The 2020 NFL draft will go on as scheduled, and we’re 24 days away. Instead of randomly selecting mock drafts for the San Francisco 49ers, I’ll just bring them all in one spot, and we’ll see who the most popular selections for the Niners are.
SB Nation’s Dan Kadar - CB C.J. Henderson, Florida | WR Tee Higgins, Clemson, WR
There has been talk since the NFL Scouting Combine that Henderson would be a top-15 pick. Now that the 49ers hold the 13th selection, they could be the team to make that come true. After this season, defensive backs Richard Sherman, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Wuan Williams and Ahkello Witherspoon are all unrestricted free agents. That could lead the 49ers to future-proofing their defense with a player like Henderson.
The 49ers swung and missed on Dante Pettis, their second-round pick in the 2018 draft. They swung and hit a home run in the second round last year with Deebo Samuel. In this loaded class of wide receivers, the 49ers could take one more swing with a big receiver like Higgins. He’s a good outside target who will go up and get the ball. He’s not the fastest wide receiver, but the 49ers have plenty of speed.
ESPN + Mel Kiper - WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama | CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn
This pick now belongs to the 49ers, after the Colts traded it to acquire interior disruptor DeForest Buckner. San Francisco could use the pick for a straight replacement for Buckner at defensive tackle — if Javon Kinlaw drops out of the top 10, he could do damage in the middle of its defense — but I see wide receiver as a higher priority, particularly after Emmanuel Sanders walked in free agency. Adding Jeudy, who caught 77 passes for 1,163 yards and 10 TDs last season, to a group with Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne makes this a really exciting (and young) trio of wideouts for Jimmy Garoppolo.
If the 49ers can get a wide receiver with their first pick, they could turn to the defense with this pick. With DeForest Buckner gone, I thought about defensive tackle, but they still have some talent there with former top-five pick Solomon Thomas moving inside permanently. Justin Madubuike could be an option. But corner is a more pressing need, and you only have to watch Super Bowl LIV to see that. Richard Sherman, who turns 32 later this month, is only signed through 2020, and the Niners don’t have a set No. 2 corner. Igbinoghene, a track athlete who is still raw, is my third-ranked corner, and he could also help as a return man.
Sam Farmer L.A. Times - WR Ceedee Lamb, Oklahoma | DT Ross Blacklock, TCU
The 49ers just lost Emmanuel Sanders to the Saints. They haven’t had a homegrown No. 1 receiver since Terrell Owens.
With his ability to penetrate, Blacklock would fit right into that aggressive, one-gap defensive line that lost DeForest Buckner.
Chad Reuter NFL.Com - WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama | CB A.J. Terrell, Clemson
Forget about Terrell and Clemson’s night against LSU in the title game — I’m sure he already has. The 49ers looked at the rest of his tape, as well as his combine workout, and saw a future starter.
Fake Teams (Pete Rogers) - CB C.J. Henderson, Florida | WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado
I know I’m the one who made this mock and I could’ve made one of Jeudy or Lamb fall to the 49ers here but DAMN I wish that had naturally happened. Both of those guys would be amazing in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, especially Lamb. Still, Henderson is an excellent corner who can learn under Richard Sherman who’s a free agent at the end of 2020.
With Emmanuel Sanders out of the building, the 49ers could use another wide receiver to pair with Deebo Samuel and newly-signed Travis Benjamin. Shenault would be yet another offensive weapon for Kyle Shanahan to deploy in his offense and the amount of motion, screens, sweeps he could do with Shenault and Samuel would make defense’s heads spin.
The Ringer (Danny Kelly) - DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina | CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah
Versatile defensive lineman with excellent length, strength, and get-off; consistently creates havoc in the backfield no matter where he lines up
Physical, athletic cornerback who excels in press coverage, lurks in off coverage, can work in the slot, and tackles well.
PFF (Mike Renner) - WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama | IOL Cesar Ruiz, Michigan
While Marquise Goodwin and Jalen Hurd return this season, they’re both limited in what they bring to the table for the 49ers’ offense. Jeudy is not. Any route at any depth, Jeudy can already run at a high level.
