It was certainly an exciting first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The San Francisco 49ers started the night with two draft picks and concluded the night with two new additions to the team. Defensive Tackle Javon Kinlaw was selected 14th overall after the 49ers traded back one spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In return, the 49ers received a 4th round pick. While many expected the 49ers to trade out of the first round, the team instead got bold, packaged that 4th round pick from earlier with the 31st pick and pick 176, and sent that to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for the 25th pick. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan used that pick to select Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
I have to give myself some credit here. I had a feeling all week leading up to the draft that Javon Kinlaw might be the pick…I even tweeted minutes before the draft began that he was going to be the 49ers selection with the possibility of moving back!
Alright faithful and @NinersNation ...I’m going with my gut...Niners taking Javon Kinlaw either at 13 or a slight trade back. At 31 the Niners trade out of the first round. My dark horse pick is OL Josh Jones. #49ersDraft #NFLDraft2020— Alex Gregory (@AlexG_Eisen) April 24, 2020
Anyway, onto the WINNERS and LOSERS of Day 1 of the NFL Draft.
Just days ago, Javon Kinlaw flat out said on Bleacher Report he hoped the 49ers would draft him. Well, dare to dream! Kinlaw is walking into a fantastic spot with unbelievable support around him. He is just the latest piece to the most dominant defensive line in football. With Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa, double-digit sack producer Arik Armstead, and veteran Dee Ford along the line, Kinlaw’s transition to the pro level should be smooth and quick. No one should expect Kinlaw to replace Deforest Buckner this year, however, in due time, Kinlaw is going to be an absolute force and nightmare to deal with along the interior.
In 2017, the 49ers selected Solomon Thomas 3rd overall with hopes that he would be a cornerstone along their defensive line for years to come. That has not exactly gone as planned. After trading Buckner to the Colts, perhaps that was a window opening back up for Thomas. However, with the Kinlaw selection, it seems like the team’s trust in the former top-three pick is running out. Don’t be surprised if Thomas is packaged in a trade this weekend or before the 2020 season kicks off. Something never seemed right with Thomas the moment the 49ers selected him, and the writing seems to be on the wall…Parting ways might be best for both parties moving forward.
Deforest Buckner signed a four year, 84-million-dollar contract after he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers will be paying a fraction of that with a younger, cheaper version who will learn, grow, and pick up where Buckner left off over time. Like it or not, the 49ers are committed to a physical brand of smash-mouth defense along the line of scrimmage as they continue to invest high draft picks in the trenches. Particularly along the defensive line. It usually isn’t a tally in the win column on draft night with the fans, but these picks almost always produce wins when they matter most on the field.
Opposing Teams’ Offensive Lines
My oh my…just when teams thought they could take a breath when Buckner was traded…the 49ers decided to rinse and repeat. Imagine for a moment that you are an offensive coordinator or offensive line coach, and you have to decide how you are going to contain Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw…and a rotation of DJ Jones, Julian Taylor, and don’t forget Kentavious Street for 60 minutes…Yeah…good luck!
Entering the 2019 College Football Season, Brandon Aiyuk wasn’t sniffing the first round. Last year he was completely overshadowed by N’Keal Harry. However…one year can make all the difference…Just ask the number one overall pick, Joe Burrow. Aiyuk is exactly the kind of receiver Kyle Shanahan wants in his offense. With a wingspan bigger than Calvin Johnson, and a 9.9 YAC average, Aiyuk is going to be dangerous in the open field, with the ball in his hands. He and Deebo Samuel are going to be electric together. Aiyuk isn’t going to get the praise that Ceedee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs receive; however, if you take the time to watch his tape, he can run all the routes, inside and out, has reliable hands, and explodes after the catch. Like Samuel, he can take and handle contact as well. An extra bonus that the 49ers leapfrogged the Green Bay Packers, who most likely had their sights set on Aiyuk.
Dante Pettis & Marquise Goodwin
Like Solomon Thomas, Dante Pettis, and Marquise Goodwin may be seeing the writing on the wall the moment the 49ers selected Brandon Aiyuk. It’s not just Aiyuk either, but Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, the return of Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd, and the signing of Travis Benjamin. Goodwin may be traded before the 2020 NFL Draft concludes for draft capital. As for Pettis, training camp may be his last chance to prove his worth, or he too may be traded or simply cut. The 49ers not only invested a first-round pick in Aiyuk but traded multiple picks to move up for him. He will be a top priority in the offense, moving forward with Deebo Samuel. All of a sudden, the wide receiver room is getting crowded, and it could be Pettis and Goodwin who are the odd men out of the equation.
Another target for Jimmy G…and a big target as well. As I explained earlier, Aiyuk has a wingspan bigger than Calvin Johnson. Obviously, the more weapons you surround your quarterback with, the better. Aiyuk has a chance to be that big target, outside the numbers, along the perimeter for Garoppolo. If Taylor and Hurd return healthy, and Kendrick Bourne continues to evolve his game, the passing game could be quite lethal in 2020 and beyond. The addition of Brandon Aiyuk gives Garoppolo another target and adds more value and quality to the offense as a whole. George Kittle, Samuel, Aiyuk, Bourne, Taylor, James, and Hurd should get fans excited.
The 49ers made one thing clear…They are very confident moving forward with their roster. They better be because they do not pick again until the fifth round, and have only three selections remaining. Maybe that’s all they need, maybe they have something sneaky up their sleeves, and we see an appearance, via trades for picks on day 2. This is what makes the NFL Draft so unpredictable and yet so fascinating. Once the clock starts ticking, you can take the hundred thousand mock drafts and throw them out the window. For now, the 49ers have very little to work with for the remainder of this draft. Is that a bad thing necessarily? Perhaps not…Perhaps we will have to revisit this and see if this cost them more than it helped them…We won’t know today…and we won’t know for some time.
Who are your winners and losers of day 1 for the San Francisco 49ers? Please share in the comments below!