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Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 2020: Why 49ers could pick LSU's Grant Delpit

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Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 2020: Why 49ers could pick LSU's Grant Delpit

A year after selecting No. 2 overall in the NFL draft, the Super Bowl LIV-bound 49ers will pick much later this year in Las Vegas. 

They're slated to step up to the podium with the No. 31 or No. 32 overall pick, depending upon the results of the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs. San Francisco general manager John Lynch stopped by the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. earlier this week for draft preparation, a year after the 49ers staff coached up some of the 2019 draft's top prospects. Though the 49ers will square off with the Chiefs, Lynch made it clear that he doesn't want San Francisco's success to be a one-off. 

"That's why you're in Mobile the week before the Super Bowl," Lynch told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler earlier this week. "It's a big decision, do you leave back home? Because there are a lot of details to get wrapped up. But you've got to constantly be better and trying to better your organization. This is a valuable opportunity to do that."

The 49ers' first-round pick, as of now, is there only one in the first four rounds of this year's draft. That makes nailing the selection much more important, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who projects the 49ers will select LSU safety Grant Delpit. 

"This feels like a good pairing, with San Francisco potentially losing Jimmie Ward in free agency," Kiper wrote. "Delpit has a ton of talent, but I want to see how he tests at the combine in a few weeks."

Listed at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds, Delpit won the Jim Thorpe Award as college football's top defensive back in 2019, following in the footsteps of Tigers alumni Patrick Peterson (2010) and Morris Claiborne (2011). The Associated Press voted the junior safety second-team All-American in 2019, and SEC coaches voted Delpit first-team all-conference in 2018 and 2019. Delpit finished 2019 with 65 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and seven passes defensed this season en route to a National Championship with LSU. 

Despite the accolades, Kiper said that 2019 represented a disappointing season for Delpit. 

"Delpit was getting top-10 buzz early in the season, but he didn't have a great year, fighting through an ankle injury and missing too many tackles," Kiper wrote.

[RELATED: How Shanahan, Lynch make 49ers CEO Jed York's job easier]

Ward, 28, is set to become an unrestricted free agent after carrying a salary-cap number of $3,843,750 this season. The 49ers value Ward's versatility, but also have defensive lineman Arik Armstead and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders set to hit free agency this offseason, Tight end George Kittle and D-lineman DeForest Buckner are also eligible for contract extensions, meaning the 49ers likely won't be able to keep all of Ward, Armstead and Sanders under the salary cap with Kittle and Buckner due to be among the highest-paid players at their position. 

Atlanta Falcons right tackle Kaleb McGary and New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry -- the No. 31 and No. 32 picks in 2019, respectively -- each made under $1.9 million last season. If the 49ers opt to let Ward walk in free agency, drafting Delpit could be a less expensive alternative. 

But with free agency just under two months away and the draft even further away, the 49ers' approach to reloading their roster isn't set in stone.

49ers mailbag: Could co-coordinators ease Kyle Shanahan's workload?

49ers mailbag: Could co-coordinators ease Kyle Shanahan's workload?

It has been two weeks since the 49ers’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. That’s more than enough time to turn the page and look ahead.

So that’s what we’re doing -- with the help from some of our Twitter friends. Here is the first offseason edition of the 49ers Mailbag.

Kyle Shanahan is one of the best play-callers in the NFL. I don’t think there’s even a question about that. Is there? So I can’t envision any scenario in which Shanahan stops doing the thing he does best.

Shanahan certainly believes McDaniel and LaFleur are ready to call plays. McDaniel and LaFleur are, in essence, co-offensive coordinators. They are responsible for putting together the first components of the weekly game plan.

Through the first three seasons together with the 49ers, they have found a pretty good rhythm together and Shanahan finds himself placing more trust in them. What they’re doing is working.

If the 49ers have the $19 million-plus in cap room to devote to a franchise tag for Arik Armstead, then I think they could work out a long-term deal that would work for both sides.

As for the question about a tag-and-trade, I’m sure you’re thinking about how the Kansas City Chiefs tagged Dee Ford a year ago and, then, traded him to the 49ers. In that instance, the Chiefs had Frank Clark on the line, so that made sense.

In this case, I don’t think there’s anyone who plays Armstead’s position they would prefer over him. Armstead is exactly what the 49ers need: A defensive end on base downs who moves inside next to DeForest Buckner to rush the passer in nickel situations.

