Each year right after the NFL Draft, ESPN’s draft analysts select the best value pick from each team. But value doesn’t mean it’ll be the best player selected all the time. Todd McShay believes the 49ers selecting Ji’Ayir Brown was the best value for San Francisco, despite trading up:
Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State (Round 3, No. 87)
The Niners’ first pick came at No. 87, and it was a good one. Brown could be an NFL starter very soon. San Francisco has a very capable safety duo in Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson Sr., but the latter re-signed for just one year and is turning 33 years old.
Brown has high-level instincts and the versatility to move around the defense as an interchangeable safety. He ran a really disappointing 4.65 40 at the combine, but he plays way faster than that. And with his recognition skills, he can make plays on the ball. He picked off 10 passes over the past two seasons, often getting early jumps and attacking the ball in the air. Against the run, Brown is aggressive, always seems to be around the ball and finishes as a tackler.
I had Brown at No. 67 on my board, but I had a feeling he’d be underdrafted. He’s going to outplay his draft slot. Brown is an incredibly hard worker who will carve out a role in this 49ers defense, maybe even lining up as a big nickel in some situations.
The 49ers traded pick No. 102, 164, and 222 for pick No. 87 to select Brown. Using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft trade value chart, pick No. 87 has a value of 737. The other three picks combined hold a value of 1,334.
San Francisco nearly doubled the value from a picks' perspective, which tells you how strongly they feel about Brown’s game. So, the answer to the question in the headline is no. But the Niners also had a surplus of picks, and if Brown ends up starting for two or three years of his rookie contract, nobody will fault the team for trading a pick in the 200s.
McShay isn’t the only one who was high on Brown. SB Nation’s JP Acosta had Brown ranked No. 67 overall on his big board. I reference Sports Info Solutions often as I know who does their scouting. They had Brown 27 on their overall big board. Which, wow.
Kyle Shanahan spoke about how their defense could have three safeties in the field at once. Talanoa Hufanga is a pseudo linebacker. He and Brown could be interchangeable in the box, which only gives the 49ers more athleticism in coverage on the field.
Trading up for Brown may not have made sense when using a value chart, but looking at big boards and the type of player the 49ers are getting, it was a no-brainer.