Firstly, prayers for all people globally as we all go through this terrible pandemic. Be safe and we will overcome.
As I have had plenty of time at home practicing social distancing to the fullest, I’ve gathered my thoughts on what I think the Niners should do in this upcoming draft.
The Niners have had an active off season with re-signings of some key players and one shocking trade which greatly influences what the Niner draft needs are and new options at their disposal.
- Arik Armstead (DL) to a 5 year extension. Arik had a breakout season last year so the Niners properly rewarded him with confidence that he will continue to play at a very high level.
- Shon Coleman (OT) to a 1 year extension. Shon came over at the beginning of the 2019 season but sustained a season ending knee injury in a pre-season game so never saw action. He was being counted on as a swing Tackle as a backup for either Mike McGlinchy or Joe Staley. If Staley retires, it is too soon to project Shon as Joe’s replacement. Tackle is a need in the draft.
- Kendrick Bourne (WR) to a 1 year extension after being offered a 2nd round tender. Kendrick played himself into the 3rd WR behind Deebo Samuel and E-Man Sanders. He is being looked upon to be a key WR in Shanahan’s offense going forward.
- Matt Breida (RB) was offered a 2nd round tender to re-sign but has yet to sign. No team is going to give up a 2nd round draft pick for Breida so I expect him to sign a 1 year extension and compete for a job. Matt had a terrific season but at the end of the season and into the playoffs, he began to fumble the ball so saw very limited playing time. He’ll fix this issue and come back strong.
- Ronald Blair (DL) to a 1 year extension. Ronald also had an outstanding year until he suffered a season ending knee injury. His motor never stops.
- Jimmy Ward (S) to a 3 year contract. This was a key signing as Jimmy had a breakout season as his existing contract ended. I thought that he would leave as his play earned him the right for a hefty pay increase. With Lynch and Shanahan developing a winning culture, Jimmy thankfully decided to come back for 3 more years as a Niner. To me, this was a huge signing as the Niners otherwise would have had to prioritize a Safety in this year’s draft.
- Ben Garland (OL) to a 1 year contract. This was a very smart move as Ben played exceptionally well as a backup at Guard as well as at Center when Weston Richburg went down with a season ending knee injury. Weston was having a Pro Bowl year and Ben stepped in without skipping a beat.
- Jerrick McKinnon (RB) 1 year contract restructuring. Jerrick has missed the last 2 seasons with a knee injury which simply didn’t heal properly. He is the perfect fit for the Shanahan offense as he is both a shifty runner as well as a dangerous receiver out of the back field. This was a very safe signing for 1 year as he will be paid the league minimum.
Free Agent signings:
- Travis Benjamin (WR) formally a Charger. Travis has been an effective slot receiver and will be competing with Trent Taylor for playing time.
- Kerry Hyder (DE) formally a Cowboy. Kerry was an effective rotational player with the Cowboys and has experience playing for Defensive Line coach Kris Kocurek.
Free Agent Losses:
- Sheldon Day (DL) signed with the Colts. Sheldon was a very effective rotational player on the defensive line. But he played too well and played himself out of the Niners roster as he deserved more money that the Niners didn’t have. His loss will be felt.
- Elijah Lee (LB) signed with the Lions. Elijah was a backup but had the versatility and speed that the Niners liked. He too was a player that the Niners felt that they couldn’t pay properly.
- E-Man Sanders (WR) signed with the Saints. This was a tough loss as he was the veteran voice who came in mid-season and brought the WR’s together for their Super Bowl run. But, he is 33 years old and another player that the Niners simply couldn’t afford.
- Levine Toilolo (TE) signed with the Giants. Levine was used as a blocking TE with the Niners. They have Ross Dwelley as a backup to Kittle. Ross is another player who developed nicely during the course of last season.
- Anthony Zettle (DE) signed with the Vikings. Anthony was a rotational player last year. His loss won’t be felt too badly.
- DeFo Buckner (DL) traded to the Colts in exchange for their 1st round draft pick (#13 overall pick). This was the off season shocker. But, after the dust settles, it may have been a good move going forward. The Niners simply couldn’t pay everyone. DeFo was deserving of a $84 million contract that the Niners simply couldn’t afford. With the 13th pick in this year’s draft along with their own 31st pick, the Niners have plenty of options to fill positions of need.
- WR: The Niners will have to replace E-Man Sanders. Dante Pettis regressed in his sophomore year. This year will be make-or-break for Dante. Regardless, WR will be a priority in the draft.
- DL: With the losses of both DeFo Buckner and Sheldon Day, finding replacements for both may be a priority in the draft.
- OL: Regardless of whether Joe Staley retires or not, the Niners will have to plan for his eventual retirement.
- CB: Richard Sherman had a great year but he is 32 years old. Additonally, on the other side, Ahkello Witherspoon and E-Man Moseley shared CB duties. The Niners need to find and develop a shut-down corner.
Follows is my version of the Niner draft board:
- Jeff Okuda (CB). The standout CB in the draft. He won’t be available at #13 and it wouldn’t be wise to trade up for him.
- Derrick Brown (DL). The standout DL in the draft. If there are runs on QB’s and WR’s early in the draft, there is a potential that he will be there at #13. If he is, he’s my slam dunk pick.
- Javon Kinlaw (DL). Another player at DL whose motor never stops. If Brown is off the boards at #13, Kinlaw should be the pick.
- Mekhi Becton (OT). 6’ 7” 364 lbs. who dominates and runs like a deer. Would be a great pick to replace Staley.
- Tristen Wirfs (OT). Another LT candidate if Becton is off the boards.
- Jedrick Willis (OT). Yet another LT candidate.
- Andrew Thomas (OT). One of these OT’s will be available at #13.
- CJ Henderson (CB). 2nd best CB after Okuda.
- Kristen Fulton (CB). 3rd best CB.
- Jerry Jeudy (WR). Most likely the top WR in the draft. Having said that, I am prioritizing Defensive and Offensive beef and CB ahead of any WR’s. This is a very deep draft for WR’s. I just don’t see a gaping separation between the top rated WR’s and the next top 20.
- Denzel Mims (WR). Has the height (6’ 3”) and speed and toughness.
- Laviska Shenault (WR). Looks like a bigger version of Deebo Samuel to me.
- Michael Pittman (WR). 6’ 4” 225 lbs. Big, strong, fast with great hands. Notice that I didn’t list CeeDee Lamb? He played in a conference (Big 12) whose teams play very poor defense. I am a fan of tough receivers like Deebo Samuel more than WR’s who have speed.
- Henry Ruggs (WR). Has the top speed but speed alone doesn’t always translate into an effective pro WR.
- Noah Igbinoghene (CB).
- Cameron Dantzler (CB).
At #13, draft a stud DL (Brown or Kinlaw). If both are off the boards, draft one of the top OT’s.
Niners should trade down from #31 and get an additional pick. With their 2nd pick, draft the best available CB.
With their 3rd pick, draft the best available WR.
With their 4th pick, draft the best available DL or OT depending on what they are able to get with their 1st pick.
Most likely, their 3rd pick and further down will be players who are not listed in my top 16. Lynch and Shanahan shine in finding diamonds in the rough with lower round picks.
Look for a potential shocker either before or during the draft. My shocker is trading Dee Ford for a high draft pick. Dee is a 3rd down rusher who has a hefty salary and has had a history of injuries. If this happens, look for the Niners to draft a Edge Rusher like Yetur Gross-Matos, A. J. Espenza, Terrell Lewis or Julien Okwara.
I am very much looking forward to the draft. Go ShanaLynch !!! Go Niners !!!