49ers 2020 Draft: More Questions Than Answers

Gilbert Brink
Apr 26, 2020 at 7:49 AM0


A lot changes in 3 days. Heading into the 2020 draft the 49ers seemed poised to scoop up one of the top 3 WRs with their #13 pick and then the trade-down bonanza was set to commence. Wrong. What followed was nothing short of stunning, as the next 3 days would turn the franchise upside down and leave the landscape drastically altered. I gained 2 significant takeaways from these past 3 days: the 49ers are all in for Super Bowl 55 and those moves left a lot more questions than answers.

Foundational Javon Kinlaw


Prior to the 2020 draft the 49ers spoke of 6 foundational players in this draft class. There was speculation on who these players were and on Thursday night the world found out that 1 of them was DT Javon Kinlaw. When the 49ers traded away DT DeForest Buckner a hole was left in the team's strongest unit. Reserve defensive linemen Ronald Blair, D.J. Jones and Solomon Thomas were to be tasked to try and supplant the production lost due to Buckner's absence.

GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were not content with merely attempting to fill the gap in the line and were fully committed to keeping the defensive line as ferocious as it was in 2019. By selecting Kinlaw at 13, the 49ers prioritized defensive pressure from the front 4 over any other perceived need. The 6'4 324 lb DT out of South Carolina earned a draft grade of 6.50 by NFL.com and was described as a "boom or bust" prospect. How could he end up being a bust? There are concerns about knee tendinitis, technique issues and a lack of consistency. The 49ers clearly see more boom than bust, and if they're right they will continue to field the scariest defensive line in football.

Aiyuk over Juedy, Lamb & the Field


While the 49ers passed on a WR at 13 to select DT Javon Kinlaw, the need for a WR was still present. Unbeknownst to all, the 49ers prize possession and #1 rated wide receiver was still waiting for that phone call when the 49ers traded up to #25 in the first round. Arizona St. WR Brandon Aiyuk was the man who head coach Kyle Shanahan coveted more than all to fill the hole left by the departure of WR Emmanuel Sanders. Shanahan gushed over Aiyuk, "I loved Aiyuk...he can run every single route and he can do it outside the numbers and he can do it inside the numbers...He's got the speed to get on top. He's got the quickness, to play in the slot. He's got the toughness to go over in the middle. And the guy is just completely committed to me in to being as good as God ever intended him to be." A key trait that the 49ers value from their WRs is versatility.

Versatility is something the 49ers fall for, and when Kyle Shanahan falls for a player, he falls hard. In 2018, he fell hard for WR Dante Pettis. That didn't work out so well. In 2019, he became infatuated with WR Deebo Samuel. That was a brilliant pick. Will Brandon Aiyuk be the player who Shanahan hoped Pettis would become? Only time will tell, but the 49ers paid a heavy price (surrendering 4th and 5th-round picks) to move up to land Shanahan's 2020 draft crush. If Aiyuk is what Shanahan lauds him to be, the 49ers can evolve into an unstoppable air attack offense.

Trimming the Fat


It has become apparent that the 49ers are in need of some cap management, and after a sleepy day 2, GM John Lynch jumped right to it on day 3. Days prior to the draft there were reports circulating that the 49ers were willing to trade a slew of veteran players in an effort to gain some cap relief and mid-round picks. On day 3 fan favorite RB Matt Breida was dealt to the Miami Dolphins for a 5th-round pick. Breida played a big role in the 49ers offense for the last 3 years, but seemingly fell out of favor with Kyle Shanahan in 2019 and saw that role greatly diminish with the ascension of RB Raheem Mostert and the presence of Shanahan favorite RB Tevin Coleman. Miami gained a very good player, and the 49ers gained a mid-round pick (used on T Colton McKivitz) and some much needed cap relief.

