Joe Staley

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should trade down both first-round picks

2020 NFL Draft: Why 49ers should trade down both first-round picks

The 49ers had only six picks in the 2020 NFL Draft before trading Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. San Francisco owned the No. 31 pick, and no others until the fifth round.

That trade brought in the No. 13 pick, but the 49ers probably aren't done dealing. Trading down to acquire more, much-needed draft capital is the likeliest scenario.

While much of the 49ers Faithful drool over what the top wide receivers in the draft would look like in coach Kyle Shanahan’s system, it's far from a given that the team will use that first pick on a receiver. For one, the 49ers still don't own any picks in the second, third and fourth rounds. For another, receiver is one of the deepest positions in the draft and the 49ers arguably have a bigger need.

Joe Staley is under contract through the 2021 season, but the veteran left tackle was understandably emotional after the 49ers' loss in Super Bowl LIV. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey indirectly indicated that Staley’s decision to return for the 2020 season was not set in stone.

The 49ers would be best served in hedging their bet that Staley returns and using one of their first-round picks on a left tackle. Even if Staley returns, the 49ers will need a replacement for him in the not-so-distant future. 

The draft's top tackles likely will be taken before the 49ers' first pick, but there still should be quality options available in the 20s or later. The 49ers could trade down, while Houston's Josh Jones or USC's Austin Jackson is still available, and then acquire another pick.

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Let's say trading the No. 13 pick nets the 49ers a first- and early second-round pick. Dealing the No. 31 pick would also come into play.

The 49ers drafted Deebo Samuel No. 36 overall in 2019. Samuel proved to be very productive in Shanahan’s system, catching 57 of his 81 targets for 802 yards. He ranked second on the team in receiving yards only behind First Team All-Pro tight end George Kittle. 

Shanahan's staff had an advantage in getting to know Samuel while at the Senior Bowl, but they have shown that a second-round receiver can become a key contributor. 

[RELATED: Buckner's exit could influence 49ers to trade down in draft]

Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson's draft trade value chart lists the No. 31 pick as worth a mid-second-round pick and a high third-round pick or a high second-round pick and a mid-fourth-round pick, among other permutations. Trading both first-round picks could give the 49ers three additional picks in rounds where they currently have none.

The 49ers would end draft weekend with nine selections in this scenario, as opposed to their original six. They'd also have fresh, valuable talent at important positions on their roster.

NFL Draft 2020: 49ers' John Lynch likely scouted Mekhi Becton from home

NFL Draft 2020: 49ers' John Lynch likely scouted Mekhi Becton from home

Are the 49ers open to the idea of selecting an offensive tackle in the first round?

General manager John Lynch apparently invested some amount of time last week toward studying one of the top offensive linemen in the draft.

Lynch posted a video from his home office to express appreciation for those on the “front lines” of the novel coronavirus pandemic – the doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, police, grocery workers and others.

Lynch also wanted to give 49ers fans a glimpse of how the 49ers are going about preparing for the draft. In the background on Lynch’s TV was a paused scene from Kentucky’s Nov. 30 game against Louisville.

In looking at photos from each of Kentucky’s eight home games, only Louisville wore white helmets, along with white jerseys and pants with a black stripe down the pants. The scene appears to show Kentucky on defense after making a stop.

So which prospect was Lynch watching?

Kentucky did not have any defensive players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. And the only player Louisville sent to the combine was offensive tackle Mekhi Becton.

Becton is generally considered a top-10 draft pick. At 6-foot-7, 364 pounds, Becton appears to be agile enough to thrive in all running schemes, including Kyle Shanahan’s offense that places a premium on athleticism from its offensive linemen.

Becton said at the NFL Scouting Combine that he likes blocking in zone schemes.

“I take a whole lot of pride in it,” Becton said. “I love outside zone and inside zone. It’s just fun running a man out of the play taking him where I want him to go.”

The 49ers have to consider a time when six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley is no longer with the team. Lynch said in February he was confident Staley would play at least one more season, but there has been no definitive word from Staley. He turns 36 in August, and has played 13 NFL seasons. Staley missed nine games last season due to injuries.

[RELATED49ers mailbag: Do 49ers approach draft as if Joe Staley won't return?]

Becton is regarded as one of the top three tackle prospects in the draft, along with Tristan Wirfs of Iowa and Andrew Thomas of Georgia. Each of those three could be selected within the top-12 selections – before the 49ers are scheduled to go on the clock at No. 13 overall.

The evidence is there that the 49ers are looking at offensive tackles, based on Lynch’s documented evaluation of Becton.

Or, perhaps, knowing it would not be too difficult to figure out which player Lynch was scouting at the time of the video, it might have been just a smokescreen.

49ers mailbag: Do 49ers approach draft as if Joe Staley won't return?

49ers mailbag: Do 49ers approach draft as if Joe Staley won't return?

