• Akash Anavarathan

Anavarathan: 49ers' first-round aggressiveness shows their faith in the current roster

General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were beaming with smiles and have been as light-hearted as I have seen in recent times, after making two first-round selections in Thursday's NFL Draft.

Heading into free agency, the 49ers' front office had numerous choices to make with their roster, given their tight salary cap situation and lack of draft capital in Rounds 2-4. Lynch and San Francisco's braintrust chose to retain free safety Jimmie Ward and defensive tackle Arik Armstead, even at the expense of wideout Emmanuel Sanders and fellow defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.

So how was San Francisco going to approach this draft?

Left tackle Joe Staley is on an expiring contract and Lynch was hesitant to completely commit to the return of the longest-tenured Niners' player. Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon and K'Waun Williams are all set to be free agents in 2021, so would the 49ers finally spend a premium pick on a cornerback? Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt is a free agent in 2021 and Michael Lombardi reported that San Francisco could look to trade him, so would they consider one of the top safety prospects?

Instead of trying to extend a Super Bowl window by replenishing future positions of need in this draft, San Francisco filled current holes by adding a defensive lineman and wide receiver on Thursday.

The message that it sent to me? That John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan show their faith in the current strength of the roster and prioritizing quality over quantity in the draft choices.

San Francisco traded up from No. 31 to No. 25, giving up picks No. 117 and No. 176 in the process. They were already limited in draft capital and instead of trading down to acquire more selections, the 49ers chose to trade up and draft the No. 1 wide receiver on their draft board.

Defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw will slot into the interior of the 49ers' defensive line, filling in the three-technique position that DeForest Buckner filled for four years with San Francisco. Wideout Brandon Aiyuk will likely vault himself right into the starting lineup alongside Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne.

[McGee: In defense of Javon Kinlaw, the 49ers have the environment where drafting DL pays dividends]

As The Athletic's David Lombardi lays out, the 49ers just replaced Buckner and Sander's voids with two draft picks that will account for $3.5M against the salary cap and allowed the 49ers to retain a large portion of their NFC Championship roster from 2019.

It will be a quiet Friday from the 49ers, who don't have any selections during the second and third rounds. Their next selection will come at pick No. 156 in the sixth round, followed by picks No. 210 and No. 217 in the seventh round.

There are other ways for San Francisco to add mid-round picks. Lynch described to the media on Thursday that there are multiple teams interested in wideout Marquise Goodwin and there could be some action on Friday. I'd also expect the team to see if they can move wideout Dante Pettis and running back Matt Breida this weekend, given Pettis' inconsistencies and Breida's expiring contract.

Coming into this draft, there always doubt if the 49ers were going to try and extend their Super Bowl window by addressing future needs in this draft, but based on their first-round selections, they have chosen to "run it back" in 2020 and go all in for a Lombardi Trophy.

(Cover Image: NFL.com)


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