Why 49ers target a safety before a wide receiver in 2019 NFL Draft

"THE PICK IS IN" for the San Francisco 49ers during the 2018 NFL Draft (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
"THE PICK IS IN" for the San Francisco 49ers during the 2018 NFL Draft (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers need both a safety and a wide receiver in the 2019 NFL Draft, but some evidence suggests the Niners go with the former first before a pass catcher.

This is a hunch, but there’s enough evidence to suggest the San Francisco 49ers will target a safety in the 2019 NFL Draft before they consider a wide receiver.

It’s likely going to affect only the Niners’ second and third overall picks, as they’ll probably grab either Ohio State EDGE Nick Bosa or defensive tackle Quinnen Williams at No. 2 overall if they stay put.

At No. 36 overall, though, that’s when this prediction will happen.

Trade-ups and the sheer nature of how Rounds 1 and 2 pan out ultimately will have an effect, of course. But if one had to make an educated guess, it seems a safety would be the safer bet.

True, there are bona fide reasons for each — hence why both are top needs in the draft. No 49ers wideout reached 500 receiving yards last year, and second-year pro Dante Pettis still has a ways to go before emerging as a true No. 1 threat. Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus ranked San Francisco’s secondary dead last in 2018, and the Niners ended up using seven different safeties over the course of the season.

Yet the first reason to assume general manager John Lynch’s draft plans list a safety before a wide receiver (true, big boards don’t exactly work like that) is hinted somewhat by free agency. San Francisco brought aboard wide receiver Jordan Matthews on a one-year, “prove it” kind of deal. While not necessarily a surefire upgrade, Matthews’ efforts between 2014 and 2016 suggest he can be a major contributor. And he’s only 26 years old.

The Niners made no such moves to address free safety, outside of re-signing oft-injured defensive back Jimmie Ward for one year.

This appears to indicate San Francisco is tabling safety needs for the NFL Draft, essentially keeping Ward around as an insurance policy while banking on the hope third-year pro Adrian Colbert bounces back from an otherwise disappointing 2018 campaign. There’s a chance that happens, of course, but it’s equally possible Colbert winds up emulating more of what happened last year instead of his impressive rookie season.

Still not convinced? That’s OK.

NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, who has a pretty good pulse on the team’s intentions, had the following to say about the Niners’ “need” for a wide receiver:

"One thing that’s been proven is that teams do not need a No. 1 wide receiver to win championships. The 49ers have a darn-good tight end. George Kittle is the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver. They just need a good balance on the outside to enable [head coach Kyle] Shanahan to run his offense."

Maiocco admitted San Francisco wants a wide receiver. But it doesn’t necessarily need one, especially at the cost of giving up too much or overdrafting.

Yet the kicker is the simple breakdown of both sides of the ball. Despite the lowly numbers from the 49ers wide receivers last year, Shanahan’s passing offense finished with 3,867 yards — 15th best in the league. True, most of those came from Kittle. Yet when one factors the Niners defense ranked fifth worst in points allowed last year (the bottom-line stat here), it shouldn’t be too hard to admit defense is the bigger priority.

Again, the NFL Draft could fall out in such a way where Shanahan and Co. are too enticed to grab a wide receiver with their second pick.

But if there are equally available talents at both safety and wide receiver for San Francisco’s second pick, one would assume the former has a slightly better chance being the pick.

Next. 49ers 7-round mock NFL Draft with Nick Bosa in Round 1. dark

The 2019 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 25 with Rounds 2 and 3 taking place on April 26.