The NFL Draft is all about “fit.” The San Francisco 49ers knocked the 2019 draft out of the park because they found great “fits” in the first, second, and fifth-rounds of the draft. The obvious fit this year is Alabama’s wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, but he has to make it to pick No. 13 for San Francisco to have a chance.
ESPN’s Matt Bowen went through 16 of the top receivers in this year’s upcoming draft and paired each wideout with the team Bowen feels they fit best. Bowen matched Jeudy up with the New York Jets, who pick two spots ahead of the Niners. Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb went to the Las Vegas Raiders, who pick one spot ahead of San Francisco. The other “top” wideout is considered Henry Ruggs, who Bowen paired with the Broncos. The receiver that best fits the 49ers, in Bowen’s opinion, is USC’s Michael Pittman, who is a lot better than draft analysts make Pittman out to be. Here is what Bowen said:
Where the 49ers could get him: Round 1 (No. 31)
Why he fits: The 49ers let Emmanuel Sanders walk in free agency and could target a replacement with the 13th overall pick, which was acquired last month in a trade with the Colts. But I’m looking at Pittman late on Day 1 as a physical route runner with the frame to work the middle of the field and the ball skills to win one-on-ones as a vertical target.
In Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, Pittman could produce quickly for an offense that wants the ball thrown between the numbers with Jimmy Garoppolo. Think of the in-cuts with play-action and the deep curls off max-protection, along with run-pass options and leveled reads for Garoppolo. That’s where Pittman can use his frame to body up defensive backs and produce after the catch. He’s an ascending prospect with the physical traits to fit in Shanahan’s heavily schemed passing game.
When I came up with the players I like to watch the most; it was a coin flip at receiver with Van Jefferson and Pittman. If the 49ers are looking to complement Deebo Samuel, Pittman is an ideal fit. As Bowen stated, he’s very good on timing routes. Pittman is also a vertical threat, something the 49ers are currently lacking. He’s 6’4”, 223 pounds and ran a 4.52 40-yard dash, jumped 36.5” in the vertical, and posted a 4.14 20-yard shuttle. Pittman running a 6.96 3-cone at his size is the most impressive testing number he had.
I know it’s not popular, but I like Pittman more than some bigger names like Ruggs, Jalen Reagor, and Justin Jefferson. Pittman, unlike the other three, proved that he could beat press consistently. When the ball is in the air, you can see Pittman has another gear to run under passes. Add in Pittman can win 50/50 balls, and that’s why I’m a big fan.
Though Pittman tested well, he didn’t seem as sudden on tape as the three wideouts mentioned above when it pertains to changing directions. Pittman returned a punt for a touchdown as a sophomore, so maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised at Pittman’s shuttle times. He finished his senior season with 101 catches for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns.
If the 49ers don’t select a wideout at No. 13, it’s not the end of the world. You could make an argument for 15+ wide receivers that could come in and contribute as a rookie. It’s all about usage. I like Pittman more than Reagor, but Reagor in Kyle Shanahan’s offense? Yes, please. Here is the list of players that I wouldn’t bat an eye at if the 49ers drafted them, because I believe Shanahan can get quality production out of them as rookies:
There are a few more, too. This draft is obnoxiously deep at wide receiver. I won’t be shocked if the 49ers double-dip considering what the future at the position looks like.