49ers

NFL Draft 2021: 49ers could go number of ways with first-round pick

NFL Draft 2021: 49ers could go number of ways with first-round pick

It seems like the 49ers just wrapped up an impressive 2020 NFL Draft, adding defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw, wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings, tight end Charlie Woerner and offensive lineman Colton McKivitz.

Well, that's because they did. It has only been about nine weeks since the draft, and the 49ers' rookies haven't been able to take the field yet with their teams. They're learning with coaches by Zoom instead due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While the excitement for the 2020 class is palpable, it's never too early to look at the 2021 class and prognosticate about who the 49ers might add next April.

The 49ers have a loaded roster that's ready to win now. Although they don't have a lot of holes to fill, general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan will be looking to add talent at positions they expect will experience turnover in the near future or have a need to upgrade immediately.

Now, we know it's way, way, way too early for this and the 49ers' draft spot won't even be determined for six months. But, there's no harm in looking.

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

Here's who some of the experts have the 49ers drafting in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Creed Humphrey, OL, Oklahoma

The 49ers kept Joe Staley's retirement under wraps and were able to swing a trade for Trent Williams to keep their Super Bowl train on time in 2020. San Francisco hopes to re-sign Williams after the season, but the interior offensive line could use an upgrade.

Humphrey is a center by trade, but he also can slide over and play guard, where the 49ers have an immediate need after releasing Mike Person this offseason. The 49ers will head into 2020 with Daniel Brunskill, Ben Garland and Tom Cotton competing to be the starting right guard. While Brunskill played well in a pinch last season, it's unclear if he's the long-term answer at right guard.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has the 49ers selecting Humphrey, who elected to return to Oklahoma for his senior season. He's a high-IQ center who knows how to leverage his body and frame against defenders. He's a powerful blocker, with good mobility and awareness.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Etienne stunned everyone by electing to return to Clemson for his senior season. Instead of entering a loaded 2020 class, Etienne will be the runaway No. 1 back on the 2021 draft board.

Etienne is a walking home run with incredible breakaway speed and a knack for destroying pursuit angles. He's a huge weapon in the passing game and would give Shanahan yet another YAC weapon to torment defenses with.

CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso has the 49ers selecting Etienne late in the first round. While running back isn't the 49ers' most pressing need and it's normally frowned upon to take one in the first round, it's hard to argue that Etienne wouldn't be a star in the 49ers' offense.

[RELATED: How Aiyuk's potential impact stacks up with loaded rookie class]

Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina

The 49ers will need to do something to address their secondary in the 2021 NFL Draft. They currently have no cornerbacks signed after this season.

So, adding a cornerback who can start and be productive immediately should be at the top of the list.

USA Today's Ben Easterling has the 49ers selecting South Carolina cornerback Israel Mukuamu at the back end of the first round.

Mukuamu, 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, is an athletic, rangy corner who held his own against NFL-caliber receivers in the SEC. He needs to be more disciplined with his footwork near the line of scrimmage but is a high-upside, press corner who should be able to start on Day 1.

49ers' Arik Armstead ignores critics of speaking up on social issues

49ers' Arik Armstead ignores critics of speaking up on social issues

Arik Armstead doesn't want to hear it.

The 49ers defensive lineman spoke to Sactown Magazine for its July/August issue, and says that if you're not willing to listen to his dialogue off the field about social issues affecting our country, Armstead doesn't want you tuning in to watch him and his teammates dominate on the field.

 

“If you don’t want me speaking out against racism and social issues and social injustices, then don’t watch me play on Sundays. Can’t have a piece of me and not all of me.”

Armstead also joined NBC Sports Bay Area's "Race In America" series a few weeks ago, and spoke about the pain he felt seeing video of the death of Minnesota man George Floyd in Minneapolis Police Custody.

"Like, why do I have to continue -- why do we have to continue to see people that look like us get murdered on social media and on the TV?" Armstead told Logan Murdock and Monte Poole on  "Race In America: A Candid Conversation." " ... I'm on Instagram, and I just got to see another Black person get killed unjustly."

 

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

The 26-year-old also discussed a time when he was racially profiled by local police near a friend's house in Elk Grove.

“A cop gets behind us, pulls us over,” Armstead recalls. “‘What y’all doing? Where y’all going?’”

[RELATED: Colin Kaepernick, Nate Boyer helped enact real change with discussion]

The officer then made Armstead and his friends prove that they knew the people whose house they were traveling to, by bringing the cop with them to the front door and having the friend explain that he was acquainted with Armstead.

Armstead has made it clear he won't be staying silent or "sticking to sports." For those who don't want to hear Armstead's voice on these issues, don't expect him to care whether you watch him play on Sundays. 

See Joe Staley's motivational IG message for 49ers' Kendrick Bourne

See Joe Staley's motivational IG message for 49ers' Kendrick Bourne

Joe Staley long has been a model of consistency for the 49ers, spending the past 12 seasons protecting a myriad of 49ers quarterbacks as San Francisco's starting left tackle.

Staley's younger teammates held so much respect for him, as you could see from the many who spoke publicly in the wake of Staley's retirement back in April.

It appears even in retirement Staley continues to inspire his former teammates, as 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne shared an Instagram direct message from Staley on Sunday morning.

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

"Never lose sight of the goal. The ring," Staley wrote to Bourne. "That's all that matters in what we do. I never got it. You. Mr KB!! Go get it!! F-----g GET IT!! Make me proud bro. I love watching your hustle. All love."

Staley was responding to a video Bourne had posted of some of the hardware he's earned over his football career, including one of the game balls from the 49ers' blowout Week 8 win over the Carolina Panthers.

[RELATED: Why 49ers should explore David Njoku trade with Browns after demand]

Bourne and the 49ers came so close to helping Staley capture that elusive championship ring, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs rallied from a 10-point deficit to stun San Francisco at Super Bowl LIV.

The 49ers won the offseason in the eyes of some pundits around the league, and appear primed for another deep postseason run. It'll be up to Bourne, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and the rest of the 49ers' talented roster to finish the job if they can get back to the Super Bowl.