It’s not often you hear a head coach on a podcast, but that was the case on Tuesday when San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan joined Tim Kawakami’s TK Show to discuss everything draft related. Kyle said 20 minutes before the draft his Wifi froze, he lost connection, and couldn’t talk to anyone. That had to be the biggest fear for every NFL team heading into a virtual draft. Shanahan said there were no issues the prior two weeks, but then his internet went out just before the draft, which led Kyle to have to pick up the phone to call John Lynch to communicate.
Shanahan, on if the draft went how the team planned or if they had to deal with any last-minute changes:
We had a good feeling we were going to get a good player at 13. Looking at our needs and thee players we liked the most, we were hoping to get Kinlaw if he was there. We had a good feeling he might not be there. If he wasn’t, we were going to trade back and get Aiyuk later. With not having another pick until the fifth round, we feel like we have a pretty deep team. It’s tough to add guys in those later rounds the better you get. We wanted to get some mid-level picks, and we were going to do that and try and get Aiyuk later. But Kinlaw was there, and we were excited about that. We knew Tampa wasn’t going to take him, so we moved back a little bit. The team we were worried about was Atlanta. We had a gut feeling they might like him because of the player he was and what they do also, so we didn’t want t risk that. John was fortunate enough to do that, pick up a fourth-rounder, and we still got the guy we wanted.
It was a little bittersweet because we were so pumped to get Kinlaw, but that made me feel we won’t get as much trade, and now it was going to be impossible to get the receiver we really wanted. We would’ve seen who was that at 31 at receiver, but we would have probably gone another position just because you’re going to take the best player on the board. Then we saw Aiyuk sitting there at the 20s. We thought he was going to go between picks 18-22. So the fact that he was still there, and we were able to use that fourth-round pick to go up and get him. We never planned on getting both of those guys, and that’s what was cool. The whole day was like which way is it going to go. So the fact that we were able to get both of them, I was ecstatic.
Kawakami asked Kyle if he had Aiyuk rated ahead of Henry Ruggs, who was the first wide receiver drafted:
The good thing as a head coach is I never have to give a grade. I just get to say who I like and where. You have guys who are your favorite and who are second, but there were five receivers who we thought would be taken in the first rounds, which were all pretty close. When you look at all those, you feel like you’re happy with any of them. We had three out of those five that we liked more than others. When you look at it, we thought CeeDee was going to go first. We thought it would be CeeDee or Jeudy. So when you look at it, would you rather have CeeDee at 13 or Aiyuk at 20. So that means you’re going to take Aiyuk and another player. If we went from 13 to 18, we would have picked up a third-round pick. So do you like CeeDee Lamb by himself, or Ayiuk and a third-rounder? That makes it a lot easier and an easy decision. I’m not going to compare those two if you think you can get one later and one earlier when they’re both really good. What’s the best value? I didn’t think we’d get him at 25, but I thought Aiyuk would be the best value in that 18-22 area, and that’s why I went in targeting that guy.
The openness from Shanahan is incredible here. Kawakami asked Kyle how much he values top-end speed since Aiyuk ran a 4.5:
I value speed a ton, and it’s always something that’s very important. When it comes to getting a starting receiver, I just want to get the best receiver available. I’m all for getting speed guys. Ruggs is a good speed guy and can do other things too, but when I look at Aiyuk, he runs every single route, he can play all three positions, and the toughness he plays with. He’s also a very smart player. He did time out as a 4.5, but he has one of the fastest 10s [yard split] in the draft. I do think he runs faster than a 4.5 on tape. Look at his GPS time. He’s one of the fastest receivers that’s recorded in games. What you’re trying to do is get a Julio Jones. He has the hands, size, weight, speed, he has everything, but not everyone is like that. Deebo can run pretty good. Aiyuk can run pretty good. We have Travis Benjamin fighting for a spot who has been a speed guy for me in the past. Richie [James] can run, too. We have a number of guys who can run. We’ll always look for the 4.3 guy, but not at the expense of a receiver we like more.
I think that just answered the question of whether Kyle liked Aiyuk over Ruggs. I love Shanahan referencing technology and game speed. I spoke to Arizona State’s wide receiver coach Tuesday, and he raved about Aiyuk. We’ll have more on that later, but coach Fisher said Aiyuk has “competitive speed,” meaning you never see him get caught. “He’s as fast as he needs to be.” After watching Aiyuk with Fisher, and knowing how excited Shanahan is about using him, it’s tough not to get excited.