The case for the 49ers to stay at No. 13, and trade back from No. 31 in 2020 NFL Draft

Following the 2018 season, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan correctly assessed that their roster was much closer to being a playoff team than outsiders realized. The Niners had the second pick in the 2019 Draft, and most GMs would have been content to draft and build slowly coming off of a 4-12 season. However, Lynch recognized that the playoff window was opening, and he decided to be aggressive.


He started off by acquiring Dee Ford in March of 2019 for a 2020 second-round pick. Arizona’s Kyler Murray decision allowed the crown jewel of that draft, Nick Bosa, to be there at No. 2. And several other players from that class made big contributions in 2019. However, after Week 7, it was clear that the WR corps had to be addressed in order to make a playoff run, so Lynch sent his 2020 third- & fourth-round picks to Denver for Emmanuel Sanders. That was a huge price to pay (especially after using three Day 2 picks on WRs the previous two drafts), but Lynch decided to move all-in on the 2019 season, and that decision paid off in spades.


The 2019 Niners delivered the most exciting and galvanizing regular season in franchise history, and they came within one play of winning the ultimate prize.


[CROCKER: Re-evaluating CeeDee Lamb as a 2020 prospect, option for the 49ers at No. 13]


Immediately after the Super Bowl, the reality of the price paid to get there could no longer be ignored. For the 2020 Draft, the Niners possessed six picks, but five of them were in rounds 5-7. Even though Lynch has excelled in the later rounds in all three of his drafts, the 2020 NFL Draft was looking like a tough one for Lynch…until March 13th, that is. That's when Lynch decided yet again to make another bold move, by trading Buckner to the Colts for pick No. 13.


Given Lynch’s three-year resume of active trading, an understandable assumption is that pick No. 13 was acquired only to be traded yet again to yield additional 2020 picks. Lynch’s style has been active, but it has changed slightly in each of his drafts, and it may yet change again in 2020. Maybe this time, he does the most unexpected thing given his history of wheeling & dealing. He stands pat at No. 13, and takes the BPA that is also in line with the Niners biggest needs (WR and CB).


The case for picking at #13


Trading back a few spots from No. 13 looks to be a dicey proposition given who is immediately behind them. There’s a lot of similar needs for the teams in the 15-20 range, and after Lamb & Henderson, there's a considerable drop off at WR and CB. Lynch knows what his biggest needs are, the Niners have another shot at a Super Bowl run, so I believe it’s unlikely he’ll trade back from No. 13 if either Lamb or Henderson are there. Yes, this is a deep draft at WR, and there are Day 2 CBs to be had. However, COVID-19 has thrown a major wrench into all of the GMs normal draft process.


There have been no pro days, no private workouts, no medical exams, and no face-to-face interviews. This will make the mid/late rounds of the draft unusually difficult to navigate. Because of those issues, proven elite talent is more valuable than ever. Also, this is not the barren Niners roster of three years ago, so they don't need an excess of 2020 picks, but they do need game-changing talent at WR and CB. Since the Niners' Super Bowl window is open, it's too great of a risk for Lynch to pass on an immediate impact player at WR or CB at No. 13.


However, If both Lamb & Henderson are gone (and Shanahan isn't sold on Jeudy or Ruggs), or if it’s simply trading back one spot with Tampa Bay (who may need to hold off another team who is trying to acquire a tackle), then that’s a different story. The other scenario that'd be enticing for Lynch is if a QB like Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert slides to No. 13, and he's offered a king's ransom of 2020 and 2021 picks. We’ll just have to wait and see what the first 12 picks have in store for the Niners on Day 1, but as things stand today, either Lamb or Henderson should be the pick at No. 13, as the 2020 Niners are in dire need of both an elite WR and CB.


The case for trading back from #31


Based on recent drafts, pick No. 31 makes a lot more sense to trade back with.


It holds considerable value, even over pick No. 33, due to the additional year of player control you get with a first-round pick. Because of this, the last three drafts have seen Nos. 30 and 32 traded once, and No. 31 traded twice. What the Niners need is one prospect to fall that just one team truly values. Let’s take a look at the recent trades from the ~31st range from the last three drafts (please don't look at the #31 range for the 2016 or 2017 Drafts unless you're a glutton for punishment).


Recent trades back from #31(ish)


2019 - The Seahawks had pick 30, and traded back with the Giants for 37, 132, and 142.

2019 - The Rams had pick 31, and traded back with the Falcons for 45 and 79 (the Rams also gave up pick 203).

2018 - The Eagles had pick 32, and traded back with the Ravens for 52, 125, and a 2019 2nd (the Ravens also gave up pick 132).


Of all those trades, the one that I would try to emulate, is the 2019 Rams & Falcons trade, which brings me to the three following proposals.


Proposed Trade 1 - The Niners trade picks 31 and 210, to Tampa Bay for picks 45 and 76.

Proposed Trade 2 - The Niners trade picks 31 and 210, to Denver for picks 46 and 77.

Proposed Trade 3 - The Niners trade picks 31 and 210, to Miami for picks 56 and 70.

