Heading into Thursday’s first round, the San Francisco 49ers held the 13th overall and 31st overall selections in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Unsurprisingly, they did not hold on to either of those picks. The 49ers made moves to select replacements for the two biggest losses during the offseason. Here’s how it went down.
As the draft ticker switched to pick 13, the 49ers secured a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. San Francisco sent the 13th and 245th overall selections to Tampa Bay in exchange for the 14th and 117th overall selections. The San Francisco used the 14th pick to select defensive tackle, Javon Kinlaw, out of the University of South Carolina. Kinlaw is a mountain of a man, standing at 6’5″ and weighing around 325 pounds. The trade with Tampa Bay reminded many of San Francisco’s move in 2017 where they moved back one spot with Chicago. On both occasions, the trade partner selected a player who did not seem to be on the radar of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan.
Kinlaw for Buckner
Kinlaw is the unquestioned replacement for the departed Deforest Buckner. San Francisco acquired the 13th overall selection from Indianapolis in exchange for Buckner. The Colts then signed their new defensive tackle to an extension worth $84 million over four years. Buckner enters the 2020 season in the final year of his rookie contract and is scheduled to earn just north of $12 million this season. By comparison, Kinlaw’s deal is also a four-year deal but with a fifth-year team option. Estimates have the 14th overall selection slated to make up to $20 million overall during his rookie contract. The 49ers saved themselves nearly $65 million over the next five seasons and got a younger player who could become equally effective on the field.
Not long after the end of the first-round, Kyle Shanahan shared his thoughts on why the 49ers invested their first selection on a defensive player rather than on a wide receiver, such as Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb. In short, he believes that offense can be created without the need for elite talent on that side of the football. However, he believes elite talent is needed on defense.
Summary line, via Shanahan:
"I think it's easier to manufacture it on offense. Not many people manufacture it on defense. That defense better be more talented than almost everyone they're going against." https://t.co/EY0O2yF7PN
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) April 24, 2020
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With this philosophy, it is easy to understand why the 49ers selected Kinlaw. During his senior year with the Gamecocks, Kinlaw was a dominant presence up the middle and saved his best game for a matchup against Alabama. Kinlaw jumps off the screen with his strength and ability to close the distance to the quarterback. At South Carolina, he saw a large number of snaps but never seemed to slow down. What makes the pick exciting is the situation he enters with the 49ers. Kinlaw will not be asked to do anything special. He’ll be asked to play to his strengths and feed off the energy from Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford.
Rather than sit and wait for the 31st pick to roll around, Lynch and co. decided to get aggressive and grab their wide receiver. The 49ers sent the 31st, 117th, and 176th overall selection to the Minnesota Vikings, in exchange for the 25th overall pick. San Francisco used the move to select Arizona State wide receiver, Brandon Aiyuk. The former Sun Devils star was a surprise selection for many who follow the 49ers. For much of the leadup to the draft, Aiyuk was considered among the second or third-tier wide receivers. However, it seems that he was high enough on San Francisco’s radar that the team felt it necessary to forgo their recently acquired fourth-round selection and part with one of their fifth-round selections, for Aiyuk.
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Big Play Guy
Brandon Aiyuk is a yards-after-catch monster. At Arizona State, he served as the primary deep threat but was also used on wide receiver and bubble screens. Aiyuk handled return duties as well for the Sun Devils and his shiftiness in space makes him a dangerous weapon for Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers. While not an expert route-runner, Aiyuk has the quickness to shake free of defenders and the long speed to run away from an entire defense. San Francisco found their deep threat to complement tight end George Kittle and rookie sensation Deebo Samuels. It will be fun to see how Shanahan uses his new shiny toy.
When Are We On?
With the decision to trade up to the 25th overall selection, the 49ers are now back to waiting for the fifth-round to make another pick in this draft. There has been increased chatter about possible trades involving wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Such a trade could get the 49ers back into the tail end of day two. It would be a surprise if San Francisco does not make a move as it would be a span of 131 spots until their next pick at 156.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. He also covered the Arizona Cardinals for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada