The news was shocking at the time. Hours after agreeing to a five-year, $85 million contract with Arik Armstead, the 49ers traded DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Buckner was voted as the team MVP last season. He is regarded as a better player than Armstead and seemed in line for a huge payday. Well, that payday came, but from the Colts instead of the 49ers. Indianapolis signed Buckner to a four-year, $84 million contract extension upon agreeing to the trade.
While many 49ers fans shook their head at losing Buckner, analytics site Pro Football Focus loved the deal for San Francisco.
"With Emmanuel Sanders departing, the Niners are now in the market for a wide receiver, and by trading for Indy’s 13th overall pick, they are in a prime location to snag one of the elite receiving prospects in Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs III," PFF writes.
In our latest mock draft between myself and Josh Schrock, the 49ers select Ruggs at No. 13 overall with Lamb and Jeudy both off the board. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. gave them Jeudy in his most recent mock draft after the first week of free agency.
All three of Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs rank in PFF's top-10 draft prospects this year. The 49ers need a No. 1 receiver to complement Deebo Samuel and now are in prime position to do so through the draft on a cheap contract.
General manager John Lynch saved money he now can use on a George Kittle extension and didn't have to hand top dollars to Buckner, which PFF believes is way too much for a defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald. Coach Kyle Shanahan surely will miss Buckner, but has to be smiling at the thought of adding a young star as a weapon for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The 49ers' biggest strength took a hit by losing Buckner. One of their biggest weaknesses, however, soon could receive a significant upgrade.