ESPN’s Bill Barnwell thinks the 49ers shouldn’t have traded up for Brandon Aiyuk in the NFL Draft.
Entering the 2020 NFL Draft with seven picks, none in Rounds 2 through 4, the San Francisco 49ers weren’t exactly seen as top trade-up candidates.
Especially in Round 1 where general manager John Lynch boasted two first rounders: the team’s own at No. 31 overall as well as the No. 13 overall selection acquired in the March trade of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts.
If anything, San Francisco was going to trade down and acquire more draft capital to alleviate some of the team’s offseason losses and take advantage of deep classes at both wide receiver and cornerback.
And while Lynch traded down a spot from No. 13, then using the pick on South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, trading up from No. 31 wasn’t exactly on anyone’s 49ers predictions list.
Yet that’s what the Niners did, executing a move with the Minnesota Vikings to secure the services of Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. In doing so, San Francisco sent away the 31st, 117th and 176th overall selections to Minnesota.
Apparently, this wasn’t a favorable move, at least according to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, who broke down all 32 teams’ offseasons so far:
"Aiyuk is a talented wideout, and I’m confident [Kyle] Shanahan will get the most out of his skill set, but the 49ers probably should have traded down to grab extra picks as opposed to trading up for a wide receiver in a class full of wideouts. General manager John Lynch said after the fact that Aiyuk was neck-and-neck with CeeDee Lamb atop the team’s board, but this was an incredibly deep wideout class, and teams often overestimate their ability to rank players before the draft."
Making sense of the 49ers’ trade for No. 25 overall
A few things to chew on here.
For starters, Shanahan admitted he had both Aiyuk and Lamb side by side on his pre-NFL Draft big board. Kinlaw’s availability at No. 14 overall was ultimately the reason why the 49ers took Aiyuk later, as Lamb was no longer available by the latter portion of Round 1.
From that vantage point, the Niners walked away with two top players on their big board, not just one.
As far as the trade up, however, it’s more speculation than anything else. It’s possible, perhaps likely the Miami Dolphins, who owned the No. 26 overall pick, were eyeing Aiyuk as well to pair with their new quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. Once the Niners leapfrogged into the 25th pick, Miami soon traded the selection away to the Green Bay Packers.
Simply put, Shanahan and Lynch must have felt there was no way Aiyuk was going to last until the 31st overall selection.
Perhaps. It seems reasonable. Yet if there’s any merit to Barnwell’s argument, it would be San Francisco having plenty of other solid receiving options from which to choose at No. 31 or even later, if the team elected to trade down as many suspected could happen.
Yet the 49ers ultimately got two players they absolutely wanted: Kinlaw and Aiyuk. While the move up for Aiyuk cut into an already thin total of draft capital, no one will remember the cost if the former Arizona State wide receiver turns into a budding superstar.