There’s no clean need/value fit here for San Francisco and, truthfully, it might make the most sense for them to trade down at this point and accumulate some capital — they have no picks on Day 2. If not, Ruiz looks like the best combination of athleticism and skill to slot into the interior of the 49ers’ offensive line.
Pro Football Network (Tony Pauline) - WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama | OT Ezra Cleveland, Boise St.
Losing Emmanuel Sanders leaves a hole at wide receiver for the Niners. Who better to fill it than Jeudy? He’s a perfect fit for the team’s three-receiver sets, offers ability in the slot, and could spell Richie James as a return specialist if needed.
Like the Titans, a cornerback would be a good fit here. But none on the board are worthy of the 31st selection. I also considered Cesar Ruiz, but the Niners signed Ben Garland to a one year deal last week. My thinking with Cleveland is 1) Joe Staley’s best days are behind him; and 2) Even if Justin Skule shows himself worthy of holding down the left tackle spot, Cleveland can play guard.
Rotoworld (Josh Norris) - DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina | WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State.
DeForest Buckner was traded for this pick, so why not attempt to replace some of the disruption with another interior lineman. The 49ers didn’t trade Buckner because they didn’t need him - it was for long-term cap reasons. Kinlaw is the type of interior lineman who records four or five snaps of absolutely wrecking an offense’s plan, and that impact trickles down to all levels of the team’s defense.
I’d expect the 49ers to trade back from one of their first-round picks, but in this “no trade” mock draft exercise, here we go. While Sanders posted just two games of 100-plus receiving yards with the 49ers, including a total of 71 yards in three postseason games, his addition was a clear indication that Kyle Shanahan wanted more from his receivers not named Deebo Samuel. Maybe Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd return to make an impact, but Aiyuk possesses a big frame who also won after the catch with the Sun Devils.
Touchdownwire (Doug Farrar) - CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama | WR Brandon Ayiuk, Arizona State
The 49ers’ roster is one with very few holes. Cornerback was one of them in a relative sense when Ahkello Witherspoon was on the field, and only marginally less so when Emmanuel Moseley replaced Witherspoon for performance reasons as the season progressed and into the postseason. Richard Sherman had one of the more remarkable bounce-back seasons in recent NFL history last year, but he’ll also be 32 when the next season starts. Given that uncertainty, and understanding what the 49ers want out of their cornerbacks — big, physical defenders who can take the alpha to the field in a defense based more on execution than schematic diversity — Diggs would be a great addition.
Last season, the 49ers made it all the way to the Super Bowl with the best offensive play-designer in the NFL (head coach Kyle Shanahan) drawing up wizardry that transformed tight end George Kittle into a one-man wrecking crew and turned rookie receiver Deebo Samuel into a fascinating weapon all over the field. What the 49ers do not have, heading into the 2020 season — especially with the departure of Emmanuel Sanders — is a high-volume receiver who can extricate himself from different kinds of coverage and present a serious threat both downfield and after the catch in a more traditional sense. Aiyuk has the ability to both of those things. Last season, he caught 65 passes for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns, averaged 10.9 yards per reception after the catch and had 384 yards on just 19 deep targets, per Pro Football Focus.
Ten total mock drafts, and here is the popular vote:
WR Jeudy: 4
CB Henderson: 2
DT Kinlaw: 2
WR Lamb: 1
CB Diggs: 1
As for pick No. 31, only Ayiuk was mentioned more than once. To me, if the 49ers landed Kiper’s mock, I’d go from “rooting” for the 49ers to becoming a borderline “fanboy.” I love Igbinoghene and what he can do at cornerback. He’s one of my favorite players in the draft.
Do any of these scenarios make you cringe? I used to work for Farrar and love him to death, but if the 49ers leave the first round with a Diggs/Ayuik combo—two players that are closer to third round talents than firsts—we may need to have an intervention.
I can live with most of these results. Some of the mocks Jeudy was ooff the board, which is why the author elected to go with another position besides wide receiver.