I want to focus more on the top-100 selections and any potential slots where San Francisco could be picking if they were to move Deebo Samuel in a trade. But, again, to be clear, I would be reluctant to do considering how crucial Samuel has been to the 49ers' success since being drafted in 2019.
For the sake of discussion, let's say the relationship is unsalvageable, and the 49ers have to deal their superstar wideout. The Philadelphia Eagles are a likely suitor, as they have made it no secret they desire to acquire a difference-maker in the wide receiver room. Philadelphia sends over one of their first-round picks and their second-rounder to the 49ers in exchange for Samuel and a sixth-round pick.
49ers trade Deebo Samuel & pick 172 to Eagles in exchange for picks 18 & 51
Tyreek Hill was dealt to Miami for a package that centered around picks 29 & 50. Davante Adams was moved to Las Vegas for picks 22 & 53. The 49ers sweeten the pot a bit by parting with one of their five late-day three selections and place themselves in a prime position to add a difference-maker in the top 20.
I understand plenty of people want to add a wide receiver right away with the highest pick returned in a trade involving Samuel. But frankly, nobody in this draft is going to be able to fill those shoes from day one, and reaching for a player at the position just to fill a need is a recipe for disaster.
At pick 18, it is the best player available all the way, which is why I opted to address another need by selecting...
Round 1, pick 18
Tyler Linderbaum, Center - Iowa
Alex Mack retiring quickly becomes a worry of the past as the 49ers are able to take advantage of positional value perception to add one of the best players in this entire class. Centers rarely go this high in the draft, but Linderbaum is a rare talent that truthfully looks like someone you could justify spending a top ten pick on.
Linderbaum is one of the best center prospects in recent memory and tested incredibly at his pro day, where he ran a 4.98 40-yard dash, which included a 2.58 20-yard split. This is as explosive as an athlete as you’ll find on the interior offensive line, who also happens to be extremely technically sound with years of solid game tape to back up the eye-popping measurables.
Kyle Shanahan would salivate at the opportunity to have a run blocker like Linderbaum bulldozing opponents up the middle. This is a selection that immediately improves the 49ers' rushing offense, which is important because regardless of what they do with Samuel, I still expect them to be among the league leaders in rushing attempts.
It also gives a young franchise quarterback stability directly in front of them for the foreseeable future. Linderbaum could snap the ball to Lance and clear running lanes in this dynamic offense for the next decade.
Simply put, if you get to the point of moving a superstar like Samuel, you better not whiff with the picks you get in return. This is not only a safe pick. It gives the 49ers a potential Pro Bowler while also addressing a huge area of need.
Round 2, pick 51
Christian Watson - Wide receiver - North Dakota State
Watson has one of the most impressive athletic profiles we have ever seen from a wide receiver prospect. At 6’4 208 pounds, Watson ran a blazing 4.36 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. Stopwatches aside, after watching him live while doing positional drills, I can confidently say that he looked every bit of the 4.3 time that he logged.
Watson scored a 99 out of a possible 100 on his athleticism score at the combine, which is the highest ever recorded by a receiver standing at least 6’4. That's a higher score than Calvin Johnson put up and substantially higher than the 84 that Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool posted in 2020.
Watson isn’t just a freak athlete. He is an all-around receiver who looked like an absolute game wrecker with the ball in his hands at NDSU. His long arms and big frame, and ability to win at the catch point make him an ideal candidate to be the 50/50 ball weapon the 49ers have sorely been lacking.
Based on the athleticism alone, Watson has the traits to develop into an elite talent at the position and, for now, has the cushion of being in a scheme that’s regularly going to get him opportunities with the football.
This also reunites Watson with his former college quarterback, and perhaps you catch lightning in a bottle with the connection between two former Bison that boast tremendous physical attributes.
Round 2, pick 61
Tariq Woolen, Cornerback - UTSA
If we want to talk about incredible athletes, Woolen might be the most unique talent in this entire draft. At 6’4 205 pounds, Woolen displayed jaw-dropping speed with a blazing 4.26 40 time at the scouting combine, which was the fourth-fastest at any position in combine history.
Woolen is a converted wide receiver who made the switch full time to cornerback in 2019 and who has steadily improved during his time at the position. Woolen’s game-breaking speed, coupled with his tremendous length, could help mask some of the growing pains he is likely to face.
The 49ers take a gamble on a player who could end up being a generational athlete at the next level, knowing they already have the pieces to succeed at the outside corner position right away should Woolen need a bit of time to acclimate to the NFL game fully.
Round 3, pick 93
Bryan Cook, Safety - Cincinnati
The 49ers address the secondary with back-to-back picks, this time adding a player who can step in from day one as a starter on the back end. Cook was one of the most reliable safeties in the nation last season, playing a fundamentally sound brand of football that rarely saw him out of place or missing tackles in the open field.
At 6’1 206 pounds, Cook has good instincts and is quick to trigger when attacking downhill. Looks like a player who is comfortable filling run gaps and playing in the box, and covering the deep third of the field.
Cook was a bit of a late bloomer, having a stellar season after only starting two games for the Bearcats in 2020. Despite the lack of experience, Cook shined when the lights were bright this past season, playing a very strong game against #1 ranked Alabama in the college football playoff, during which he intercepted Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
Cook is a solid player with a seemingly high floor that fills an immediate need in the 49ers' secondary.
Round 3, pick 105
Marquis Hayes, Guard - Oklahoma
The 49ers lost a five-year starter and one of their more dependable players when Laken Tomlinson departed for the New York Jets in free agency. Hayes gives the 49ers a plug-and-play left guard who can immediately slot in next to Trent Williams and protect Trey Lance’s blindside.
Hayes is very strong in pass protection, only allowing 35 pressures on 1,306 pass-blocking snaps during his three-year career at Oklahoma. At 6’5, 318 pounds, Hayes is slightly taller than Tomlinson, but otherwise, profiles are very similar when comparing both physical profiles.
This pick would immediately help insulate an interior offensive line that could potentially have three first-year starters on it, giving the 49ers a reliable replacement in pass protection at a position where they had stability for the last five seasons.