© Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
There weren’t many surprises throughout the 49ers’ opening two days of the draft. They took Nick Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick and Deebo Samuel at No. 36 overall — two selections, which satisfy glaring needs, that were widely predicted. The team’s third pick, Baylor’s Jalen Hurd, was more surprising, though the final five rounds of San Francisco’s draft figured to get more unpredictable.
They were, indeed, throughout an active Saturday. San Francisco traded the No. 104 overall pick to the asset-rich Cincinnati Bengals in exchange for picks No. 110, 183, and 198. On paper, that traded favored the 49ers, considering they gained two additional picks and waited only six selections from their original spot in the fourth round.
San Francisco drafted eight players from the 2019 class, which is listed below.
#49ers 2019 draft:
No. 2: DE Nick Bosa, Ohio St
No. 36: WR Deebo Samuel, S. Carolina
No. 67: WR Jalen Hurd, Baylor
No. 110: P Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
No. 148: LB Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
No. 176: TE Kaden Smith, Stanford
No. 183: T Justin Skule, Vandy
No. 198: CB Tim Harris, UVA
— Brad Almquist (@bradalmquist13) April 27, 2019
Here is how each of the final five picks from Day 3 fits with the 49ers.
Pick No. 110: P Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
Wishnowsky will likely step in and be the Day-1 starter at punter. The 49ers recently signed Justin Vogel, who played his only NFL season in 2017, but spending a fourth-round pick on a punter essentially solidifies him as the starter.
By all accounts, Wishnowsky is the best punter in the 2019 class.
He is the only punter in NCAA history to be named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to the nation’s top punter, three times. He won the award as a freshman and was named an All-American three times. Over his three-year career with Utah, Wishnowsky averaged 45.7 yards per punt. For reference, Bradley Pinion, whom Wishnowsky will replace, averaged 43.7 yards per punt during his four years with the 49ers.
The 49ers also need someone to handle kickoff duties, part of Pinion’s former role. Wishnowsky told reporters that he hasn’t kicked off since 2017, but he did so in his tryout with the 49ers. He feels he has a strong enough leg to assume that role.
Pick No. 148: LB Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
The 49ers felt fortunate that Greenlaw dropped as far as he did. They projected him as a higher pick than a fifth rounder. After watching his film, coming away impressed with his speed and overall ability, coaching against him at the Senior Bowl, and meeting with him at the NFL Combine, the 49ers targeted the Arkansas linebacker as an intriguing prospect.
Think of Greenlaw as Kwon Alexander insurance. Alexander — who signed a four-year, $54-million deal in March — is recovering from an ACL tear suffered last October. While he’s expected to be ready by Week 1, the 49ers wanted to ensure they have backup options in case he doesn’t. Greenlaw will battle with Elijah Lee and David Mayo for the reserve role. Greenlaw can play either inside or outside linebacker. He may see some reps at SAM, where he will compete alongside Malcolm Smith and Mark Nzeocha.
Greenlaw was named a team captain in his senior year at Arkansas. Over the course of his four seasons, he registered 321 tackles, 13 for a loss, three interceptions, four sacks, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.
Pick No. 176: TE Kaden Smith, Stanford
The 49ers were expected to select a receiving tight end at some point. The fact that they invited Iowa’s Noah Fant, who ultimately was drafted with the No. 20 overall pick, for a pre-draft visit shows that the team wanted to bring in a player of that profile to pair alongside second-team All-Pro George Kittle.
Smith was one of three finalists named for the John Mackey Award, given to college football’s top tight end, in 2018. He amassed 47 catches for 635 yards and two touchdowns. One year earlier, he averaged 18 yards per catch.
John Lynch praised Smith’s “big catch radius” and ability to make contested catches. Kyle Shanahan doesn’t see Smith’s lack of speed as an issue, saying there are plenty of ways to maximize his strengths in the passing game.
Smith will compete with Garrett Celek and Ross Dwelley for reps. If we were to predict, Smith will be the third tight end activated on game day, with the potential to move ahead of Celek. In reality, they are complementary players. Celek is a better blocker, but Smith poses more of a threat in the passing game. Last year, Celek tallied just five catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games played.
Pick No. 183: T Justin Skule, Vanderbilt
Tackle depth was important to address through the draft. The 49ers don’t have a backup offensive tackle with much NFL experience behind starters Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. Staley, who will turn 35 prior to the 2019 season, enters the final year of his contract.
At 6-foot-7, 317 pounds, Skule is now San Francisco’s biggest offensive lineman. The 49ers generally keep their offensive linemen below 300 pounds, though Shanahan says he disregards weight as long as they move well.
Skule started 40 games for Vanderbilt over the past three seasons. He switched from right tackle to left tackle in 2018. The only sack he allowed last year in 473 pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus’ Jeff Deeney, was to Kentucky’s Josh Allen, who won the Chuck Bednarik Award as college football’s best defensive player.
The 49ers like Skule’s scrappiness, dependability, and consistency against SEC competition.
Pick No. 198: CB Tim Harris, UVA
With their final pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, the 49ers finally added to their secondary. Contrary to popular opinion, the 49ers feel confident in their incumbent group, even if there wasn’t much continuity among the secondary in 2018.
Harris fits the lengthy, physical cornerback prototype in San Francisco’s Cover-3 system. He stands at 6-foot-2, 197 pounds.
This is a low-risk, high-potential pick. Harris has flashed “rare size, speed and explosiveness traits,” according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, but struggled to stay on the field due to injuries. After starting as a true freshman with Virginia, Harris missed the majority of the following two seasons, then reasserted himself as a starter in a solid senior season.
The 49ers invited Harris for a pre-draft visit earlier this month. After the meeting, the 49ers “got comfortable with the person, loved the talent, and we jumped at it,” Lynch said Saturday. The 49ers general manager added that “you just can’t have enough good corners.”
Harris likely won’t immediately compete for a starting spot. Ahkello Witherspoon, Jason Verrett, and Tarvarius Moore are all ahead of Harris on the depth chart. Those three players will battle for the starting right cornerback position opposite of Richard Sherman.
Under Shanahan and Lynch, the 49ers have consistently taken fliers on tremendous athletes with injury histories in late rounds. Harris is the latest example.