27 Apr 2020 NFL Draft Grades for the San Francisco 49ers
The 2020 NFL draft is now in the rearview mirror and it was one for the history books. Circumstances in the world forced the NFL to think outside of the box and, for the most part, it went off smoothly. From virtual hugs to more live reactions than ever before, the 2020 NFL draft had plenty of action and intrigue for the league, the teams, and most of all the fans. Even with all of that action, the San Francisco 49ers clearly stood out by being active and bold throughout the three-day event. While knowing what the right moves were will be something to revisit down the road, here are my preliminary grades for the 49ers draft.
Round 1, Pick 14: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Make no mistake about it, Javon Kinlaw is going to be a disruptive force for the 49ers on an already stacked defensive line. A 6’5” 300+ pound monster, Kinlaw is both explosive and fierce. He has a lot to live up to as a replacement for the departed DeForest Buckner, but the 49ers have retooled the unit that wrought havoc on opposing QBs last season. He has some rough spots with his technique and his pad level which can be coached up and there are some medical concerns that may become an issue down the line, but Kinlaw is a solid plug and play guy for Robert Salah’s defense.
Round 1, Pick 25: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Coach Kyle Shanahan said that he had Aiyuk ranked right up there with Oklahoma standout CeeDee Lamb in his wide receiver rankings, but I do not buy the smoke. Coaches always praise incoming guys and Shanahan might be overselling due to the price it cost to move up six spots. On most boards, Aiyuk was firmly in that second tier of receivers, mine included. It seemed like a reach at the time and after a few days of reflection, it still appears to be a bit rich. On the plus side, Aiyuk is a RAC monster and has a staggering 80-inch wingspan. While route running will need to be improved upon, Aiyuk plays faster than his 4.5 40-yard dash time would indicate. Provided that he fully recovers from core muscle surgery, Aiyuk will compete for the spot opposite last year’s breakout rookie WR, Deebo Samuel.
Round 5, Pick 153 (via MIA for Matt Breida): Colton McKivitz, OT, West Virginia
No one expects that McKivitz will be competing with right tackle, Mike McGlinchey or newly acquired all-pro left tackle Trent Williams (more on that later) for a starting role. The reason why this is graded out as a C is because McKivitz doesn’t really display the athleticism in space that Kyle Shanahan like in his tackles. While McKivitz can maul defenders if in a phone booth, but quickly loses assignment integrity when asked to move around. He brings value as a 4-year college starter and has a chance to supplant a veteran, like Shon Coleman, if his injured leg doesn’t heal properly. Otherwise, this should be viewed as a long-term project likely starting the season on the practice squad.
Round 6, Pick 190 (via PHI for WR Goodwin and pick 210): Charlie Woerner, TE, Georgia
Woerner is a great in-line blocker at Georgia and should add a ton of competitive juice at a position of need. With the departure of Levine Toilolo to the Falcons and the retirement of veteran Garrett Celek, the 49ers had to draft a complimentary piece to all-world tight end George Kittle, and 2018 UDFA signee Ross Dwelley. Woerner, who only had 34 catches in college, is surprisingly athletic, and the 49ers coaching staff has a knack for getting more out of late round picks than one would expect. Woerner is another player that the 49ers might not have room for on the 53 come the regular season but there is a chance that with a strong preseason, Woerner could make the roster.
Round 7, Pick 217: Jauan Jennings, WR, Tennessee
By now, it’s no secret that Kyle Shanahan has a type when it comes to wide receivers. He likes guys that can get to work in space and gain chunk yardage after the catch. When it comes to RAC, Jennings fits that mold. At 6’3” and 215 pounds Jennings was a broken tackle machine for the Volunteers and led the team in receptions over 20 yards. The one huge red flag in Jennings is his 4.72 second 40 time. He is also a raw prospect that has had some mental lapses in his game that will need to be corrected if he has any hope of sticking with the 49ers past training camp. Jennings is the typical potential upside guy that teams usually look for with their 7th round selections.
Trade: WAS trades LT Trent Williams to the 49ers for a 2020 5th and a 2021 3rd
The 49ers dropped a bomb on the NFL world with the acquisition of Williams after the retirement of 49ers legend, Joe Staley. While the move made obvious sense from a personnel stand point, what was shocking is that the 49ers essentially stole the 7-time pro bowler away from Washington. There is a well-documented history of the acrimonious relationship between Kyle Shanahan and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, so to see the 49ers acquire Williams for what is, at worst, a 1-year rental for a 5th round pick shows how good John Lynch has become in his role as 49ers GM. Williams is a lynch pin tackle that negates the tough loss of Staley and if the 49ers can extend the all-pro tackle then the 49ers could have the cornerstone of their offensive line for the next 5 years. Williams should also be fresh after sitting out of the entire 2019 season so if he can stay healthy, expect staunch protection of Garoppolo’s blindside. It cannot be overstated how brilliant this move was for the 49ers.
Overall Grade: A
If the 49ers 2020 NFL draft consisted of Kinlaw, Aiyuk and simply other depth pieces, this draft would have been rated lower. Swapping the two 1st rounders for the departing DeForest Buckner and Emmanuel Sanders makes sense and shows that the team has a mind towards another Super Bowl run in 2020, while maintaining the financial flexibility to extend their window. With the trade for Trent Williams however, the 49ers deftly avoided being severely weakened at a critical position with the loss of Joe Staley. Really, the only reason that this draft isn’t an A+ overall is because of the puzzling decision not to address the defensive back position. The unit is almost entirely going to be free agents after next season and with an extension for George Kittle and Trent Williams likely incoming, the 49ers would’ve been well served to bolster that position group with affordable talent that the team has under contract for 4 years. It’ll be interesting to see how that ends up shaking out but aside from that oversight, the 49ers made a case for being the big winners on draft weekend.