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2020: The Draft That Decides the 49ers Future

Gilbert Brink
Apr 22, 2020 at 7:05 AM


In January I wrote that the 49ers were facing a must-win Super Bowl. Scroll through the comment section on Facebook for a variety of jabs towards the relevancy of the article, whether it be the title or the actual content, many thought the idea that the 49ers' window possibly closing was a laughable notion. Yet here we are, fresh off of trading franchise anchor DT DeForest Buckner with trade winds swirling around other key pieces of the 49ers roster. Whether it be big money LB Kwon Alexander, star pass rusher DE Dee Ford, S Jacquiski Tattt in his contract year, and even Shanahan favorite; RB Tevin Coleman.

In the fallout of the 49ers Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the main theme coming from the 49ers was a desire to "keep the band together" and make another run at the championship. That tune has changed dramatically. It has become apparent now, which was apparent prior to the Super Bowl. The 49ers roster is bloated with some bad contracts and players with one foot out the door. Nearly the entire secondary is on the final year of their contracts (Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, K'Waun Williams, Emmanuel Mosely, and Jacquiski Tartt to be exact).

Headlines this week, while alarming, are encouraging. John Lynch and the rest of the 49ers brain trust are working diligently to future proof the 49ers by looking to move one from certain players. As much as they would love to have had the same exact 53 players back to challenge for a Super Bowl trophy, they aren't allowing their hearts to cloud their minds. Players like Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander were great additions for a 4-12 team, they serve as the albatross of a Super Bowl contender. It may not feel good for 49ers fans to hear that, but this 49ers front office is looking to build sustainable excellence. To do so, immediate dividends may be sacrificed for perpetual progression.

Hence the importance of the 2020 draft class. If the 49ers have done one thing consistently well under the direction of the Shanahan/Lynch regime it would be successfully identifying late-round talent in the draft. While they have swung and missed on 1st round picks like DL Solomon Thomas and LB Rueben Foster, they have made magic with selections like TE George Kittle and LB Dre Greenlaw, both rising stars, both selected in the 5th round. To supplant the failure of degenerate LB Rueben Foster, the 49ers discovered an essential leader in LB Fred Warner in the 3rd round. Heading into Thursday's draft, the one area all 49ers fans should feel safe about is the 49ers' ability to find talent on all 3 days.

Within that last statement lies the 49ers biggest challenge. As of now, the 49ers don't have many selections in this draft (7 total); 2 coming in the first round, with the other 5 being in rounds 5-7. The last time the 49ers had 2 first-round selections Lynch and company made their 2 biggest mistakes of their era. Don't expect them to duplicate that blunder here. GM John Lynch has grown exponentially in his role and has earned the trust of the 49ers fanbase. Talk has been circulating that the 49ers are "Hoping" to trade down in round 1". This has been the worst kept secret of the off-season. The 49ers want more selections, and almost certainly will deal a first-round choice to garner more choices later in the draft.

As the immortal Kieth Edward Elam once spoke; "Nobody's invincible, no plan is foolproof/we all must meet our moment of truth." Here we are. After a devastating Super Bowl loss, with ambiguity and unease taking residence among the 49ers roster, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan face their moment of truth. These 49ers, as of this writing, can contend with any team in the NFL. This roster also has a clear expiration date.

This draft provides the 49ers with the opportunity to extend their championship window and establish the scarlet and gold as a perennial playoff powerhouse. In 2019 the 49ers fielded the #4 total offense and the #2 scoring offense in the NFL. Selecting at #13, the 49ers have the opportunity to take an offense that was prolific and mold it into one that is dominant. This draft class is touted as one that is bountiful with wide receiver talent. Many believe you can acquire a starting-caliber wide receiver in the 4th or even 5th round. San Francisco needs more than a starting-caliber wide receiver. Three players stand out amid this class of pass-catchers; Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb and Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. If the 49ers land one of these three players, Jimmy Garoppolo will be well-stocked with the weapons necessary to take the 49ers over the hump. This opportunity at 13 cannot be used for a LT Joe Staley replacement (some believe that man is already on the roster in Daniel Brunskill) or to fill the gap left by DT DeForest Buckner. The amount of money spent on the defensive line is astounding, and while a player on his rookie contract would be ideal, the 49ers can use players like Solomon Thomas, DJ Jones, and Ronald Blair to replace the production of Buckner. Patrick Mahomes was harassed in the Super Bowl, the defensive line dominated, and the 49ers still lost. Now is the time to get the firepower to put a team away, the 49ers must do that with their first selection at #13.

From there on, John Lynch must get on the phone, Zoom, Skype, AOL instant messenger, or whatever form of communication the NFL will rely on during this draft and make the calls throughout the league to acquire more selections. Possessing the #31 pick in the first round, the 49ers are dealing from a position of power. Often teams will trade up into the end of the first round to select a player to gain the perk of the optional 5 year deal of a 1st round contract, as opposed to the 4-year deals that come with picks in subsequent rounds. Here is where the 49ers can fill holes for the future, looking directly at the secondary and both offensive and defensive lines. John Lynch must be willing to move around via trades and acquire players who will contribute in 2021 and beyond.

If the 49ers are hoisting a Lombardi trophy over their heads sometime within the next 5 to 10 years, the moves they make now will be directly linked to that moment. So much is riding on these coming days. Enjoy it now, and look forward to the future.
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.


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