A chaotic Thursday night saw some amazing things happen in the NFL Draft, and a window of opportunity might have just opened up for the 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers may not have had a first-round selection in the NFL Draft this year, but all that meant was the fans could sit back and watch the mayhem unfold all around.
The Niners will get going on Day 2 with late third-round selections at Nos. 99, 101 and 102 overall. With these picks, plus eight more on Day 3, it’s a safe bet that San Francisco will be moving up at some point.
But the question is where and when?
Ideally, the 49ers should be moving up for someone who can contribute right away on a Super Bowl-worthy roster. While a cornerback or offensive tackle are also popular considerations for a trade-up target, the Niners are pretty assured on defense already as far as starters go.
Tight end is another story.
George Kittle is of course as awesome as they come, but it’s no secret that head coach Kyle Shanahan covets someone else at the position to create confusion and mismatches. The idea of running a lot of two-TE sets that could set up both run and passing mayhem would add an extra dimension that Shanahan has long been seeking.
Despite a strong tight end class, only Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid was chosen in the first round on Thursday night. Teams no doubt feel they could address that area of need later with such a stacked tight end class in the draft, and this created a domino effect.
This tight end domino effect means that intriguing prospect Sam LaPorta could very well slide into striking range at the end of the second round or the beginning of the third.
A dynamic threat who would fit seamlessly, LaPorta is a Kittle-like athlete who can make defenders miss tackles and run routes on all levels of the field. He’s also a capable blocker, a must in the 49ers system.
A great size at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, LaPorta ran his 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds at the NFL Combine. He had 58 receptions for 657 yards and a touchdown for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2022 as well. LaPorta was a team captain and also showcased his capacity to operate in the slot, which is important as versatility is another valued trait for Shanahan’s system.
While some might raise their eyebrows at the Niners giving up draft capital for a backup tight end, the truth is that he would be on the field more than people think. No matter who is under center, a second elite tight end on the roster would be more than a handy thing to have, it would be a game-changer for the offense.
If LaPorta get past the first 60 selections or so, then the 49ers simply have to make the call. It might not be popular at first, but it won’t take long for fans to get behind another Iowa tight end on San Francisco’s roster.