The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft for the San Francisco 49ers burst into life following the trade of long-time servant DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the 13th overall pick. Heading into the first round, the 49ers had pressing needs at wide receiver, cornerback and tackle.
All three of the ‘big 3’ wide receivers, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, were mocked heavily to the 49ers. There was also a ton of buzz surrounding C.J. Henderson, the CB out of Florida, being selected by Lynch and Shanahan.
In the end, the 49ers decided to resist temptation and stick to the formula that made them NFC Champions in 2019. After trading back one spot with Tampa Bay to pick #14, the Niners selected Javon Kinlaw out of University of South Carolina.
Kinlaw possesses impressive measurables from the interior defensive line position – 6’5, 324lbs – and has both the ability to stuff the run and rush the passer from the middle of the d-line, a must-have in a modern-day DT. Kinlaw will surely be a success with the 49ers purely based on the sense that he is surrounded by talent which will lighten the load.
The pick clearly comes a reaction to losing DeForest Buckner in the off-season. The method of acquiring elite talent along the defensive line was clearly apparent last season when the 49ers had, arguably, the best defence in football. A defence centred around 5 former first-round picks at d-line.
Following the smart, astute, yet not-exciting, selection, there was still an emphasis on the Niners to go after either a corner or a receiver. Passing up on both Lamb and Jeudy was a tough pill to swallow for a lot of Niners fans. Jeudy and Lamb were quickly snapped up by the Broncos and the Cowboys, this coming after Ruggs was the first receiver off the board – heading to Las Vegas.
However, with what many consider the premier talent to be off the board, the 49ers still managed, after trading up to pick #23, to obtain what was Kyle Shanahan’s number one receiver in the entire class – Daniel Aiyuk out of Sierra College.
Aiyuk is the perfect match for this Kyle Shanahan offence in San Francisco. Agile, fast and boasting an incredibly 81” inch wingspan, Aiyuk is an all-around YAC (yards after catch) monster. Conjuring comparisons of a young Pierre Garcon, a player Shanahan brought to SF in his first season, Aiyuk also elicits comparisons to Emmanuel Sanders – the veteran wideout who SF lost this past offseason.
The disappointment of not securing the flashy pick of CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy aside, the first round was a resounding success for the 49ers. GM John Lynch resisted the temptation and decided to replace two valuable lost assets, Buckner and Sanders, with younger, cheaper prospects.
The Super Bowl window period can be a tricky one to navigate. An abundance of talent and a lack of draft capital can leave a team in a bind once the window closes. Just look at the L.A. Rams following their defeat in Super Bowl LIII. Shanahan and Lynch appear to be well aware of this potential issue and the Niners look to be strong contenders once again after a smart first round.