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49ers

The 49ers began the three-day NFL draft with six picks. But after a couple of Day 3 trades, general manager John Lynch and Co. came out of the weekend with three defensive players, four offensive players ... and a punter.

Yes, a punter.

We will refrain from posting letter grades in this space, as every selection gets an “incomplete” at this point. After all, the draft hits high marks -- the highest possible, in fact -- if the board used to assess the selections is the one the 49ers’ personnel department and coaches worked over the past few months to assemble.

But that doesn't mean we can’t assemble our own views and perspectives of the 49ers’ approach to this year’s draft. Here are of some the major takeaways from the 49ers' draft class of 2019:

Why Nick Bosa was ‘The Choice’

After the Arizona Cardinals went, as expected, with quarterback Kyler Murray with the top pick, the 49ers made the decision that also was widely expected.

 

One source told NBC Sports Bay Area that the 49ers expressed to Nick Bosa’s camp as early as the NFL Scouting Combine in February that he would be the pick. "The Choice" came down to Bosa and Quinnen Williams.

[RELATED: Veteran will judge Bosa on his merits]

The 49ers would have been pleased to add either player with the No. 2 overall selection. But Bosa got the clear nod because the team had a greater need at edge rusher, which also is a more impactful position.

“Ultimately we had those guys ranked extremely evenly,” Lynch said. “Then you kind of look at where your team has the biggest need, and while we would have been very happy with Quinnen, [but] Nick, we felt like that was a piece that we still could use, another edge guy.”

Best reaction to getting drafted

One year ago, the Seattle Seahawks selected Australian-born punter Michael Dickson in the fifth round of the draft. He became a defensive weapon with his remarkable 42.5-yard net average.

Mitch Wishnowsky, another Australian, was tops on the 49ers’ wish list to replace Bradley Pinion, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent. After trading back six spots near the top of the fourth round, the 49ers made the call -- much sooner than the Utah punter had anticipated.

“I was hoping it would be San Fran, and I think San Fran were about two picks away, and I got a call, and I was like, ‘You are kidding me?’ Unbelievable!” Wishnowsky said.

[RELATED: Wishnowsky's path to NFL unconventional]

The 49ers made Wishnowsky the highest-drafted punter since the Jacksonville Jaguars took Bryan Anger in the third round in 2012.

“Everyone knows he's the best punter in the draft, and when is he going to go, and you always want to take that as late as possible,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of Wishnowsky. “You'd love to do it in the seventh, but I promise you we wouldn't have gotten him if we tried to do it in the fifth. That's why the Patriots traded up to take the next guy [Stanford punter Jake Bailey] in the fifth.”

Most intriguing selection

One round after taking South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel, the 49ers doubled-down at wide receiver. Well, kind of.

In fact, that’s how Shanahan described Baylor’s Jalen Hurd, as “an NFL receiver, kind of.”

Hurd was a running back at Tennessee -- and a successful one, too. At 6-foot-5, he insisted on being listed at 6-4, because that extra inch just made him seem too big, and offered too big of a target for angry defensive players.

 

Hurd took a pounding as a running back, but then-Volunteers coach Butch Jones refused to grant his wish to switch positions. So Hurd switched schools. While Hurd was sitting out the season after transferring to Baylor, Tennessee canned Jones as coach in the middle of the season.

[RELATED: Why Hurd switched positions]

Shanahan loves the versatility that Hurd has to offer to his offense. Shanahan spoke like a mad scientist when detailing the possibilities that can evolve over the course of time as Hurd finds his niche, as well as his ideal playing weight.

“If he would have stayed a running back, I think he would have gotten drafted as an NFL running back,” Shanahan said. “He got drafted as an NFL receiver, kind of. I believe if he tried to play tight end, he would have gotten drafted as an NFL tight end.

“That’s a pretty unique thing to have. I don't remember being able to say that about any player I've studied before. So it's neat to be able to do that, and he can help us out in a lot of different ways.”

Why a hard pass on pass defenders?

