John Lynch

2020 NFL Draft: How 49ers' John Lynch prepares while working from home

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AP

2020 NFL Draft: How 49ers' John Lynch prepares while working from home

The 2020 NFL Draft will be held as scheduled -- albeit remotely -- amid the coronavirus pandemic, keeping 49ers general manager John Lynch plenty busy during California's shelter-in-place order.

In-person visits with prospects at the team's facility or elsewhere are off, but Lynch said he is able to make the most of watching film of potential picks while working from his home office.

“People have a lot bigger problems than we do, I can tell you that,” Lynch told NBC Sports' Peter King for his "Football Morning in America" column. “This year’s a lot different than any year scouts and GMs have had, obviously, with all the challenges. But this time of year, what you really need is time.

"The other day, [coach] Kyle [Shanahan] called and said, ‘This is unbelievable! I’m getting so much done.’ And he’s right. He and I, this time of year, would be watching this tape in our offices, and the difference is our doors aren’t getting knocked on 50 times a day. I’m really getting a lot done.”

Lynch and Shanahan have more prospects to examine than they did a month ago. The 49ers acquired another first-round draft pick -- No. 13 overall -- when they traded dominant defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. San Francisco, before then, was scheduled to make its first pick with the No. 31 overall selection.

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That additional prep very well could've included watching Louisville's Mekhi Becton, whose Cardinals were on-screen in footage Lynch was watching during a video posted to social media last week showing how he was preparing for the draft at home. The offensive lineman is projected to be a top-10 pick next month, and Lynch simply wouldn't have had much reason to watch him with the 49ers' first pick set for the very end of the first round.

We'll know some of the players whom Lynch, Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers closely watched when the NFL draft begins April 23. The 49ers currently have seven picks: Two in the first round, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.

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.

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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.

NFL Draft 2020: Why Kentucky's Lynn Bowden could fit 49ers' offense

NFL Draft 2020: Why Kentucky's Lynn Bowden could fit 49ers' offense

When John Lynch assured 49ers fans that he and the rest of the front office still will be as prepared as ever for the 2020 NFL Draft despite the coronavirus pandemic, he did so in a video where he, of course, was grinding tape in the background. Lynch very might have been scouting the next offensive weapon for coach Kyle Shanahan.

It appears in the video that Lynch was watching tape of a University of Kentucky game. The Wildcats just so happened to have a do-it-all player who can be unleashed in Shanahan's offense. Lynn Bowden is the modern-day prospect every team is trying to get their hands on. 

The draft remains scheduled to begin on April 23, but the usual pre-draft meetings between teams and players have been wiped out due to the coronavirus. Well, kind of. 

Thanks to the power of technology, the 49ers still can meet with prospects and get to know them as more than just a player on film. The front office already had two FaceTime visits with Michigan State defensive lineman Kenny Willekes and TCU offensive lineman Cordel Iwuagwu, the prospects told Justin Melo of The Draft Wire. The Athletic's Matt Barrows reported Saturday that Bowden, who played quarterback and receiver at Kentucky, is on San Francisco's list of virtual interviews.

In Shanahan's first three seasons coaching the 49ers, he only has used two players other than quarterbacks to attempt a pass. Both came last season when Shanahan's complex offense truly began to take shape. Receiver Dante Pettis completed a 16-yard pass to running back Raheem Mostert in a Week 2 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and fellow receiver Emmanuel Sanders hit Mostert with a 35-yard touchdown pass in a wild 48-46 Week 14 win against the New Orleans Saints. 

Now, just imagine if Shanahan had someone like Bowden. 

While Clemson's Isaiah Simmons can be labeled simply as "defense" for his versatility, Bowden should have OW next to his name for "offensive weapon." He was a receiver his first two-and-a-half years at Kentucky and had 745 receiving yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore. Then last season as a junior, he was asked to be the team's quarterback in their final eight games and dominated as a dual-threat QB. 

Bowden earned the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most outstanding all-purpose player, as well as first-team Associated Press All-American all-purpose recognition. He rushed for 1,468 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, had 403 passing yards and three more scores and still led Kentucky in receiving yards with 348. To add the cherry on top, Bowden even helped returning punts and kickoffs. 

And with the ball in his hands, he's explosive.

At 5-foot-11 and 204 pounds, Bowden has speed, strength and great balance. He immediately can step in as the 49ers' version of a younger Taysom Hill. 

More importantly, Bowden fits in seamlessly to Shanahan's motion offense. Shanahan loves to use deception with play-action and multiple moving parts. This helped unleash Deebo Samuel as a ball-carrier throughout his rookie year. 

Shanahan can use Bowden on jet sweeps, reverses, play-action passes and even a wide receiver pass here and there. He's the perfect Swiss Army knife as football becomes more and more positionless. 

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After their two first-round picks, the 49ers are back on the board twice in the fifth round, twice in the sixth and once in the seventh. Bowden likely will be available in the later rounds and easily can turn into a steal.

Whether it be as a receiver, ball-carrier, Wildcat QB or returner, the possibilities are endless with Bowden as a 49er in Shanahan's offense.