49ers

49ers 'ecstatic' with first-day haul in the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers 'ecstatic' with first-day haul in the 2017 NFL Draft

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers began Thursday with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

When his first day as 49ers general manager reached its conclusion, John Lynch had selected two of the three top players on his draft board and picked up additional third-round picks for this year and next year.

After Myles Garrett, the 49ers’ top-rated prospect, was the Cleveland Browns’ selection at No. 1 overall, the 49ers traded back one spot with the Chicago Bears. The 49ers still got their No. 2-rated prospect, Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

The 49ers started making calls to teams with selections in the teens, according to coach Kyle Shanahan, to inquire about trading up for Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. The 49ers finally worked out a deal with the Seattle Seahawks to move up three spots to No. 31.

The 49ers selected Foster one spot ahead of the New Orleans Saints, who were apparently ready to select Foster with the No. 32 pick.

Said Lynch, "Reuben thought that because we were at 34, we made a trade at the end with Seattle and when I was talking to him, he said, ‘Coach, New Orleans is taking me.' And I said, ‘No, we’re taking you.’ It was hard because it happened late in the process and so, he was really excited when he found out that we had pulled off that trade and we were certainly very excited.”

And all the 49ers gave up to make the necessary move was a fourth-round pick acquired from the Bears earlier in the day.

The 49ers got everything the could have ever wanted from Day 1 of the draft.

“In terms of how we rated them, we got two of our top three players,” Lynch said. “We’re thrilled. We’re ecstatic. I think these guys have traits that encompass what we want to be about as a football organization.”

Lynch said he began speaking with Bears general manager Ryan Pace more than a week ago. Because the 49ers had picks scheduled next to the Bears in every round, Pace suggested to Lynch that the two teams should be willing to work with each other throughout the draft.

The 49ers had other offers for the No. 2 pick, Lynch said. A source told NBC Sports Bay Area just prior to the start of the draft that the 49ers had fielded three solid offers.

The team’s chief strategy officer Paraag Marathe worked out the details to finalize the trade with the Bears.

The 49ers did not know which player the Bears were targeting at No. 2, but Shanahan voiced his opinion while the trade was going down.

“This guy is a pretty bright,” Lynch said of Shanahan. “He said, ‘That’s not for a defensive lineman. That’s for a quarterback.’ And he was right.”

The Bears made the trade to select North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick. In order for the Bears to trade up one spot, they delivered the 49ers a third-round pick (No. 67), a fourth-round pick (No. 111) and a third-round pick next year.

Jacksonville executive Tom Coughlin, whose team held the No. 4 pick, watched and admired the 49ers' move from afar. 

"To get what you had in mind right off the bat and pick up those extra picks? Pretty nice deal," Coughlin told Jacksonville reporters. "I’ve never seen one of those. . . Oh, my gosh. Nothing like that has ever come my way.”

When asked if the 49ers would have selected Foster if the Bears selected Thomas, Lynch said, “Perhaps. It was very likely.”

Instead, the 49ers waited and waited and waited before finding a trade partner in an unlikely place. The 49ers made a deal with Seattle, giving up the 111th pick obtained from Chicago, to select Foster before the Saints had a chance.

“He’s my kind of player,” Lynch said of Foster. “He plays sideline to sideline, and he’ll hit anything that moves. I think that’s contagious for teammates.”

Foster is recovering from shoulder surgery and his stock was negatively affected by character concerns. He was sent home from the NFL scouting combine after an argument with a hospital worker during his medical check. He also had a positive drug test due to a diluted urine sample.

Lynch spent a lot of time with Foster during his visit to Santa Clara, as well as a meeting him at the combine. Both Lynch and Shanahan spoke regularly with Foster on the phone and on FaceTime in the past few weeks.

The 49ers also dispatched vice president of football affairs Keena Turner and team chaplain Earl Smith to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to meet with Foster for two days. The team will have a plan in place to help guide Foster as he transitions to professional football, Lynch said.

“I would tell you that his character is what drew us to him,” Lynch said. “When you start talking football with this young man, he lights up a room. He’s a good kid. I believe in the kid. I think he’ll be a great player for this organization for a long time.”

Jordan Matthews may be the answer to 49ers' red zone problems

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USATSI

Jordan Matthews may be the answer to 49ers' red zone problems

Newly-signed wide receiver Jordan Matthews could be the red-zone threat that the 49ers have desperately needed.

In 2018, the 49ers were worst in the NFL in red zone efficiency in terms of scoring touchdowns. They only managed to hit pay dirt from inside the 20-yard line 41.18 percent of the time. For perspective, the Steelers topped the list, scoring a touchdown 73.47 percent of their trips in the red zone. 

The 49ers weren’t much better in 2017. They scored a touchdown 47.06 percent of the times they visited the red zone which ranked them 27th in the league. 

