SANTA CLARA -- The selection of Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey signaled the immediate end of Trent Brown’s stay with the 49ers.
The 49ers’ year-old regime never considered Brown as a long-term answer because of their concerns about his dedication and commitment. Brown was traded to the New England Patriots in a deal that was already agreed upon when general manager John Lynch met with the media a short time after the selection of McGlinchey.
The organization’s first two draft picks of McGlinchey and wide receiver Dante Pettis were designed to strengthen the top end of their roster. Third-round draft pick Fred Warner provides depth and an insurance policy to cover the 49ers amid the uncertainty surrounding Reuben Foster’s legal situation.
While the selections of McGlinchey and Warner can be interpreted as direct responses to major questions about Brown and Foster, the addition of Pettis is a little more complicated.
Pettis does not figure to unseat Pierre Garçon or Marquise Goodwin. Pettis can play slot receiver and a punt returner. In fact, nobody has ever been better at turning punts into points. Pettis set the college football record with nine touchdowns on punt returns.
The player most likely to be impacted by the arrival of Pettis is Trent Taylor, a fifth-round draft pick last year.
Unlike Brown and Foster, Taylor has done nothing to prompt the 49ers to replace him. And general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan were quick to advise that Taylor will still have a significant role on the team.
“Trent Taylor has got a skill that works very well on our team,” Lynch said.
Specifically, Taylor has short-area quickness to create immediate separation from the slot. That skill, coupled with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s quick release, provides the 49ers’ offense with an important asset against certain matchups on third downs.
“You don't know what your future is year-to-year, week-to-week, and Trent has a great role for us," Shanahan said. "And we're bringing in Pettis because he can have a good role for us, too. Everyone talks about roles and how we use guys. We have an idea of how we want to, but a guy's role is up to the player. They’ve got to show us what they can do.”
Taylor is considered exclusively a slot receiver. Shanahan envisions Pettis as a player who can step in and play every receiver position in the 49ers’ offense.
“I think we can use him sometimes similar to how we use Marquise, if need be,” Shanahan said. “I think we can use him inside, similar to how we use Trent, if need be. And I think he has the hands and the toughness, and we can use him similar to Pierre. In the meantime, he’s going to be a very good punt returner, too. He can help you on all four downs.”
Taylor had a promising rookie season. He tied for third on the team with 43 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor ranked tied for ninth in the NFL among qualifying punt returners with a 9.4-yard average.
Now, he will have to fight to maintain the roles he won as a rookie, and that's exactly what Shanahan expects from him.
“I think people like Trent understand that, too,” Shanahan said. “This is a tough league. It's extremely hard. I think that's why guys get paid pretty well, and I think they more than deserve it. It's hard to make it in this league.”
Said Lynch, “It's competition, but we believe there's enough balls to go around for all these guys.”