jump, 4.27 40-yard dash time, and 131-inch broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine, all adding up to a 99th percentile Adjusted SPARQ score (via Rotoworld).

Flick on his Alabama highlights, and you see a guy casually pulling away from SEC defensive backs like it's high school tape. You'll also find a guy with good contact courage for a 5'11, 188-pound wideout, as well as someone who gives great effort in run blocking, showing his team-first mentality. Maryland Head Coach Michael Locksley, Ruggs' Wide Receivers Coach for two years at Alabama, recently praised Ruggs' unselfishness and work ethic (among other things) in an interview with 49ers beat writer, Matt Maiocco. Put on any interview with Ruggs, and you'll find him to be humble, intelligent, confident, and likable. In short, the guy has 49ers written all over him.

Critics will point to a lack of ideal size and the fact that he wasn't the top option at Alabama. I forgot to mention, by the way, in regards to his hands, that Ruggs had only one drop all of last year, on his way to 86 catches, nearly 1,500 yards (17 yards per catch), and 19 touchdowns over his last two years at Alabama. Ruggs is a smaller player, but 5'11, 188 pounds, isn't terribly small, either. Need I remind 49ers fans that the greatest WR of all time was 6'0, 200 pounds? Ruggs plays bigger than he is, with his eye-popping vertical and great hands, as well as the toughness that you really like to see from a wideout. As far as the perceived lack of production, I think the concern is overblown. Wideout is an incredibly dependent position, and Ruggs was playing on a dominant Alabama team, with a glut of playmakers, that was often ahead by multiple scores in the second half of games, which was a mitigating factor in Ruggs' college statistics.

In short, you have to look not just at what a player isn't, or what he didn't do. You have to be able to look at what he did, and who he is, and project forward, what he might be able to do for you. I think Kyle Shanahan will be able to see that, under his capable tutelage and system, Ruggs is a player who could legitimately become one of the most dangerous wideouts in the NFL. He might not be a guy who'll consistently soak up 85 or 100 catches a season, but what he will do is add a vital element to the 49ers offense: a scary-fast, explosive game-breaker who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. A player like that has a huge impact on how opposing teams have to defend the 49ers, which Shanahan will be able to exploit with our other playmakers. Ruggs is by far my favorite option for San Francisco at 13, if he's even still available at that point.

If not Ruggs, I like his Alabama teammate Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma wideout CeeDee Lamb a lot as well, and I wouldn't be mad at one of the top offensive tackle prospects. We really don't have a great number of glaring needs right now, as you might expect for a team coming off a 15-4 record and a Super Bowl appearance. We've also done remarkably well with late-round picks and rookie undrafted free agents under the Lynch/Shanahan regime—which is why I think it makes sense to stay put at 13, especially if Ruggs, Lamb, or Jeudy is available. If somehow all three of them are gone, I think we're more likely to look at our trade options, and if we do trade back from 13, it would obviously change which players they'd be looking at. Similarly, by the time our scheduled 31st pick comes around, it's impossible to say right now exactly what their board is going to look like with regard to who is still available and how highly Kyle and John Lynch and our scouting department have those players rated. But I think a trade down from 31 is more likely, to pick up more mid-round selections, as many articles have already elaborated on.

Chris Wilson

Given the 49ers' lack of draft picks in the middle rounds, there is little chance San Francisco stands pat with their two first-round selections in this week's NFL Draft. The post-combine consensus is the Niners will trade their second first-rounder for additional draft capital and use pick No. 13 to select one of the three top wide receivers in the draft — Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, or Henry Ruggs. I agree San Francisco will need to deal one — or both — of their early draft picks to fill the team's three-round void after the first round, and the 49ers need to draft a receiver to replace departed WR Emmanuel Sanders. However, I'm not sold on any of the three top wideouts, and John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan can't afford — financially or otherwise — to draft another first-round bust.

The 2020 NFL Draft appears to boast a bevy of talent at the wide receiver position, but it lacks a slam-dunk prospect. Jeudy and Lamb have the college productivity expected from a potential top draftee, but neither player is an exceptional athlete. Meanwhile, Ruggs demonstrated his elite athleticism at the combine, but was the third receiving option in a potent Alabama offense. The "competition at the position" argument, as well as the fact Ruggs is a Shanahan-style wideout, both have merit. However, wide receivers lacking significant college productivity usually have uninspiring NFL careers. With Ruggs, the risks seem to outweigh any potential rewards.

The 49ers would be wise to avoid drafting a receiver with pick No. 13, and instead, trade back for additional draft capital or select a player who slipped through the cracks during the first 12 picks. And don't be surprised if San Francisco makes another first-round move or two if their targeted draftees aren't on the board. Although an unlimited number of potential outcomes remain, I give the Niners a 50 percent chance of ending Thursday with just one draft selection.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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