The NFL offseason continues on ... sort of.

And the questions continue, too.

Thanks to all the folks who submitted their questions via Twitter for this edition of 49ers Mailbag.

General manager John Lynch seemed confident Joe Staley would be back for at least another season when he was asked last month about the six-time Pro Bowl left tackle.

I don’t know that Staley has told the team, definitively, he plans to return. Staley, who turns 36 in August, dealt with more physical issues last season than at any point in his 13-year career. Perhaps he just wants to take some time to see how his body feels later in the offseason.

The 49ers certainly would want clarity on Staley’s status before the draft. And it’s also likely they would not want word to get out before the draft because they would love for other teams to be in the dark whether left tackle is or is not a high draft priority for them.

Mike McGlinchey appears locked into right tackle, and there does not seem to be a plan to move him to the other side to ultimately replace Staley.

On the depth chart, the 49ers re-signed Shon Coleman. Justin Skule also returns after starting eight games with mixed results.

If the top available player on the 49ers’ board at any point is an offensive tackle, I think that’s the way they would go.

Weston Richburg is clearly the team’s top option at center. But after he underwent surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in December, Ben Garland stepped in and played well enough to keep the offense rolling.

If Richburg is healthy, it’s his job. Until then, the 49ers have to feel confident Garland can keep things afloat.

Like most positions, it’s personal preference.

The Raiders also figure to be in the market for a wide receiver with the No. 12 pick. If the 49ers have one receiver ranked far above the rest, and Las Vegas takes that player, then the 49ers could look to trade back or go with a different position.

For a breakdown of the top three wide receivers, see above video.

If everyone comes back healthy, the 49ers have quite a few options at wide receiver. Of course, none of them really are proven.

I agree the 49ers must look to strengthen their cornerback position. And looking a year in advance, there is no guarantee Richard Sherman will be back in 2021. And, even for the 2020 season, Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon are the only other corners with starting experience on the roster.

Cornerback is a priority, especially because the trade of DeForest Buckner likely means the pass rush will not be as dominant.

I doubt the 49ers will sign a starting-caliber defensive tackle at this stage of free agency. Maybe they bring in a player who has a chance to compete for a spot in the D-line rotation, but I doubt it.

I believe the trade of Buckner was all about the contract they were going to have to give him to keep him, as well as the draft pick there were able to pick up in a trade.

Solomon Thomas is under contract for just one more season. They certainly will not pick up the fifth-year option on Thomas, but that does not mean he is gone after this season. The 49ers could look to sign Thomas to a minimum-type contract next year, and he might be willing to accept such a deal.

Buckner rarely came off the field during his four seasons with the club. Now, the 49ers must incorporate more of a rotation to take strain off Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa. That rotation should include Thomas, Dee Ford, D.J. Jones, Ronald Blair, Jullian Taylor, Kentavius Street and, perhaps, a draft pick.

Dang, you’re making me think with this question. How dare you!

I don’t believe it signals a shift, per se. The 49ers’ stated goal is to be a contender every season. The trade was not done for the benefit it provides the team this season as much as what it will do two, three, four years down the road.

That said, Kyle Shanahan never felt like the 49ers’ offense last season was an unstoppable force – at least, not like he felt with Atlanta during the 2016 season. Still, the 49ers were fourth in the NFL in total yards and No. 2 in scoring.

So maybe the 49ers’ offensive production last season proved to Shanahan that it can become a dominant force in 2020 with some specific upgrades, such as a wider variety of third-down options.

[RELATEDThree key 49ers' position battles to watch when training camp begins]

I was shocked last month when Shanahan said, definitively, the 49ers would not release Marquise Goodwin. Of course, I can understand why he would say that. The 49ers want to see if they can trade him.

But with this draft class, I have a difficult time believing any team would surrender a draft pick and pay Goodwin $4.5 million for the upcoming season in salary and bonuses.

Let’s put it this way: I’d be surprised if Goodwin is on the field the next time the 49ers are able to get together on the field.

The NFL has put together guidelines leading up to the draft to level the playing field. General manager John Lynch said on Friday that there will be “no excuses.” I don’t know if the 49ers have an advantage over the other teams in the league, but they certainly have no disadvantage when it comes to technology.

Where the 49ers could have an advantage over some teams is that Lynch and Shanahan work well together, so the communication between the personnel department and coaching staff is very good. Not all teams are like that.

The NFL has to be planning for everything at this stage. Is it possible, under the right circumstances, that games could be played without crowds? TV ratings would be astronomical. But I’m just spit-balling. I have no idea.

What I wonder about is when it will be safe to gather in large crowds. Hopefully, the actions taken by mayors and governors will slow the spread of COVID-19. And, hopefully, we start to see a flattening of the curve within a month.

But if a vaccine is still a year or more away, does that mean we risk outbreaks that compromise our healthcare system until that point? I have no idea.