Now that defensive end Nick Bosa has been secured with the team’s first-round draft pick, the 49ers can shift focus toward addressing their biggest remaining need.
If the team’s list of 30 visits is any indication – and it most certainly is – the 49ers want to add a wide receiver very soon. Nearly half of the 49ers' visits were filled with wide receivers. And the 49ers will have the opportunity to add a wideout after waiting through three selections in front of them Friday in the NFL draft.
“There’s a lot of guys who we like and there’s different reasons to bring them in,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said this week of the class of receivers. “Just like any position, that may be a spot where we try to improve our team. Fortunately, in this year’s draft, it seems to be a good stable of guys who can help.”
That help could come quickly.
The Arizona Cardinals will kick off the second round Friday with the No. 33 overall pick. The 49ers own the 36th selection. The 49ers are also scheduled to pick at No. 67 overall on Friday, the third draft slot in the third round.
Teams that finish with the same record rotate positions after each round. The 49ers, New York Jets and Raiders finished with 4-12 records, so those teams switch draft slots among themselves in each round.
In Thursday’s first round, only two wide receivers were selected, leaving the 49ers in position to take a player who ranks highly on their board.
Oklahoma speedster Marquise Brown was the first receiver off the board, going to the Baltimore Ravens with the 25th overall pick. The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots used the final pick of the first round on N’Keal Harry of Arizona State.
The player that many pundits ranked as the top receiver in the draft class, D.K. Metcalf of Ole Miss, does not figure to be someone who would interest the 49ers. Metcalf and the 49ers clashed during a meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Metcalf has unbelievable physical tools to go along with his size. He is 6-foot-3, 228 pounds and ran a blazing 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash. But he is not known to be a good route-runner, an attribute that coach Kyle Shanahan values above all others.
There may also be some medical concerns about Metcalf after he sustained a neck injury during his final year of college.
The 49ers are determined to land a starting wide receiver in the draft to pair with Dante Pettis, the team’s second-round draft pick of a year ago. Marquise Goodwin had a breakout season in 2017 before seeing his production diminish last year due to injuries. The 49ers would like to bring in a starting-caliber receiver to enable them to find a more specialized role for Goodwin, similar to how Shanahan used Taylor Gabriel during their time together with the Atlanta Falcons.
Kendrick Bourne, Jordan Matthews, Trent Taylor, Richie James round out the 49ers' corps of veteran receivers.
Here are some legitimate options at wide receiver for the 49ers in the second round:
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
Samuel (5-11, 214 pounds) opened some eyes during the Senior Bowl with his route-running while playing for the 49ers-coached South squad. He has a running back’s body, and he utilizes his frame to be difficult for defensive backs to bring down after the catch. He ran a 4.48 in the 40 at the combine.
The 49ers have struggled in the red zone, and Samuel proved to be very good near the goal line with his ability to get open quickly. In his final season at South Carolina, he caught 62 passes for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns.
A.J. Brown, Mississippi
Metcalf might have gotten all of the pre-draft hype due to his physical skills, but Brown was the much-better receiver during their time together in college. Brown (6-0, 226 pounds) was ultra-productive, catching 85 passes for 1,320 yards and six touchdowns during his final college season.
Brown is a very good route-runner and produces yards after the catch. He ran a 4.49 at the combine and exhibits good short-area quickness, which would enable him to line up at a variety of positions, including the slot.
Riley Ridley, Georgia
Ridley is a very polished receiver who certainly did not help himself at the combine with a 4.58 time in the 40-yard dash – a clocking that was much slower than expected. But the film shows him to be an accomplished route-runner, which scores him some big points with the 49ers.
Ridley (6-1, 199 pounds) caught 44 passes for 570 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior before opting to declare for the NFL draft. He will be selected at some point Friday.
Parris Campbell, Ohio State
Campbell is a home-run hitter who helped himself with his showing of speed and hands at the NFL Scouting Combine. Campbell (5-11, 205 pounds) ran a blazing 4.31 in the 40. A knock on him are his hands, but he caught the ball effortlessly during drills in Indianapolis.
He is coming off a productive season at Ohio State, where he caught 90 passes for 1,063 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is a threat to score every time he touches the ball due to his explosion with or without the ball.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Whiteside had a great senior season at Stanford, catching 63 passes for 1,059 yards. Both of his parents played pro basketball in Europe, and he flashed his basketball skills in the red zone by boxing out defenders and going up to catch 14 touchdowns.
But, like with Butler, the 49ers will have to be convinced that Arcega-Whiteside (6-2, 225 pounds) runs routes well enough to get open against top-level competition at all spots on the field. His favorite route is the back-shoulder fade.
Hakeem Butler, Iowa State
Butler looks the part, for sure. When he made a recent visit to the 49ers’ team complex in Santa Clara, he stood out among the other receivers due to his 6-5, 227-pound frame. He has an inherent advantage in the red zone because of his size, but Shanahan wants receivers who can get open in the middle of the field. That is the only question about Butler.
He caught 60 passes for 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns. He ran a strong 4.48 in the 40. But does he have the change-of-direction skills to get open against NFL defensive backs?