General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan could see everything they needed to know about Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk’s talent from watching him on film.
But Lynch and Shanahan also had to know about Aiyuk as a person to solidify his grade as a first-round choice on the 49ers’ draft board.
Luckily, all Lynch had to do was reach out to one of his closest friends to find out more about Aiyuk -- the man who coached him the past two seasons.
Arizona State coach Herm Edwards was assistant head coach/defensive backs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996 to 2000 before taking over as New York Jets head coach.
Lynch, a safety from Stanford, was in his fourth NFL season when Edwards joined the Buccaneers coaching staff.
“From 1996 to present, we’ve had a close ties to the Lynch family,” Edwards told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We have a unique bond.”
Edwards and Lynch went from sharing a coach-player relationship to becoming devoted friends. They are God parents to each other’s children, Marcus Edwards and Leah Lynch.
So when Edwards gave Lynch a strong character referral for Aiyuk, the only question was whether the 49ers would be in a position to make the selection.
The 49ers acquired a fourth-round draft pick to move back one spot from No 13 to No. 14, where they selected South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
Then, the 49ers traded up from No. 31 to No. 25, using the same fourth-round pick acquired more than an hour earlier, to add Aiyuk to their team.
Lynch, whom the Pro Football Writers of American named as the NFL Executive of the Year last season, has made a quick and successful transition to the front office after being a nine-time Pro Bowl safety. Lynch is a seven-time finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Edwards said he sees the same qualities in Lynch as a general manager that he witnessed while he coached him two decades ago.
“He understood the game, but he also understood what it would take to build a football team,” Edwards said. “He was there in the construction year of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when we built that team from the ground up.
“John was one of the pillars of that. So he saw a team that didn’t win a lot, all of a sudden, come from the ashes and became a pretty dominant team in football.”