The 49ers shocked the NFL Draft by taking kicker Jake Moody in Round 3, but it turns out there's a legitimate reason why.
For the foreseeable future, when someone brings up the San Francisco 49ers' efforts in the 2023 NFL Draft, the first thing that'll come to mind is the fact the Niners took a kicker in Round 3.
Yes, Michigan kicker Jake Moody at No. 99 overall.
It was quite the shocker. Even though San Francisco has a recent history of drafting specialists quite early, including punter Mitch Wishnowsky in Round 4 back in 2019, using a third-round selection on a kicker was a bit of a stretch. Even with the 49ers needing a specialist of that kind in the wake of Robbie Gould's departure via free agency.
Granted, the Niners didn't enter the draft with a lot of holes to fill and plenty of needs to address, so luxury picks like this don't sting quite as bad.
That said, San Francisco will catch heat for the decision no matter what.
Still, it appears as if the 49ers weren't the only team out there eyeing Moody around that spot toward the end of the third round, and the Niners may have been forced to act the way they did for fear of missing out on the consensus top kicker in this year's draft.
General manager John Lynch explained why in a telling reveal.
John Lynch reveals why 49ers drafted Jake Moody so early, says 'teams tried to trade up' for the Michigan kicker
Lynch spoke with KNBR 680 earlier this week (h/t 49ers Webzone) and broke down the story of how San Francisco became so interested in Moody.
"A lot of teams needed a kicker, and there were kind of two or three that were viable options in the draft. There were a couple available via trade. But again, we kept coming back to we felt like Jake Moody in his talent and then his makeup, his mental makeup, which is very important at that position, was the guy that we were most interested in."
On top of that, The Athletic's Matt Barrows shared a comment about conversations with Jim Harbaugh, the former 49ers head coach who took over at Michigan in 2015:
At any rate, Lynch admitted he wasn't sure how far Moody would fall in the NFL Draft. Considering the Niners had three third-round picks but weren't picking again until Round 5, the general manager felt it was a luxury San Francisco could afford to take.
But that's not the true reason why the 49ers didn't hesitate to grab Moody at No. 99 overall.
In fact, at least according to Lynch, other kicker-needy teams were looking to leapfrog the Niners at that spot via a trade:
"I can also tell you, since then, that a lot of teams have called and said shortly thereafter they were going there. And in fact, teams tried to trade up to get in front of us. So something we feel really good about. Time will tell, as it will with all these guys."
A round later, the New England Patriots traded up to acquire Maryland kicker Chad Ryland.
Lynch is right, of course, adding the part about "time will tell," even though it's pretty cliché. If Moody winds up having a very successful career in which he's both reliable and clutch, few will remember the fact San Francisco used a relatively high pick to get him.
If Moody flops, though, the selection might go down as one of the worst in the Lynch era.