Image Credit: Butch Dill/Associated Press
Entering Friday night, Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch and the rest of the 49ers’ front office had to feel good about where they were before the second and third rounds of the 2019 NFL draft. They had been gifted the player they coveted after Arizona took a quarterback in the first round for the second consecutive year, thus giving defensive coordinator Robert Saleh another elite edge rusher in Ohio State’s Nick Bosa. The options to upgrade a young roster were nearly endless. Many draftniks believed that wide receiver was the most glaring need after bolstering the pass rush, not many draftniks predicted what Kyle Shanahan would do with their next two picks: draft wide receivers back-to-back.
First up was Deebo Samuel from the University of South Carolina, a pick that seemed just as much of a foregone conclusion as Bosa after Samuel’s outstanding performance at the Senior Bowl. A premiere route runner, Samuel makes his money by creating separation and making defenders miss once he has the ball in his hands. Fittingly, his pro comparison throughout the draft process was Pierre Garcon, the exact player he was drafted to replace. Presumably, Samuel will step in to start across from incumbent WR Dante Pettis and immediately form one of the best route-running duos in the league.
Jalen Hurd became the 49ers third-round selection and this is when Shanahan’s imprint was truly felt on this draft. Hurd began his college career as a running back at the University of Tennessee before transferring to Baylor University and switching positions to wide receiver. All told, he racked up 4,282 total yards from scrimmage and 33 touchdowns over four seasons. Shanahan stopped short of calling him an offensive weapon, as he did with Kyle Juszczyk, but did say he believed he could have been drafting as a running back, wide receiver or tight end. It is fairly obvious that Shanahan wants to use Hurd’s 6’4”, 227lb frame all over the field and he could add a number of wrinkles to an already dynamic offense.
Versatility is the name of the game and the 49ers have put together a collection of weapons that can play multiple positions. Both Samuel and Hurd seem like the final two pieces of what should be a completely revamped offense. The return of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon coupled with the addition of veteran RB Tevin Coleman leave Shanahan with a bevy of player personnel options that will keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.
Draft grades in May do not much matter in the long run as the players need to prove their worth on the field. However, what else would football fans talk about in May if not for draft grades? The 49ers deserve a “B” for these two selections because both players could be perceived as reaches. Samuel was just the third WR taken off the board and many did not have him as the third best receiver. Meanwhile, Hurd’s draft projection fluctuated between the late third round and late on the third day. In the end, both players fall in line with Shanahan and Lynch’s modus operandi: get your players when you want them, to hell with everybody else.
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