It was no shock that the 49ers were able to deal RB Matt Breida and most fans didn't want to see him go in the first place. The same cannot be said for WR Marquise Goodwin. It was incredible that Lynch found a trade partner for this diminished wide receiver. At one point Goodwin looked to be a future star, amassing nearly 1,000 yards in 2017 and creating a strong connection with then new arrival, QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Following that season the 49ers gave Goodwin a contract extension and it has been downhill ever since. Goodwin struggled to find the production levels he reached in 2017, and injuries and ineffectiveness carried him off the active roster often in 2019. Somehow, John Lynch was able to deal away Goodwin, his contract and a 6th round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for their 6th round pick. Fantastic work by the front office.

With those 2 trades completed, what about the rumors swirling around other 49ers veterans like DE Dee Ford, LB Kwon Alexander and S Jaquiski Tartt? There was no movement with these 3 during the draft process, but the questions still surround their long-term status going into the future.

Hello Trent Williams, Goodbye Joe Staley


Before the 49ers traded Breida & Goodwin, they made one other trade earlier in the morning. The 49ers landed LT Trent Williams for a 2020 5th-round pick and a 2021 3rd-round pick. Before we go any further, this was a tremendous move. Though Williams' production had decreased over his last few seasons, he sat out 2019, and in 2020 he will begin fresh with the San Francisco 49ers and his old offensive coordinator and new head coach, Kyle Shanahan. Sadly, his arrival made one thing obvious.

Thank you for everything, LT Joe Staley. The man who 49ers fans connect closest to over the last 13 years will no longer be protecting the blindside of the 49ers QB on Sundays. As this team would rise and fall, Staley was there for all of it, just as the fans were. From Mike Nolan to Kyle Shanahan and every coach and coordinator in between, Joe was there. Words can only say so much, and so many have already said it so well. All I will say, once again, is thank you Joe Staley.

McKivitz, Woerner & Jennings


With the dust settling from all the wheeling and dealing, the 49ers made 3 selections on day 3. Interestingly enough, all of the selections came on offense. LT Colton McKivitz from West Virginia was a player the 49ers targeted as the backup plan if the Trent Williams trade fell through. It's encouraging that the 49ers planned for the future here, with LT Williams only having one year left on his deal. The 49ers will have options if Williams leaves in 2021 and McKivitz will be one of them.

Word had spread that the 49ers were in the market for a tight end for quite some time. In the 6th round the 49ers selected TE Charlie Woerner from Georgia. The 49ers hope he will be able to compete with TE Ross Dwelley to ease the load of superstar TE George Kittle.

WR Juaun Jennings from Tennessee may be the most interesting of all the day 3 picks. Pro Football Focus had him graded at the 69th best player in all of college football in 2019. For the price of a 7th round pick, this sounds like the 49ers may have found a real steal here in Jennings. According to PFF "No receiver broke more tackles after the catch than Jennings in 2019...he broke the PFF record by breaking a tackle on 50.8% of his catches." Wide receivers setting records for broken tackles? Sounds like a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan's offense.

No Defensive Backs? Really?


Richard Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley, Ahkello Witherspoon, K'Waun Williams and Jaquiski Tartt. What do these 5 49ers have in common? They're all defensive backs and not a single one of them is under contract beyond the 2020 season. With this knowledge, the 49ers didn't select a single defensive back. Unless the 49ers expect newly extended S Jimmie Ward to play all 5 defensive back positions, the 49ers will need to come up with some answers for the secondary in 2021. It's clear the 49ers were going all in for 2020, but it's hard to fathom any semblance of a plan the 49ers have for their secondary beyond this season.

Super Bowl or Bust


Now that the 2020 offseason has really taken off, it's clear where these 49ers intend to go. The goal is Super Bowl 55, and while that should always be the goal for any team, the 49ers' moves have made it apparent that they feel the championship is still very much in reach. The gaps made in March have been filled in April through trades and draft prospects. A 49ers legend has walked off into the sunset, and an old friend from Shanahan's past has pulled up a seat at the bar. Hopes are high, and the 49ers believe they have gotten the men they needed to walk away from football next February with a smile on their face and another trophy in their case.
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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