Anavarathan: 49ers' front office swings for the fences, will it pay off?
As head coach Kyle Shanahan walked off of the field at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, with the red and yellow confetti coming down, it was a familiar, yet wildly different feeling for the architect of the 49ers' offense.
Two Super Bowl appearances and two agonizing defeats with blown leads late in the fourth quarter, yet Shanahan has consistently stated he thought the 49ers should have won Super Bowl 54 against the Kansas City Chiefs and doubled down on that notion this past weekend after the 2020 NFL Draft.
San Francisco's head coach described their team-building philosophy post-Super Bowl loss, in a press conference this past week.
We should've won the Super Bowl last year and we want to have an opportunity to win it again. So, every decision we made was also with, how do we help this organization for the future, but it still feel like we're in a position to be the same team, if not better this year than we were last year?
Given their sentiments towards their roster, it made their draft strategy that much more clearer.
The 53-man roster has it's core pieces in place with tight end George Kittle, defensive end Nick Bosa and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The team has depth at pivotal positions such as defensive line and running back, but there were key voids that were left vacated by player departures.
There were holes along the interior defensive line with the departure of DeForest Buckner, at X-receiver with the exit of of Emmanuel Sanders and at left tackle with the unanticipated retirement of left tackle Joe Staley.
So what did San Francisco's front office do?
They used their two first-round picks to draft Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk and then proceeded to trade multiple picks to trade for highly-coveted tackle Trent Williams.
What does that indicate about general manager John Lynch's opinion of this 49ers' roster?
He firmly believes that San Francisco is knocking on the door of a Super Bowl. If the 49ers are able to simply plug the holes that were left vacated, then they would be right back in a position to raise the Lombardi Trophy.
The 49ers had two paths they could have taken coming into the draft: Re-tool the team for a Super Bowl run in 2020 or extend the Super Bowl window and address future needs.
In 2021, San Francisco's list of free agents is extremely long and features some key names, including fullback Kyle Juszczyk, starting corners Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon and K'Waun Williams. It also includes running backs Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson Jr and strong safety Jaquiski Tartt.
San Francisco came into this draft with a lack of draft resources due to trades for Sanders and pass rusher Dee Ford. But rather than adding draft picks by trading back with the two first-round picks, the 49ers doubled down and used both of them to add high-end prospects at positions of need.
Well, what does that mean?
San Francisco did not have the resources to draft for positions of future need, but pushed all the chips in the middle of the table to bring back a roster similar to what ultimately sputtered down the stretch of the Super Bowl.
It's a tight-rope balancing act, trying to build a Super Bowl contender in the near-term, while attempting to keep the window open for as long as possible. John Lynch's choices this offseason of trading away DeForest Buckner and drafting Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk will have long-term repercussions for this team.
It also results in immense pressure on the 49ers' two first-round picks, who will be expected to come in and have an impact right away, similar to what Buckner and Sanders were doing for this organization last season.
For the 49ers' sake, they better hope Kinlaw is more like Nick Bosa and less like Solomon Thomas. They also better hope Brandon Aiyuk is more like Deebo Samuel and less like Dante Pettis. The performance of those rookies will directly correlate to the length of the 49ers' Super Bowl window.