Matthews might just be the answer to the 49ers' problem. Of his 22 career touchdowns, 16 have been from the red zone. What is noticeable when looking all of his scoring plays is how easy he makes it look.

One argument for Matthews’ red zone production could be scheme, but he’s been productive in both Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson’s offenses. Matthews is also an equal opportunity receiver, as he has caught touchdown passes from Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, and Mark Sanchez. 

Obviously credit needs to be given the above listed quarterbacks for making the throws, but Matthews has some traits that make him effective in a shortened field. 

He gets open

When Matthews runs a route, he knows how to position himself so he stays in front of the defender. While sometimes it involves a little boxing out and contact, most of the time it’s as simple as out-maneuvering his body so he is an open target. 

Example: Week 13, 2018
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Matthews runs a simple dig route along the goal line and keeps himself between the defender and the quarterback. Wentz throws a quick four-yard pass on what looks like his first read for an easy touchdown.  

He’s fast enough to beat a defender

Matthews has the ability to use his body, but also has enough speed to flat out get open. Matthews ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and being 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, it’s likely that opponents forget about his speed. 

Example: Week 4, 2017
Buffalo vs. Atlanta 

Midway through the second quarter Matthews runs a nine-yard slant from the right to the left. He gets so far in front of the defender that Taylor has an easy throw for the touchdown. 

He can grab a jump ball

Matthews is a big bodied receiver, more so than anyone else in the receivers room. His size alone will gives him an advantage in jump ball situations. 

Example: Week 3, 2014
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Just before the half ended, Matthews ran a go route to the back of the end zone. He was double covered but got up above the defenders enough to grab Foles' 11-yard pass for the touchdown.

[RELATED: Matthews a lifelong 49ers fan]

He is difficult for defensive backs to read and follow 

Example Week 2, 2015 
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Matthews runs an out route on the goal line with less than three minutes left in the game. Before he changes direction in front of the defender, he makes slight contact enough to delay their motion, allowing him to get in front for the completion and touchdown. 

Matthews ability to change direction quickly might be his most impressive and valuable quality. Many of his touchdowns were when he nearly ran straight into a defender before turning in his route. It doesn’t give the defensive back time to react before the ball is thrown his way.

Matthews has quite a few tricks in his repertoire and coach Kyle Shanahan will be taking advantage of each of them on the field.

NFL draft prospect Josh Allen has visits scheduled with 49ers, Raiders

NFL draft prospect Josh Allen has visits scheduled with 49ers, Raiders

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen will get familiar with the Bay Area during the NFL's pre-draft process.

Allen, the national defensive player of the year after recording 17 sacks as a senior, told NBC Sports Bay Area on Friday he has visits scheduled to meet with the 49ers and Raiders. He will also visit the New York Giants, New York Jets and Detroit Lions prior to the April 25 draft, he said.

Allen should not have to wait too long to hear his name called on draft day. Both the 49ers, at No. 2 overall, and the Raiders, at No. 4, are possibilities to select him. Area scout Steve Rubio represented the 49ers at Kentucky's pro day.

On Thursday, Allen had dinner with the Raiders, including general manager Mike Mayock and senior defensive assistant Jim O'Neil.

“It was good, just a casual meeting. We basically talked about life. He’s awesome, a cool person," Allen said of Mayock. "He's a football person and a business person. It was fun."

Matt Maiocco

O’Neil, who works with defensive backs, had plenty of players to scout on Friday. Kentucky has five defensive backs who might end up getting drafted.

Cornerback Lonnie Johnson and safety Mike Edwards could be Day 2 picks. Cornerback Derrick Baity Jr. and safety Darius West were also invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and could be Day 3 selections.

Another Kentucky defensive back, cornerback Chris Westry, had an impressive showing with a 40-yard dash time clocked in the 4:31-4.33 range. Westry, who stands 6 foot 4 ½, also had a vertical jump of 38 inches.

“Westry was the only DB not invited to the combine and he lights it up here today,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “That was really good for him. The other guys did a great job at the combine. He’ll have time to make that up with his measurables, how tall he is and how he runs. He’ll have plenty of time to make that ground up.”

Allen did not work out on Friday, opting to stand on the marks he recorded last month in Indianapolis. Allen was measured on Friday in the Kentucky weight room before the on-field workouts. His hand measured at 8 ¾ inches, while his arm is 32 7/8 inches with a wingspan of 81 ¾ inches.

Allen was a consensus All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He did not miss a game in his four-year college career.

[RELATED: Why Allen couldn't lie to Ronnie Lott meeting 49ers]

“Any time you’re looking at that high of a pick, people are looking at something to pick on. They’re going to see if there are any flaws,” Stoops said. “And I think you can ask anybody in this community, anybody in this organization and anybody in town that’s been around Josh, he’s the same. It's important to him.

“He’s a great player. If you like what you see on the football field, you’re going to love what you see in the locker room and what kind of person he is.”