There is no need for the 49ers to do anything with Thomas, except work with him to continue to improve and become more valuable as a rotational player on the defensive line. The 49ers certainly will not pick up the fifth-year option on Thomas for the 2021 season. But with Thomas’ rookie contract guaranteed, there is no cap advantage in parting ways with him this year.

Regardless, Thomas should have a significant role next season. But if for whatever reason Armstead is not back, Thomas has a strong chance to be a starter.

The possibility of recouping a draft pick is part of the reason the 49ers felt compelled to make the trade in the first place. In my opinion, they would have preferred Mohamed Sanu, who was under contract through the 2020 season. But the Patriots offered the Atlanta Falcons a second-round draft pick, and the 49ers did not have a second-round pick after dealing it to Kansas City for Dee Ford.

Instead, the 49ers acquired Sanders and a fifth-round pick from Denver in return for third- and fourth-round draft picks. The 49ers do not figure to be active with veteran acquisitions on the free-agent market this offseason, so it is likely the 49ers have more losses than gains. If Sanders is a loss, the 49ers would stand a good chance of picking up a compensatory pick for the 2021 draft.

Get stronger. Work. Work. Work.

Pettis had a good offseason program a year ago, but he was not the same player when he came back for training camp. Other receivers on the team came back stronger at the opening of camp. Pettis did not. That is why Pettis struggled and fell out of favor to the point he rarely played in the second half of the season.

Pettis needs to take it up another few notches to get stronger and avoid the nagging injuries that also set him back last season. Pettis has more ability than almost anyone on the team to run some of Shanahan’s favorite routes. He will have an opportunity to prove himself in the offseason and training camp this year.

If Jalen Hurd and Pettis are both healthy, I think the answer is Hurd. The reason is because of his size and his unique skill set.

I envision Hurd being a big part of the 49ers’ two-minute offense because of his versatility. The 49ers can line him up anywhere in the formation, including running back. That puts the onus on the defense to figure out how they want to treat him. Is he a runner, wide receiver or tight end? Then, based on the defensive personnel, the 49ers can exploit those weaknesses.

[RELATED: Juice sick of Jimmy G, Shanahan criticism after Super Bowl]

The draft takes place more than a month after free agency. So the answer to this question could change, based on what the 49ers’ roster looks like at the time of the draft. But, right now, if the 49ers hold onto the No. 31 overall pick, the team can choose among the best available wide receiver, cornerback or defensive lineman.

There are two ways to look at this. But if there’s a team willing to move up to No. 31 overall, then that is the default move. It would make a lot of sense to sit out the first round of the draft to come away with multiple picks on Day 2.

But if there is someone at No. 31 with whom the organization has fallen in love, then they should take that player. The advantage of holding onto the first-round draft pick is that the 49ers would control the contract rights to the player for five years, instead of four.

49ers' Kyle Juszczyk sick of Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan criticism

49ers' Kyle Juszczyk sick of Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan criticism

Losing the Super Bowl was tough on the 49ers, to say the least. It was especially tough for the team's fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, who hated hearing the criticism of Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan, his quarterback and coach.

"Those are two guys that have absolutely nothing to prove to the rest of the guys in the locker room," Juice said Friday on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football." "You look at Jimmy, for people that are stats guys, 4,000 yards passing, better than a two-to-one, touchdown-interception ratio, 70 percent completion."

He added with that alone, you're looking at a "phenomenal quarterback."

"For whatever reason, Jimmy just gets this extra criticism, this extra heat, but I think at one point in the game he was like 19-for-22," Jusczyk said. 

"That's football, though -- you just change one or two plays in the game, and the whole dialogue changes, the whole narrative."

Juice mentioned the moment that could have put Jimmy G in the same category as Tom Brady as a Super Bowl MVP. The moment that could have led to the 49ers popping champagne in San Francisco amongst the faithful.

That could have been a game-changer.

The play in question caused wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to storm out of the media room following the Super Bowl LIV loss to the Chiefs. Garoppolo's overthrow in the fourth quarter changed everything.

[RELATED: What Juice regrets most from 49ers' Super Bowl collapse]

And they know it. Jimmy knows it. Sanders knows it. Shanahan knows it. 

"It's a shame that one or two plays can really change everyone's outlook on someone," Juszczyk said.