The 49ers walked away from Round 1 with two of the top six players they had targeted, and were ecstatic to do so, even with the price they paid to move up at the end of the first round.…The 49ers regime has built this team defense first, inside out. With Buckner's trade this offseason, the team felt it prudent to fill the void that was left in the defensive line. They saw great value it Kitlaw at the 13th spot, but believed strongly he'd be available at 14 and took the option to trade down one spot and pick up a 4th round selection in the process. The risk was quite low as there were a number of other options - particularly at receivers and offensive line should that not have happened. The trade was the first in the virtual draft.
In selecting at 14, there had yet to be a run on receivers, but it was about to come. The Raiders took Ruggs at 12, and Jeudy was taken at 15 by the Broncos, Lamb went at 17 to the Cowboys, and you have to think the 49ers were getting nervous about their ability to grab a playmaking receivers in the first round. Reagor went to the Eagles at 31, and Jefferson to the Vikings at 22. The Niners jumped up to 25 to select Aiyuk - who Shanahan says (and I mean we have to take him at his word, but why would he say anything other than this) that Aiyuk was his number one rated receivers.
In the end, Aiyuk is definitely a Shanahan styled receiver. The 49ers filled their two biggest visible holes on their roster (at least if their prospects pan out)... but the method to get here was not what I expected. I thought the 49ers need for a play maker at receiver would have meant they would go that direction first... and there were plenty of options to take at 13 or 14. It's a win to come out with Kinlaw and Aiyuk, but you have to wonder if the team would have been in a better position if the team would have gone receiver first... or if the team would have traded back to have a stronger second day.
Part of me thinks the team got nervous at the receiver run... but perhaps the opposite should have been true. With such a run on receivers, it would likely mean a fairly open field in the second round... and this draft is particularly deep at receiver. It would also mean the team would be able to review their draft board over night and be a bit more strategic about it's approach.
If on the other hand the team really feels they got top tier talent out of these two selections, and they weren't reaching / over-paying to get Aiyuk than who cares what round he was drafted in? That's at least the story the team is telling at this point - and it's a fair point. Aiyuk comes from a system that is very trusted by Lynch. He is a great fit for Shanahan. On top of that, the team has a real option to fill Buckner's void. I happen to think the defensive line had the depth that could have managed with more of a to-be prospect being drafted by Buckner, but now they won't have to.
It's hard to argue with this first round being a success. The team is still actively trying to trade Goodwin and that may give them some collateral on Day 2. That could seriously inflate this draft rating. I'll further note that the team has a Super Bowl roster. Every player they pick needs to have to take someone else's spot. There were two clear voids... Bucker and Sanders, but beyond that, the voids are far less clear. Taking top tier talent in this draft with a loaded roster is not a bad play by any stretch of the imagination.
Following the Day 1, both Lynch and Shanahan were extremely excited. "Kyle and I came together, one of the things that we really believed in is that that’s an equalizer in a football league where everything’s set up for offenses to be successful. One of the ways you can equalize the equation is by to get after and knock down the passer. We built a pretty good unit there and we wanted to keep that strong. We thought he was a great fit for that." said Lynch.
"I loved Aiyuk and the first thing you know, not knowing anything about him, I don’t know a lot about college football until I get into these guys, to see him just, you know, they didn’t do everything in their office, but he has on tape that he can run every single route and he can do it outside the numbers and he can do it inside the numbers. He has a certain skillset where I think is similar to [WR] Dante’s [Pettis] in terms of you wouldn’t just peg him at one position. You know, he can do all three. He can play the X, he can play the Z, he can play the F. He’s got the speed to get on top. He’s got the quickness, to play in the slot. He’s got the toughness to go over in the middle. And the guy is just completely committed to me in to being as good as God ever intended him to be." Shanahan said of Aiyuk.
"Herm Edwards is one of my best friends in life. He was one of my coaches. And so Herm was a tremendous guy to lean on. There was talk throughout the league that Aiyuk was one of the guys getting hot. And I think that’s just because people started just watching the film. And, albeit the one-year starter, what he put on film was extremely impressive and we decided to pounce and we gave up a lot for it and we sure hope it’s worth it, but he’s a guy that we value tremendously." Lynch said.
You know, if we could trade back a little bit and stuff and maybe pick up a third player in the third or fourth round, that would be our goal. But, there’s a few guys who you can’t pass at 13 and Kinlaw was one of those guys. And for Kinlaw to be there at 13 and us to go to 14 and still get him and pick up a fourth rounder, we thought it was unbelievable. But, Aiyuk was one of the guys we were going to do that for if Kinlaw wasn’t there and then to still be there sitting there at 31 and a guy that we would have done it if we had to at 13 is sitting there when we’re at 31 available at 25 and we feel very strongly from our Intel over the last few months there’s no way Aiyuk is getting to 31 and so if we could take our fourth- round pick, which a fourth-round pick on our team is going to be hard to find a fourth-round pick to beat out any of our guys to start. Said Shanahan.
Finally, Shanahan suggested that Aiyuk is a guy who "wants to be great"... that was worth quite a bit to Shanahan, and may have been a small shot at Dante Pettis who has fallen in and out of favour seemingly every other week the past two seasons.