49ers

NFL Draft 2020: Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb both great options for 49ers

NFL Draft 2020: Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb both great options for 49ers

With one move, the 2020 NFL Draft went from a small affair for the 49ers to one that could greatly impact their run back to the Super Bowl. 

The 49ers entered the start of the new league year with only the No. 31 pick in the first round and zero second- and third-round picks. Most assumed the 49ers would trade out of the first round to recoup draft assets. But the 49ers made a surprising move Monday, trading star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick. 

With that move, the 49ers now are in position to select one of the top three wide receivers in a loaded class. The only question is: Should they be gunning for Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, or one of Alabama's stars in Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs?

That's a lot like asking someone if they'd rather have pizza or chicken wings after seven beers. The answer is yes. But let's see if we can (try) to rank these three dynamic wideouts. 

1. CeeDee Lamb

My love of Lamb has been well-documented for quite some time. He's been stuck behind Jeudy on most big boards due to what is a perceived weakness as a route-runner. But that skill was cleaned up during his final year in Norman, Okla., and he now should be the first wide receiver taken off the board. 

Lamb has superior hands to Jeudy and is tenacious after the catch. He has great body control, ball skills and instincts. He doesn't have the straight speed of Ruggs, but his natural gifts should allow him to be the focal point of an offense at the NFL level. If all goes according to plan, Lamb has DeAndre Hopkins-type upside. 

Pairing him with Deebo Samuel and letting Kyle Shanahan find ways to get him in space to make people miss would be a sight to see. 

I mean this is ridiculous. 

There's little chance Lamb falls past the Raiders at No. 12, but the 49ers can dare to dream. 

2. Jerry Jeudy

Jeudy was viewed as a top-four pick entering the season, but he's been the victim of over-analysis. 

Make no mistake, Jeudy is an elite receiver. While he did damage all over the field at Alabama, Jeudy likely will settle into the slot role in the NFL. 

The 6-foot-1, 192-pound Jeudy has great footwork, is an elite route-runner and has the top-end speed to be a consistent vertical threat at the NFL level. He's very good at beating press coverage and has uncanny stop-start ability. The hands are great, but sometimes he loses concentration and drops easy ones. 

Jeudy has all the skills to offer immediate production for whichever team calls his name in 2020. If it's the 49ers, Shanahan will be drooling. This pairing would be quick slants and big-play post catches galore. 

 [RELATED: Bucs, Raiders among big winners of NFL free agency]

3. Henry Ruggs

Speed, speed, speed and more speed. 

Ruggs will step into the NFL and immediately be the second-fastest player in the league (shoutout Tyreek Hill). Ruggs put on a show at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 4.27 40-yard dash to put him in the top tier along with Lamb and Jeudy. 

Alabama's scheme versatility got Ruggs the ball with room to work, allowing him to blaze past defenses. He's a good route-runner with elite burst and acceleration. He's obviously a vertical threat, but also found a lot of success on jet sweeps and tunnel screens. His ability to make contested catches also was underrated, as defenders often bounced off him without impeding his path to the ball. 

Ruggs would be a dynamic weapon for Shanahan and the 49ers. There's no telling the number of ways Shanahan could scheme up to get the speedster the ball in the open field. 

As said before, it's a choice with almost no wrong answer. If I had to put money on it, I'd say Jeudy is wearing the red and gold come fall. His route-running and versatility would be perfect or the 49ers' offense. He's not as good with the ball in his hands as Lamb is, and he doesn't have the straight-line speed that Ruggs does, but you can't go wrong if you turn in a card that says Jerry Jeudy. 

Why Colin Cowherd would hire 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to coach his NFL team

Why Colin Cowherd would hire 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to coach his NFL team

There currently are 32 NFL franchises, and for the vast majority of us, at no point during our lives will we have any chance of owning one of them.

But, forget reality. What if you were able to purchase a team? Who would you hire as head coach?

Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd gave his answer to that question Wednesday, but first established the five criteria by which he would form his list of the top 10 coaches he'd want to lead his franchise. They were:

1. Age does not matter 
2. Easy to work with 
3. The less controversy, the better 
4. Innovative thinker 
5. Relates to players

Based on those criteria, Cowherd landed on 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan as his top choice (h/t 49ers Web Zone).

"I know he has had a couple of Super Bowl moments you don't love," Cowherd explained Wednesday on "The Herd," "but I think San Francisco was right. I think he's intense. I think he has got the lineage from his dad (Mike Shanahan). I think he has a system, but he is nimble enough to manipulate the system and listen to (general manager) John Lynch and others. I think he's obsessively driven, which is probably most of these guys.

"But if I start my franchise today, I get the (experience from his) dad, I get him, I get playoff experience, and I also think he has got a chip on his shoulder because he thinks he should have won that Super Bowl last year. And he thinks he should have won that Atlanta Super Bowl against New England when he was the [offensive coordinator]."

Though the 49ers don't have new owners, they clearly share similar feelings about Shanahan, having just recently signed him to a six-year contract extension. He led San Francisco to a nine-win improvement this past season, and already has made it clear the expectation is to get back to the Super Bowl for a second straight year.

[RELATED: Bryant Young knows 49ers in good hands with Shanahan, Lynch]

Should the 49ers accomplish that goal -- and prove victorious in Super Bowl LV -- what few criticisms there are of Shanahan no longer would be valid.

For reference, here is Cowherd's full list:

1. Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
2. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills 
3. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles 
4. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams 
5. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens 
6. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears 
7. Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins 
8. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma Sooners 
9. Urban Meyer, formerly Ohio State Buckeyes 
10. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

The elephant in the room at this point of the 49ers' offseason is the absence of a contract extension for standout tight end George Kittle. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal which will pay him $2.1 million, and is due to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

After cementing himself as the best tight end in all of football over the last two seasons, Kittle's inevitable extension has long been expected to reset the market at the position. Austin Hooper currently averages the highest annual salary of any tight end after signing a four-year, $42 million contract with the Cleveland Browns in free agency earlier this offseason.

Estimates for what Kittle could average on his next contract have ranged as high as $20 million per season, but the real number likely is somewhere between there and Hooper's annual rate due to the expected drop in league revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Athletic's Matt Barrows reported Wednesday that someone "in the know" told him that Kittle ultimately would get a contract extension averaging $13 million per season.

That's a far cry from $20 million, but as Barrows noted, it still would make Kittle the highest-paid tight end by a fairly wide margin. Though Kittle probably is worth more than that, the salary-cap uncertainty caused by COVID-19 likely will rule out the possibility of a market-shattering contract. The unprecedented situation could result in a creative deal.

[RELATED: Report: NFL preseason halved; 49ers-Raiders game remains]

The Athletic's David Lombardi recently suggested that it might make sense for Kittle and the 49ers to come to an agreement on a contract that is partially tied to the size of the salary cap moving forward. 

"The 49ers can offer Kittle a guaranteed base annual salary or signing bonus before using a percentage-of-the-cap scale on top of that to pay him commensurate to cap increases in future years, when the NFL’s revenue outlook should be rosier," Lombardi wrote. "That's just an idea. But since this is uncharted territory, creative contract structures cannot be ruled out -- especially if they help break a potentially problematic impasse."

Creativity aside, if an agreement can't be reached on a contract extension, the 49ers would still have the ability to apply the franchise tag to Kittle -- which would pay him the average of the top five tight-end salaries -- for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. That option obviously wouldn't provide Kittle with the long-term security he likely desires, but there's ample motivation on both sides to get a deal done for San Francisco's most indispensable offensive player.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]