In case you might have forgotten, there never has been a team in NFL history worse at coming up with interceptions than the 2018 San Francisco 49ers. In 16 games, the 49ers generated two interceptions -- seriously, two.

Yet, the 49ers waited until their final pick of the draft to address their defensive backfield. The 49ers selected Virginia cornerback Tim Harris with pick No. 198.

One thing is clear: The 49ers felt most of the issues a year ago stemmed from the lack of a pass rush. Quarterbacks could sit in the pocket and wait for pass routes to develop and receivers to get open.

When it was the 49ers' turn to select at certain spots in the draft, they felt as if there was more to offer at other positions.

“If there are guys who you think are better than the guys you have and that makes more sense than another position, then it's an easy decision,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers determined at every turn that there were no options available who were significantly better than their cornerbacks, a group that consists of Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore.

Nor did the 49ers believe there were obvious upgrades at safety, where the team has Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Adrian Colbert, Marcell Harris, Antone Exum and D.J. Reed.

Watch out, George Kittle (or not)

Stanford tight end Kaden Smith announced his decision to turn pro after his redshirt sophomore season. He caught 70 passes for 1,049 yards and seven touchdowns during his college career. He did not exactly help his cause with the second-slowest 40 time among tight ends at the NFL Scouting Combine, though.

 

Shanahan said that’s quite all right. He will not be sending Smith down the field on a steady diet of go-routes. Smith is a good blocker who can be used as a compliment, but certainly not a replacement, to George Kittle.

“Speed’s not the issue depending on how you want to use him,” Shanahan said of Smith. “He's effective in the pass game, and we think he could be a good blocker for us, too.”

Then, Shanahan could not help himself.

“Hopefully, he'll put some pressure on Kittle here,” he said, prompting a room full of laughter.

Deebo is dynamic

It's easy to see why the 49ers fell for South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel. After spending a week with him in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl, there was simply nothing not to like.

Oklahoma speedster Marquise Brown (Baltimore) and Arizona State’s big-bodied N’Keal Harry (New England) were the only receivers selected in the first round. Samuel became the third receiver off the board when the 49ers jumped on him at No. 36 overall.

“I think the thing that jumps out, just the fight, the grit, the toughness, and when you mix that with a guy who can get it and catch a slant and be gone, that's a pretty fun combination,” Lynch said.

[RELATED: Samuel brings red-zone presence]

The potential pairing of Samuel with Dante Pettis, a second-round pick a year ago, will enable the 49ers to realize their goal of placing Marquise Goodwin in a specialized role to better use his ability to get deep down the field.

Skule is back in session

The measurable skills and athleticism were not enough for Vanderbilt offensive lineman Justin Skule to earn one of the 337 combine invitations. But the 49ers had him ranked as one of the 184 players on their draft board.

According to Pro Football Focus, Skule was in pass protection for 473 snaps last season. He allowed only one sack the entire season, and that was against Kentucky’s Josh Allen, who led the nation with 17 sacks and was the No. 7 overall selection in the draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“It wasn't always beautiful, pretty, but [he’s the] kind of a scrapper who at the end of the play was on his guy and won his leverage at a very high rate,” Lynch said. “And, so when you find those guys, you look at the level of competition. Well, his level of competition was as good as it gets in college football.”

Vanderbilt plays in the SEC. Skule will compete against veteran Shon Coleman for the job to serve as the backup to offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey.

 

Rest in peace, Reggie Cobb

Just one week earlier, the 49ers were rocked by area scout Reggie Cobb's sudden death after an apparent heart attack. Cobb scouted the West Coast, and the 49ers selected two players -- Wishnowsky and Smith -- whom he scouted heavily.

The 49ers had a private workout with Wishnowsky during the pre-draft process. They sent special-teams coordinator Richard Hightower, and assistant special-teams coaches Stan Kwan and Michael Clay for the workout.

“Reggie was very meticulous as to how he set that visit,” Lynch said. “Hightower shared the story upstairs for everyone, and it's really cool that both Mitch and Kaden Smith from Stanford were two guys [drafted]. We talked about Reggie's imprint on this draft, well, there's two guys that were his guys, and that makes us happy.”