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Golden Nuggets: Did the 49ers miss an opportunity to draft a wide receiver?

Your daily San Francisco 49ers links for Tuesday, May 4, 2021

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San Francisco 49ers v Denver Broncos Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Kyle Shan joined The Rich Eisen Show on Monday and offered more insights into why the 49ers went with Trey Lance.

The sensible and sane part of the 49ers’ offseason is what set them up for the dramatic climax

Prediction 7: They’ll draft Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond in the second round

The March 9 thinking: It was always going to be very expensive to get one of the top QBs in this draft from the 12 slot, and I didn’t think the 49ers would be able to do it. I figured they would wait until the second round to pick among Mond, Stanford’s Davis Mills or Florida’s Kyle Trask. I liked Mond because of his larger athletic talents and theorized that the 49ers could go with Garoppolo in 2021 and get Mond ready to go in 2022.

The result: The 49ers paid everything I could’ve ever imagined — and more — to move up to get their pick at QB. Mond went in the third round to Minnesota, Mills in the third round to Houston and Trask in the second round to Tampa Bay.

Trade up for Sermon cost 49ers chance to fill slot WR need

But in trading up for Sermon, the 49ers also missed an opportunity.

If the 49ers had simply retained their picks at Nos. 117 and 121 of the fourth round, they could have gotten a bigger, base down running back while also picking up a speedy, shifty, yards-after-the-catch slot receiver.

One of the 49ers’ biggest questions is whether they have a slot receiver who can emerge. They could have scooped up one of the more dynamic options in the draft, Jaelon Darden of North Texas.

Darden, instead, joined Tom Brady and the Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the No. 129 overall pick.

The 49ers picked a strange time for their streak of selecting a wide receiver in the draft to end after 18 years in a row. Over the course of the three-day affair, the 49ers believe they got better at quarterback, running back, offensive line and defensive backfield.

But they did not get better at receiver, which was one area in which they needed a little help.

NFL Power Rankings: Bears, 49ers on the rise after 2021 draft

Rank 9 Up: 3

San Francisco 49ers Previous rank: No. 12

We’re still not entirely sure who was the target of the smokescreen, but the Niners were ultimately successful in masking their intentions before selecting Trey Lance with the third overall pick. Lance is a bit of a mystery prospect due to his sparsity of college reps, but the upside — which factors in his physical and mental tools and the QB-friendly system he enters into — is enormous. What this means for Jimmy Garoppolo is unknown: He still makes sense as a trade candidate, but he also cuts the profile of a fine insurance policy for a Niners team that can rightfully say it has Super Bowl aspirations despite last season’s 6-10 clunker.

Ranking the 49ers’ undrafted rookie class, which is led by WR Austin Watkins Jr.

WR Austin Watkins Jr., University of Alabama-Birmingham, 6-1, 207

Watkins was one of the more sought-after receivers when the draft ended. The 49ers edged out the Bengals, Ravens and Titans among other teams. Watkins and his representatives liked the attention 49ers receivers coach Wes Welker paid to him during the process and that after Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk there are few shoo-ins at the position. The 49ers landed Watkins with a $25,000 signing bonus and a $30,000 base salary guarantee.

He primarily lined up on the outside at UAB, but the 49ers think he can operate inside as well. He’s a good-sized target who was a strong blocker in college and who dropped just two passes in 101 targets over the last two seasons. A 49ers’ draft theme was, the number of players who took part in the Senior Bowl. Draft picks Aaron Banks, Trey Sermon, Jaylon Moore, Ambry Thomas and Elijah Mitchell were in Mobile, Ala. this year. So were Watkins and linebacker Justin Hilliard.

How George Kittle changed 49ers’ NFL draft philosophy forever

“We kind of killed ourselves forever with that from George,” Shanahan said. “I’m always like ‘Man, we can get a better one in the fifth.’ But I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen again like that.

“We would always love to add tight ends. Anybody who can catch the ball and score points and also help us block, you can never have enough of them, but you’ve also got to balance your team out.”