With a fairly complete roster across the board, the 49ers have but a few true needs heading into the 2020 NFL Draft. Being able to run the ball as effectively as they do and roll out an elite defense both led by young and inexpensive players is a huge advantage. It gives the Niners the luxury to draft one of the top skill position players should they choose with the 13th-overall pick.
And that’s exactly what they did in Pro Football Focus’ latest mock by Steve Palazzolo.
In this mock, both Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s Ceedee Lamb are taken prior to the 13th pick. Due to this, the Niners get the “leftovers” of the top-3 wide receivers and wind-up selecting Jeudy’s teammate, Henry Ruggs III. While most would argue that the first two wideouts are the more complete players, you could also argue that Kyle Shanahan’s zone offense is excellent to take advantage of Ruggs’ elite physical traits.
The offensive explosion that the league has seen from the likes of Shanahan, Sean McVay, and Andy Reid is something that has stirred the copycat waters of the NFL. When the league saw McVay thrive in his first year at the helm of the realms, everyone jumped to hire those who spent time on his staff, like the Bengals hiring Zac Taylor. One of the biggest aspects that these three offenses have in common is their ability to keep defenses guessing and make them pay when they guess wrong.
Two of the Niners’ biggest play-makers right now are Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. Deebo made his money on play-action end-arounds, forcing the defense to respect their elite ground game before be gashed by Samuel going the other way. Same thing with Kittle. Shanahan loves to take advantage of his aggressiveness as a blocker to set up delayed routes where he can take advantage of his RAC ability.
Ruggs fits in simply due to what he can do after the catch and what his elite speed can do for him when given an extra step due to a defense’s hesitation against play-action. Should the offense continue to run the ball with incredible efficiency, it won’t be hard for Ruggs to set defenses up before getting behind them in the blink of an eye.
Leaving Henry Ruggs 1-on-1 is probably a suboptimal decision. Beautiful sluggo here by Ruggs. Tua has got to hit this one. Wide open, clean pocket, no pressure - just overthrew him here.— PODZILLA G (@RayGQue) March 29, 2020
Luckily Devonta Smith had 11-274-5TDs this game pic.twitter.com/sgh8tGQn75
The 6’0, 190-pound speedster caught just 98 passes but turned it into 1,716 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also took a pair of hand-offs for 75 yards and another score. For you math whizzes out there, that means Ruggs III scored a touchdown on exactly 25% of his touches at Alabama.
Of course, the Niners have a second pick in the first round, and Mr. Palazzolo decided to bless them with Missouri defensive tackle Jordan Elliott at pick 31.
Elliott is an athletically-built 6’4 and 310 pounds. He wears the #1, and if that doesn’t make you fall in love with a defensive lineman, I don’t know what does. A single-digit on a lineman or linebacker is like cat-nip for draft fans. You can’t help but be attracted to it.
It’s also hard not to like his explosive style of play. Elliott possesses one of the quickest first steps among the position and often turns that into disruption in the backfield. He can get upfield in a hurry and shed blocks for quick takedowns behind the line. I enjoy his ability to shut down offensive linemen on down blocks and stay square to the line, ready to greet the running back with open arms.
I'm really starting to like Missouri IDL Jordan Elliott.— Zack Thomas (@NFL_Zack) March 29, 2020
He's a strong 2-gapping IDL with a good high swim move and can get small for a big man.
His counters are solid and he has some sneaky good athleticism. He's also very versatile. pic.twitter.com/Jv4XOXxIXs
Elliott played two seasons at Missouri after transferring from Texas and sitting out his first year with the program. In ‘18, he posted 24 tackles with eight tackles-for-loss and three sacks. As a senior this past season, Elliott posted 44 tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss, and 2.5 sacks en route to making the Associated Press All-American squad as a second-team member.
I’m a fan of both picks, especially the selection of Ruggs III, but I think cornerback would be the more impactful addition to the defense than another defensive tackle. The defensive line has plenty of pieces to be effective while enlisting a rotation if needed.
But what do you all think of the latest predictions? Are you a fan of Palazzolo’s picks, or would you make some changes?