Why would any of these three teams trade up to 31? Of course, there would have to be a player that they greatly value available at 31, that they don't think will make it to their 2nd round pick.


Tampa Bay is in win-now mode, and another WR (Reagor, TCU) or OL Cesar Ruiz (IOL, Michigan) would be very valuable to them. I know Ruiz at No. 31 would be a very popular pick for Niners fans, but Lynch has never drafted a C or G, so I doubt he does it for the first time at this draft slot.


Josh Jones (OT, Houston) or Austin Jackson (OT, USC) would be two other attractive OL trade-up options. Tampa Bay also needs a safety (McKinney, Alabama) or an edge (Gross-Matos, Penn State). Denver needs a wide receiver (Jefferson, LSU) or cornerback (Terrell, Clemson), as well as OL. Miami is fully loaded for the 2020 draft, with three firsts, and 14 total picks, but they need everything, and that fifth year of control is extremely valuable to a frugal team like the Dolphins. Another possible trade partner could be Jacksonville, but picks 42 and 73 would probably take more than 31 and 210 to get it done. Since Miami has the most picks to move around the draft with, I’m going with a Niners & Dolphins trade for my mock draft.


If WR at #13

#13 - CeeDee Lamb (WR, Clemson)

#56 - Damon Arnette (CB, OSU)

#70 - Tyler Biadasz (C, Wisconsin)

#156 - Alton Robinson (DE, Syracuse)

#176 - Dalton Keene (TE, Virgina Tech)

#217 - Bravvion Roy (DT, Baylor)

#245 - Kyle Murphy (G, Rhode Island)


If CB at #13

#13 - C.J. Henderson (CB, Florida)

#56 - Michael Pittman Jr. (WR, USC)

#70 - Tyler Biadasz (C, Wisconsin)

#156 - Alton Robinson (DE, Syracuse)

#176 - Dalton Keene (TE, Virgina Tech)

#217 - Bravvion Roy (DT, Baylor)

#245 - Kyle Murphy (G, Rhode Island)


Depending on Pick #13 - Damon Arnette (CB, OSU) or Michael Pittman Jr. (WR, USC)


Could Arnette or Pittman be a stretch at #56? Sure. However, if either is the player you covet, and at a position the Niners desperately need to shore up, who cares about trading back another few spots? Even if you could eek out a bit more “value” out of trading back again, it wouldn't be worth risking losing out on the player you want, especially when it's at a position of need.


Tyler Biadasz (C, Wisconsin)


Biadasz is an athletic zone-blocking C, who can also fill in at G. Lynch values versatility on the DL, have to think he does on the OL as well. Lynch needs both an insurance policy on Richburg’s patella tendon tear, and also a future long term plan for C.


Alton Robinson (DE, Syracuse)


Robinson has the traits you want for an edge, but needs some polish and coaching. What a better place to do it at than in San Francisco under Kris Kocurek, with all that depth and rotation going on at Edge & DL. The Niners also need an edge as insurance on Blair’s ACL recovery, and on Ford as well. An edge would also help the Niners manage Ford’s snap count throughout the season, so I believe edge is higher on Lynch’s list than most assume.

Dalton Keene (TE, Virginia Tech)


Keene’s hype is beginning to build, and the Niners have been exploring TEs in NFL Free Agency. If they were truly close on signing Austin Hooper, and also looked at Jordan Reed, that tells me Lynch is serious about finding another TE pass-catching threat to pair with All-Pro George Kittle.

Bravvion Roy (DT - Baylor)


Roy is a massive 3T that moves very well for a man of his size, and will draw double teams that allow the rest of the DL & LBs to go hunting. Taking another DL to compete with Kentavius Street and Julian Taylor for snaps, especially after trading Buckner, is very probable on Day 3.


Kyle Murphy (G, Rhode Island)


Murphy is an athletic zone-blocking G from a small school; interior OL has been a need for the last two seasons, and Lynch has to start addressing it via the draft.


I ran multiple draft simulations, and was able to achieve both scenarios often. Granted, NFL GMs are much smarter than a draft simulation. Biadasz was at No. 70 in a lot of simulations, but he may be gone before then. Same with Pittman at No. 56, as his stock is rising. Thankfully, there are other Cs and WRs to be had, but those two top my list if they are available on Day 2 after trading back. Keene is the only the Day 3 selection that may not be there.


Conclusion

With one savvy trade by Lynch, his 2020 NFL Draft turned from a pick at No. 31, and then trying to strike gold in the late rounds, to gaining a ton of flexibility and leverage for Day 1 and the rest of the draft.


If the 49ers select Lamb or Henderson at No. 13, and Lynch turns No. 31 into two impact players on Day 2, it's already a successful draft -- and then Lynch can get to work on Day 3 where he has consistently found gems. Maybe he's considering a longer play by going for a Day 1 2021 pick, and a Day 2 pick(s), instead of all Day 2 2020 picks. Whatever Lynch ends up doing, his trade of Buckner for No. 13 blew the entertainment value of the 2020 draft through the roof for The Faithful, and it's going to be a blast to see how this Draft shakes out for Lynch and the Niners.


Media courtesy Getty Images/USA Today Sports Images

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