The 49ers started the weekend with seven picks: 13, 31, 156, 176, 210, 217, 245 . . . and one curveball. All-decade left tackle Joe Staley told the team he was retiring last week, and so the team had to place some urgency on getting a left tackle on draft weekend. Which meant they needed a left tackle, a defensive tackle to replace the traded DeForest Buckner, and a game-breaking receiver to pair with Deebo Samuel. GM John Lynch had a crafty weekend. He traded down one spot with Tampa in the first round and still got the guy the Niners had targeted, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. In that deal, Lynch picked up the Bucs’ fourth-round pick—the key element in allowing the Niners to move from 31 to 25 with the Vikes to draft the best receiver on their board (surprisingly), Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk. Then Lynch went to work to replace Staley. He phoned Washington and got a very good player, left tackle Trent Williams, for the 156th pick and next year’s third-round choice. Then Lynch dealt his third or fourth back, Matt Breida, to Miami for a fifth-round pick that became a potential swing tackle—West Virginia’s Colton McKivitz.
In sum, Lynch filled his three vital needs on one weekend with playoff-caliber players. That’s what excellent GMs do. No franchise-manager of a playoff team had a better weekend than Lynch.
If Aiyuk is as good as the 49ers think he can be, the fourth-rounder will look like nothing from a compensation point of view. I know the recent history for trading up hasn’t gone well for San Francisco, but Aiyuk is a high-end athlete with the precise skill set needed to excel in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Flipping Breida for a fifth-round pick and Goodwin for a sixth with their contracts is being swept under the radar. Those moves were big-time by Lynch.
King said, “John Lynch’s grade for his fourth draft: Is there something higher than “A-plus?”
In King’s “I think I think” segment, he had this to say about Joe Staley:
Joe Staley deserves more than a heartfelt public statement announcing his retirement, and I hope the Niners do something significant for him when a public tribute is appropriate. He was a legitimate all-decade tackle, playing for so many different Niner regimes (Singletary, Harbaugh, Tomsula, oh my!). I’ll never forget one of the great downfield blocks by an offensive lineman in NFL history, from the Niners’ 36-32 win over the Saints in the 2011 playoffs.
Lynch and Shanahan kicked off Saturday’s post-draft presser with a quick tribute and said there would be more down the line:
General Manager John Lynch: “Kyle and I felt like it would appropriate to start this by paying a quick tribute, knowing that we will do it in a much bigger fashion and he’ll get a proper sendoff, but obviously today some news with regards to [T] Joe Staley and the end of an unbelievable career. I know I speak for Kyle, and I’ll let him do so for himself, but Joe, for the past 13 years, has played at the highest level, being an unbelievable member of our community. The three years that Kyle and I have been here, it’s just been a real treat getting to know Joe Staley. His level of play has been incredible. He’s given everything, and I’ll leave it with this if there’s a player you wish you could have pulled the whole thing off for it would have been Joe. Like I said, we’ll give him a much more appropriate farewell at the right time, but I did want to start with that, and then we’ll open it up to questions unless you want to say anything, Kyle.”
Head Coach Kyle Shanahan: “Same with me, and Joe’s going to have his day. We’ll have our parade as soon as we can when quarantine is over and everything for him because he deserves it more than anything. I was with Joe for three years, and he’s as good of a player and warrior and person as any player I’ve ever been around, and I love the guy. It’s really hard on us when we had to realize that he wasn’t going to play this year. But, talking to the man, knowing the person, knowing his family, he’s no doubt making the right decision with what’s best for his health and his future. It was real hard for us to hear because of how good of a player he is, still is, but it’s the best thing for him, and I’m really happy for him. I’m happy with the career that he had and so happy I could be a part of it. When his day comes, we can all get together, and we’ll talk a lot more about it.”
The final part of King’s column discussed the trade between Tampa Bay and San Francisco. King said Buc’s general manager Jason Licht began to realize his efforts to move up to draft an offensive tackle were complicated by the fact the team ahead of him all had targets of their own and didn’t want Licht’s extra picks. Licht said, “nobody wants to give us their pick. I was getting a little bit antsy.” That’s when Licht called San Francisco as he heard Staley was retiring. So with one minute and 31 seconds left on the clock, the 49ers accepted Tampa Bay’s deal, which enabled Tampa Bay to select Tristan Wirfs.