Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports


Niners’ 2020 Draft Weekend Shows How Far Things Have Come Since Baalke

Apr 25, 2020 at 10:30 AM


I need to start this off with a disclaimer: I am writing this with absolutely zero sources or input from anyone in the 49er organization. It is pure, unadulterated speculation on my part. However, if you follow my logic, I believe that my reasoning and conclusions are sound. Ok, now let's get on with it.

The 49ers showed this weekend that their front office is perhaps the smartest and most forward-thinking in the league. I say this during the morning of Saturday, April 25, 2020. The Niners have just announced a trade for Trent Williams, the 7-time Pro Bowl left tackle formerly of the Washington Redskins, but whose relationship soured when the team grossly mismanaged a medical issue that he had. On a personal note, my heart is heavy because this almost surely means that Joe Staley, one of my all-time favorite players, is retiring. If I am correct in this belief, thanks, Joe, for years of incredible play and for being about the best Niner ever.

But how does this mean that the Niners are so brilliant in the front office? Let me set it out for you.

On Friday, the Niners sat at pick number 13, one ahead of the Tampa Bay Bucs. They could have chosen Tristan Wirfs, the tackle out of Idaho. Wirfs is a freak of nature, with huge upside, but he has played right tackle primarily and has a lot of growth ahead of him before he can be called anything like a good left tackle. The Niners did not, but rather traded that pick to allow the Bucs to move to 13 and draft Wirfs. The Niners then selected Javon Kinlaw, the projected replacement for DeForest Buckner. They absolutely loved Kinlaw, as do I after hearing him speak and watching his tape, and he filled an immediate and glaring need, specifically to keep their defensive front dominant. That was a primary factor in their success last season, and it looks at this point that they could dominate again. The Niners also picked up a fourth-round pick from the Bucs, which they then packaged with their 31st pick of the first round to send to the Vikings for their pick, number 25, which they used to take Brandon Aiyuk, the receiver from Arizona State whom they liked as much as CeeDee Lamb. That means that the Niners got two players to help them immediately and to give them at least a chance to compete for the Super Bowl again next season.

But these were not even close to their best moves.

Yesterday, word got out that there were two NFC teams, the Vikings and the Niners, who were nosing around a deal for Trent Williams. The tweet that spilled those particular beans was deleted, causing much confusion. It was later learned that the Vikings had tried to make a deal, but Williams nixed it. That means that there was ostensibly only one team that was in play for Williams - the Niners. But when did the Niners know this and when did they know that they would need a left tackle? Let's look back at their moves in the first round.

The Niners wanted both Kinlaw and Aiyuk. That much was obvious from the reactions of Lynch and Shanahan when they swung those two picks. But had they known that they needed a tackle, wouldn't they have done the safe thing and drafted one? I mean, there was one right there. All they had to do was call it in. However, if they knew that Staley had decided to hang it up (again, it just kills me to type that), and they also knew that Williams was not going to agree to the Vikings trade, they knew that they were in a great position to make the deal themselves and likely maintain excellence at the left tackle spot. It appears from their actions that this was exactly the case. The Niners didn't let anyone know what was going on, mind you, something that is pretty tough in this day and age, but also something that ShanaLynch has managed pretty well since taking over. They convinced the Bucs that trading up one spot was something they had to do, and got a pick that they were able to immediately use to their benefit. They picked Kinlaw, who no one expected them to take, and then they used that Bucs pick to get their coveted receiver, who no one knew they had any interest in. Lynch had used his friendship with Herm Edwards, the coach of the ASU Sun Devils, to obtain information on the absolute down low. I imagine them having one of their weekly chats (they are each godparents to the other's child), and quietly discussing Aiyuk, telling no one else (except for Shanahan, who was high fiving the air when the pick was made). I can not imagine the tension they felt while waiting for all of this to come to pass, so much out of their control, trusting that things would work out, and showing absolutely no sign of the excitement and concern they had to have been feeling.

They made the deals, and the picks, and everyone expected them to somehow move back into the second day to address the needs they have, like interior offensive line and cornerback. But they had other issues, like filling Staley's enormous shoes. They had to have known that they were just about the only players in the Williams trade sweepstakes, and knew that the Redskins almost had to make a deal. Williams is in the last year of his deal, and sat out last season, so the Redskins knew that he would absolutely do it again. They wanted some return for Williams, and I guarantee you that Daniel Snyder, who despises both Kyle and his father, had no desire to make any kind of trade. This was why the Niners had to offer what they did, this year's fifth-round pick and next year's third. Still, giving that for a perennial Pro Bowl left tackle is an absolute steal. They managed to do all of these things without anyone knowing what was going on. They managed to reload and put the team in a position to have another crack at the Lombardi, and did so without pulling a Rams move and ruining the team's future. Williams will cost a lot to extend, but he should cost around what Staley would have, so they didn't overextend themselves for getting deals done for Kittle, Warner, and other critical foundational players.

The Niners were absolutely brilliant this weekend. They have given the fans reason for hope and confidence, and the future remains as bright as it could possibly be. We are truly fortunate to have this administration. I, for one, can not express how grateful and excited I am for the upcoming season.
  • Written by:
    Matt Mani is a lifelong Bay Area resident, having benefitted from attending every Niner home game from 1973 to 1998. Along the way, he developed a deep love of the game and for the team. He is a practicing attorney in Marin County and, aside from pulling hard for the Niners, Warriors and GIants, writes in his spare time. He is father to three sons who all bleed red and gold. He somehow convinced the editors at 49ers Webzone to give him a chance to prove himself as a content provider, which has fulfilled one of his life's dreams.
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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