Why 49ers will trade up in 2020 NFL Draft

It seems counterintuitive for the San Francisco 49ers to trade up in the 2020 NFL Draft given their lack of picks. But there’s a scenario where it makes sense.

Saying the San Francisco 49ers will trade up in the 2020 NFL Draft would be a pretty bold prediction. After all, the Niners are armed with just seven picks for this year’s draft, and five of them come in Round 5 or later. Barring any sort of draft-day moves by general manager John Lynch, San Francisco is going to be sitting awfully quiet on day two of the draft when Rounds 2 and 3 are announced.

Most analysis is happy with the idea of the 49ers trading down. Lynch needs to add picks to his disposal, not jettison them to move up and grab that one player the Niners are eyeing.

But what if San Francisco traded up? What would be the context there?

For starters, it wouldn’t be anything involving a trade up from the No. 13 overall pick which the team acquired from the Indianapolis Colts for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner last month. But when one starts looking at the trade-down possibilities, the chance of a trade up later on certainly increase.

Case in point, as shown in this recent Niner Noise mock, San Francisco trades out of both of its Round 1 picks, grabbing two third-round picks in the process. Then, because the draft board played out that way, both of those third rounders ended up being used as ammunition to get up to the No. 1 spot in Round 3 to grab USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

It’s anyone’s guess whether or not Pittman would be there at No. 65 overall, but he certainly fit a need for San Francisco and wouldn’t have fallen to either one of the Niners’ two generated third-round picks later in the round.

Playing with mock drafts is one thing. Determining whether or not there’s a precedent for the Niners doing so is another.

Lynch has traded up each year since taking over duties in 2017. It happened twice in 2017 with linebacker Reuben Foster (Round 1) and quarterback C.J. Beathard (Round 3). In 2018, the Niners moved up for wide receiver Dante Pettis (Round 2). Last season, Lynch traded linebacker Dekoda Watson and a sixth-round pick to the Denver Broncos to grab linebacker Dre Greenlaw.

The last trade should catch attention. Lynch used a player no longer seen as part of the team’s immediate or long-term needs as part of the package.

San Francisco has means to do something very similar in this year’s draft, potentially using someone like wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, running back Matt Breida or even quarterback Nick Mullens to move up somewhere in one of the middle rounds.

Tack on some of those extra day-three picks (two selections in Round 5, a selection in Round 6 and two more selections in Round 7), and the possibilities of trading up at some point into day two or early on day three make a lot more sense.

And as history shows, Lynch isn’t afraid to make this kind of move. He’s done it before.

Next: 49ers 7-round trade-heavy mock 2020 NFL Draft

The 2020 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 23.