The 49ers could easily look to grab a wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft, but reports are coming in this year’s class isn’t anywhere as good as previous ones.
From 2019 through 2021, the NFL Draft featured some awfully enticing options at wide receiver. And this is something the San Francisco 49ers took advantage of, namely by grabbing All-Pro Deebo Samuel in Round 2 back in 2019, then doubling down by selecting Brandon Aiyuk in Round 1 the following year.
Those two are locked in as the Niners’ top options at the position entering 2022, yet there’s arguably still a need to reinforce the position even further via this year’s draft.
However, one might argue San Francisco might not have as many top-quality options as it had before.
It’s anyone’s guess just how much stock value head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. are putting in this year’s rookie wide receiver class. The 49ers have already met with a few receivers in the leadup to April’s draft, including the following:
- Mike Harley, Miami
- Christian Watson, NDSU
- Samori Toure, Nebraska
- Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
Despite a number of top-end wide receivers performing well at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, a growing consensus suggests this year’s wideout class doesn’t come close to comparing to previous years.
49ers, other teams not getting as much NFL Draft value at wide receiver?
There are a number of draft pundits out there questioning the overall value and potency of this year’s wide receiver class, but let’s take a look at what NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein had to say:
"While some are much higher on this wide receiver class, I come away a little lukewarm after the talent and depth we’ve seen from the 2020 and ’21 drafts. While we are likely to see more first-rounders than the five-year average of 3.6, I don’t believe there to be a true star in this group. North Dakota State’s Christian Watson is an ascending prospect, but beyond him, the depth and ceiling and consistency for Day 2 wideouts is lacking."
Of note, out of 11 positions scouted by Zierlein, wide receiver is ranked ninth in terms of being the strongest.
This might impact the Niners in a few different ways.
For starters, they don’t select until the very end of Round 2, No. 61 overall, thanks to last year’s trade-up for quarterback Trey Lance. So, one can all but cross off first-round targets like USC’s Drake London, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave.
Watson, who was one of those receivers who shot up big boards, could potentially be in play for San Francisco if he falls. But if the 49ers are prioritizing other positions of need, such as the interior of their offensive line or the secondary, Watson won’t be an option either.
As Zierlein suggested, the gap between Watson and other pass-catchers to be had on days two and three of the draft is a substantial one, meaning whomever the Niners grab would probably rank well below the caliber of prospects selected in similar rounds in previous drafts.
Perhaps San Francisco lessens the value of this position in response, only looking at low-end options as fliers late on day three of the draft.
Hopefully, at the very least, the 49ers aren’t in a position where they reach on anyone behind Watson.