Both 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan believed they came away from the first day of the 2020 NFL Draft with a win, getting two players that were worth their original No. 13 overall pick.
The 49ers traded down one spot to No. 14 and selected South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw to fill the void that was left by DeForest Buckner, who was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in March.
Lynch and Shanahan were very happy that Kinlaw was there, but somewhat surprisingly, if he had already been selected, they were prepared to take Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk with that same pick.
“I loved Aiyuk,” Shanahan said. “He has on tape that he can run every single route, and he can do it outside the numbers and he can do it inside the numbers. The guy is just completely committed, to me, to being as good as God ever intended him to be.”
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The draft can be a little bit of a guessing game, trying to outsmart other teams that might be vying for the same players that are on your list. Aiyuk’s stock had been rising as the draft approached, and Shanahan was fearful that he would be taken before they had a shot to draft him.
“[Aiyuk] was more than a viable option at 13 and the fact that we were able to get him that late, I feel very fortunate and very happy for the Niners today,” Shanahan said. “There’s a few guys you can’t pass at 13, and Kinlaw was one of those guys.
“Aiyuk was one of the guys we were going to do that for if Kinlaw wasn’t there. And then to still be there, sitting there at 31, and a guy that we would have done it, if we had to, at 13 is sitting there, when we’re at 31, available at 25, and we feel very strongly, from our intel over the last few months, there’s no way Aiyuk is getting to 31.”
The 49ers are attempting to not only fill the void left by Buckner, but the one left in the receivers room by Emmanuel Sanders, who signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency. Shanahan has been looking for a starting No. 1 wide receiver and believes he now has that in Aiyuk.
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“We added two guys here today that, without a doubt, are starting caliber players who will make our team better, who are going to be contributors on their first contract for a long time,” Shanahan said. “And that will really help us in free agency next year, that will really help us in the draft next year and it will really help the 2021 49ers.”