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Previewing the top wide receivers in the NFL Draft

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College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

With the NFL Combine underway this week, we’ll see some of the best athletes in college football on display. One position, wide receiver, is always the position that gets the most traction. Even though the San Francisco 49ers drafted two wide receivers last year, there are plenty of people that believe the team is still in the market for a wideout.

Matt Barrows of The Athletic gave the 49ers Clemson’s star receiver Tee Higgins in his a mock draft that was released on Monday:

31. San Francisco 49ers: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Yes, the 49ers have spent huge amounts of draft capital at receiver in recent years, including sending third- and fourth-round picks to Denver for Emmanuel Sanders in October. Still, they have little to show for it with Deebo Samuel as their only sure thing for next season. Higgins is a big-bodied (6-4, 215 pounds), down-field threat (19.8 yards a catch in 2019) who could open up space in the middle of the field for Samuel, George Kittle and the 49ers’ running backs. Given that the 49ers won’t pick again until the fifth round, trading down might be their top option. —Matt Barrows

What the 49ers would be getting with Higgins: Higgins proved ready as the next-man-up in what has become a long lineage of NFL-caliber Clemson wide receivers. The Oak Ridge, Tenn., native earned a starting role at Clemson’s marquee boundary position when he was a sophomore and never looked back. As quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s favorite down-field threat in 2019, Higgins’ yards-per-catch figure ranked 13th in the country in his final season with the Tigers. He is a former basketball player who could have played at the Division I level, making him a versatile athlete. He also blocked well for the Tigers. In finishing his Clemson career with 27 receiving touchdowns, Higgins tied a program record alongside a couple of Clemson wide receivers for whom things have worked out nicely at the next level: Kansas City’s Sammy Watkins and Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. — Grace Raynor, Clemson beat writer

Higgins is the man, and with Kyle Shanahan, his ceiling will only be higher. Higgins measured over 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds on Monday. He’s known as a jump ball receiver, but Higgins is at his best when the ball is in his hands:

He’d also be the vertical threat the offense lacks, as well as the “big body” threat that is open when he’s not:

He’s a fun player, and probably will end up as my favorite receiver in the draft—though there’s always a small school guy that ends up as my draft crush.

On Sunday, CBS Sports gave the 49ers a wideout in their mock draft as well. It’s early, and free agency will answer the question about how much of a need wide receiver is for San Francisco. PFF has 11 receivers in its top 44 players. It’s a loaded position, and—even with a trade back—the Niners should be in a good position to land a wideout. Here are your choices, though the top three or four will be long gone by the time pick No. 31 comes around.

5. Ceedee Lamb- Oklahoma

Lamb took the reins of the top WR position in Oklahoma this year and didn’t disappoint. He was on another level after the catch where he broke 26 tackles on only 62 catches.

6. Jerry Jeudy- Alabama

Jeudy lulled everyone to sleep with a ho-hum regular season then reminded everyone how special he is in Alabama’s bowl win over Michigan.

15. Laviska Shenault Jr.- Colorado

Shenault’s combination of size, explosiveness and after-the-catch ability is unrivaled in the class. He’s not a polished product by any means, but he’s got special tools that you can’t teach.

20. Henry Ruggs III- Alabama

Elite speed, after-the-catch ability and ball skills — that’s a winning combination. And it’s that combination that helped Ruggs find the end zone on 24 of his 98 career catches.

23. Tee Higgins- Clemson

If you’re in the market for a bigger wide receiver in this draft class, Higgins is your man. He’s been the most consistent receiver in the country at hauling in passes outside his frame over the past couple of seasons.

28. Jalen Reagor- TCU

The stats this past season don’t do Reagor’s explosiveness justice. You don’t go for over 1,000 yards as a 19-year-old with one of the worst QB situations in the country without some serious talent.

31. Brandon Aiyuk- Arizona State

Aiyuk personifies explosiveness. He’s another player who’s worth questioning as to why he did little prior to his senior season, but he was a big play waiting to happen in 2019 with 28 catches of 15-plus yards.

37. Denzel Mims- Baylor
49. Jauan Jennings- Tennesee
44. Tyler Johnson- Minnesota

Do you have a receiver that you want the 49ers to draft, or are you waiting for the combine?