Breaking Down 49ers’ Top NFL Draft Needs by Value
5. Wide Receiver
Average pick: Chris Moore, Cincinnati (Value: Pick 86)
Median pick: Tajae Sharpe, Massachusetts (Value: Pick 166)
49ers “Hot Spot” Picks: 37, 68, 133, 174
There’s a steep drop-off between numbers here; the quality of cornerbacks in the draft is significantly better than the quality of wide receivers. Add in the fear of Trent Baalke making an A.J. Jenkins-esque reach, and you should be a little skeptical of a receiver draft choice, even if the 49ers desperately need playmakers.
ESPN has 38 receivers listed in their top 255 players, yes, but only 12 in their top 100. Most of these players are third-day picks to be developed, and not someone who will come in and make a huge impact from day one.
That’s not to say there aren’t potential solid second-day picks. If one of the fearsome foursome of Josh Doctson, Will Fuller, Corey Coleman or Michael Thomas fall to the 49ers with their 37th pick, they’d be worth grabbing to give whoever is behind center a talented option to throw to. The third round, too, brings with it some decent options like Tyler Boyd or Pharoh Cooper—not someone who’s going to stride in and become the top receiver on the team, but probably a cut above the Quinton Pattons and Bruce Ellingtons of the world.
Otherwise, however, the team would likely have to grab a developmental prospect later. California’s Kenny Lawler is a potential fourth-round option, as is Aaron Burbridge from Michigan State or Rashard Higgins from Colorado State. Any of those players could come in and be part of a rotation without too much difficulty.
Short of that, however, you’re looking at deeper cuts towards the end of the fifth round and beginning of the sixth. That happens to be where the average receiver tends to fall, like Massachusetts’ Tajae Sharpe or UCLA’s receiver-tight end hybrid Thomas Duarte. These players may not even make a 53-man roster right away, but that’s just sort of the quality of the receivers in this year’s draft. It’s a great year to be looking for a developmental player; not a great year to be looking for a plug-and-play starter.
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