NFL insider was puzzled by 49ers' top pick in 2024 NFL Draft

The 49ers' selection of Ricky Pearsall in Round 1 of the NFL Draft didn't just surprise a number of fans.

One ESPN insider was a bit shocked, too.

Florida Gators wide receiver Ricky Pearsall is selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL Draft
Florida Gators wide receiver Ricky Pearsall is selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL Draft / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wasn't a huge fan of the 49ers' first-round selection of Ricky Pearsall in the 2024 NFL Draft.

It's not too hard to go back and comb through the numerous mocks and needs lists for the San Francisco 49ers ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft and find either an offensive lineman or a cornerback at the very top.

But that's not the path the Niners took, ultimately grabbing former Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall at No. 31 overall in a move that left more than a few fans and analysts bewildered.

Granted, San Francisco had its justifications. With uncertain long-term futures facing their two incumbent star wideouts, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, grabbing an up-and-coming prospect now does have some merit, especially at the end of Round 1 where a possible fifth-year option could be applied to his rookie contract when that decision time comes.

Pearsall, largely viewed as a mid-Round 2 target, might have been a reach for general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan.

And, while fans can mostly talk themselves into eventually agreeing and liking the pick, plenty of league insiders and draft pundits may take a lot longer to come around.

Including ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

Jeremy Fowler on 49ers' selection of Ricky Pearsall: It was 'unexpected'

Fowler joined a list of other ESPN insiders and analysts breaking down their favorite and most-questionable picks of the draft.

As for Fowler, the Pearsall selection was the one that drew his fingers to his head in a scratching motion:

"Wide receiver Ricky Pearsall to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 31. I'm not about to doubt coach Kyle Shanahan's eye for offensive skill players, and I love Pearsall as a player. But his place as WR6 in this draft was unexpected. Most teams I spoke to pegged him as a Day 2 pick. Considering the 49ers still have Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk on the roster, bolstering the offensive or defensive line seemed like a sensible play."

Read more: Updated 49ers wide receiver depth chart after 2024 NFL Draft

In fairness to Fowler, his conclusion is one that many 49ers fans likely had in the immediate aftermath of Pearsall's name being called. As soon as Round 1 was about to conclude, the likelihood if either Samuel or Aiyuk being traded mid-draft all but evaporated, meaning both are poised to be on the roster for 2024.

So, in a sense, the Pearsall pick ended up being something of a luxury selection, not one that helped solve a more pressing need.

Of course, as Fowler noted, pairing Pearsall with Shanahan could ultimately result in yet another receiving star coming through the pipeline over the next few years, possibly someone who can serve as a long-term replacement for either Aiyuk or Samuel, assuming the Niners are planning on having to move on from one or the other.

Hat tip to 49ers Webzone for the find.

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