The San Francisco 49ers are en route for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. If they secure it, is the best option to trade down or stay put? Let’s debate it.
It’s not the finish general manager John Lynch, head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. envisioned for the franchise. But that’s the reality of the situation.
And with a tough slate of games remaining on the Niners’ schedule, there’s a strong chance the team is already capped off with two wins on the year.
If the 2019 draft were to start today, here would be the order:
A first-overall pick is a silver lining for what is otherwise a lost season for San Francisco. It’s the free pass saying, “Here, take whichever player you want, especially if he’s the best player in this year’s entire draft class.”
At the same time, it also affords Lynch the option to trade down for teams looking to nab that finishing-touch piece. Especially quarterbacks, of which there are relatively few starting-caliber options in this year’s class.
So that opens up the inevitable — the question whether or not the 49ers should stay put, or if their long-term interests are better served by trading down and accruing more draft capital in the process.
Let’s look at both sides of the coin, debate style.
Argument in Favor of Trading Down
There are two teams drafting in the top 10 projected to take a quarterback with their first pick, the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars. While it’s impossible to accurately gauge what a trade-up market in 2019 would be for one of those few first-round quarterbacks, all one has to do is look back at what the Los Angeles Rams gave up to the Tennessee Titans to select quarterback Jared Goff back in 2016:
- 2016 Round 1 pick (No. 15)
- 2016 Round 2 pick (No. 43)
- 2016 Round 2 pick (No. 45)
- 2016 Round 3 pick (No. 76
- 2017 Round 1 pick (No. 5)
- 2017 Round 3 pick (No. 100)
The Titans traded the No. 1 overall pick, along with two day-three selections in 2016, back to L.A. But that’s still a pretty hefty ransom.
Currently, the Niners have only five picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. They’ll be without their own Round 5 and Round 7 selections, which were used to acquire offensive linemen Laken Tomlinson and Shon Coleman, respectively.
San Francisco has more holes and shortcomings that can be filled with just five picks. And with linebacker Reuben Foster’s saga with the 49ers finally coming to a close, one can tack on yet another need for Lynch and Co. this offseason.
Judging by the draft haul the Titans pulled away from Los Angeles a few years ago, one can only imagine the number of holes Lynch could fill with three additional picks on days one and two of the draft.
And if defense remains the top need, paired with a defensive-heavy 2019 class, there’s still going to be plenty of impact talent available in Rounds 2 and 3.
Argument Against Trading Down
First, there’s the obvious. Just because one team wants to trade down doesn’t mean another partner is ready and willing.
At least not willing to give up the asking price.
Teams like New York and Jacksonville know the 49ers aren’t going to grab a quarterback with their pick. The Arizona Cardinals (No. 2 overall, currently) certainly won’t after taking Josh Rosen earlier this year. And the Oakland Raiders (No. 3 overall, currently) probably won’t with Derek Carr still under center. Neither will the New York Jets (No. 5 overall, currently) after grabbing Sam Darnold.
That doesn’t prevent Lynch from starting a bidding war, of course. But it also opens up the reality there could be cheaper options for other teams to move up into the top five.
Then, of course, there’s the idea trading down costs the team its shot at the best player in the draft.
By almost every expert account, that player is Ohio State EDGE Nick Bosa — a pass-rushing specialist, who would fill a position the Niners desperately need filled.
The Draft Network’s Jon Ledyard explained why trading down in this situation wouldn’t make sense for San Francisco:
"If the 49ers own the no. 1 pick, it would take the trade offer of the century to get me to move. When healthy, San Francisco doesn’t have a ton of needs like Arizona or Oakland, so trading down isn’t as attractive for them, especially if they fill the aforementioned needs [safety Earl Thomas, linebacker K.J. Wright, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson] in free agency."
Ledyard argues the 49ers can get aggressive in free agency this offseason. And with roughly $1.08 million in projected cap space (including 2018 unused rollover), per Over the Cap, they certainly can.
Simply taking the best player available is never a bad argument for any team when its draft number is called.
And if that number is No. 1 overall, why not just grab the best available talent?
What say you, 49ers fans? This is where the debate starts. You’ve heard both sides of the coin. Now it’s your time to chime in on the gray comments box below and let us know what you think.