Image Credit: Ole Miss Athletics
The NFL draft is one of my fondest football memories. I can remember many Saturday mornings in late April, sitting down with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch cereal and Quik chocolate milk poured into a 49er glass. I needed to be the only third grader at Julien Elementary to know who the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the fourth round of the 1989 draft.
My continued love for the draft is only sullied by unlimited mock drafts and the clouds of Aqua Net that surround Mel Kiper’s hair.
Eighty-two years of draft history provided plenty of shocking moments, though my favorite was when the Minnesota Vikings forgot to make their selection in 2003. Their blunder allowed the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars to make selections before Minnesota could find a way out of the ice house.
I have no way of telling anyone what will happen on Thursday, but I can think of three surprise scenarios that might occur in the 49ers draft room.
Stay at Two; Draft an Offensive Lineman.
At 8:13pm EDT, with the second pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers will select guard Garrett Bradbury from NC State.
Two minutes later, you can step outside your door and listen to the distant screams echoing off the stratosphere. These harrowing voices will be the sum of all 49er fan agony.
You see, choosing another offensive lineman has just ended six months of prom-night fantasies about defensive end Nick Bosa chasing down opposing quarterbacks under the September Santa Clara sun.
The snap reaction is to consider selecting Bradbury the wrong move.
Breathe for a moment.
Building the front five is the right thing for the 49ers to do this year.
One of the weakest position groups for the 49ers are the interior linemen. The team can continue to bury its collective head in the sand and praise guard Laken Tomlinson’s durability, center Weston Richburg’s potential, and guard Mike Person’s reliability.
Championships are not won, nor are they built upon the saccharine talking points from the 49er brass.
It’s clear the 49ers do not have the needed depth in the interior coming into the 2019 season. Drafting Bradbury and moving Tomlinson or Person to a back-up role is a far smarter move than hoping neither of these men succumbs to injury and Joshua Garnett or Najee Toran end up in the starting line-up.
Bonus surprise: If the 49ers do take someone other than Bosa – whether a guard or otherwise – I expect Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to trade all his picks to the Jets so he can draft Bosa third overall.
Trade Down, Then Trade Down Again
Currently, the Arizona Cardinals are working to convince the world they won’t draft quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall selection.
It’s an excellent effort from the public relations staff, but it’s akin to me playing Mother Love Bone’s “Crown of Thorns” and telling the girl I just met that I wrote it.
For the sake of my commentary, I’ll buy into Arizona’s draft distraction and assume the team selects defensive end Nick Bosa first overall.
With Bosa gone, there’s no reason for Lynch to remain at the second position. The team has an edge defender in Dee Ford, they have a new linebacker in Kwon Alexander, and a plethora of defensive tackles to use this season.
Lynch immediately calls Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and offers the second spot in exchange for the Steelers’ first-round choice in the next three drafts. The teams settle on the following:
Pittsburgh gets: The 49ers’ 2019 first-round selection.
49ers get: Pittsburgh’s 2019 and 2020 first round selections; 2019 second-round selection and the 2020 third round selection.
As Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan watch the draft unfold, they see another opportunity to trade out of the first round altogether. Lynch calls up Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard to offer the following:
The 49ers’ 2019 first round selection - currently pick 20 - for the Colts’ 2020 first round spot and the 2019 second round spot.
Ballard agrees, and the 49ers finish Thursday night with five draft picks, including two future first-round choices.
49er fans have now resorted to fighting each other with broken whiskey bottles and prepare a Change.org petition to remove Lynch from his current role with the 49ers.
Trade Back Into the First Round
On Wednesday night, Lynch will drift off to sleep watching the 1987 movie “Wall Street.” Around 2 a.m., he will shoot out of bed with one thought in his head:
That evening, Lynch decides to stay at the second spot and drafts Bosa. But, something still isn’t sitting right with him.
“…greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”
He calls head coach Kyle Shanahan over for a quick chat.
“Let’s get back into this thing. Let’s land someone right in front of Seattle and then rub their beaks in it.”
Shanahan agrees. The war room gets to work.
Phones begin to click and beep, with staff cursing their keyboards for spelling the wrong word for what seems to be the 54th time that minute.
Each passing pick makes the already hot air feel heavy and unbreathable, and the mid-level staff starts to lurch back and forth in their chairs.
The words hardly make a dent in the humidity.
“Mr. Lynch… I have an interest,” says a young assistant, this time with more authority.
“Who?” responds Lynch, sitting up and taking a gulp of water.
“Carolina. They are at sixteen now. They want our second and Arik Armstead.”
Lynch leans back and places the sides of his index fingers at his lips.
Armstead played great football last season, and he’s part of a defensive line rotation that could finally be a force in 2019. But, the 49ers need new sparks on defense.
With a breath and a sigh, Lynch and Shanahan nod.
“Make the deal.”
With that, the 49ers own the sixteenth choice and select cornerback Deandre Baker from the University of Georgia.
I understand these are a bit outlandish surprises, but no more so than someone trying to guess which player will be chosen at spot 176.
Of these, I can see Lynch dropping down a few spots to choose an offensive lineman. The 49ers need to stop trying to skate by with the current interior players and truly make an investment in protecting the quarterback. Landing another top talent in the first round will pay off in spades down the road.
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