Following the trade of DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers now have two picks in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft at No. 13 and No. 31.
The buzz is that San Francisco will select a receiver with their top pick, especially following Emmanuel Sanders’ signing with New Orleans, and considering this is one of the best wide receiver drafts in recent memory. According to Mel Kiper’s most recent mock draft, the 49ers will land the top WR in the draft, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy.
This pick now belongs to the 49ers, after the Colts traded it to acquire interior disruptor DeForest Buckner. San Francisco could use the pick for a straight replacement for Buckner at defensive tackle — if Javon Kinlaw drops out of the top 10, he could do damage in the middle of its defense — but I see wide receiver as a higher priority, particularly after Emmanuel Sanders walked in free agency. Adding Jeudy, who caught 77 passes for 1,163 yards and 10 TDs last season, to a group with Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne makes this a really exciting (and young) trio of wideouts for Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers are also trade-down candidates — after the No. 31 overall pick, they don’t pick again until Round 5.
Kiper has Jeudy ranked as the ninth best overall player in the draft and projects him to be a true No. 1 receiver the moment he gets drafted. Kiper believes he’s “the most talented receiver to enter the NFL since the duo of Julio Jones and A.J. Green went in Round 1 in 2011.” Jeudy won the Biletnikoff Award in 2019, given to the most outstanding WR at the college level.
With nearly all of their starting secondary projected to hit free agency next offseason, Kiper believes the 49ers will target a cornerback, specifically Noah Igbinoghene out of Auburn, with pick No. 31.
If the 49ers can get a wide receiver with their first pick, they could turn to the defense with this pick. With DeForest Buckner gone, I thought about defensive tackle, but they still have some talent there with former top-five pick Solomon Thomas moving inside permanently. Justin Madubuike could be an option. But corner is a more pressing need, and you only have to watch Super Bowl LIV to see that. Richard Sherman, who turns 32 later this month, is only signed through 2020, and the Niners don’t have a set No. 2 corner. Igbinoghene, a track athlete who is still raw, is my third-ranked corner, and he could also help as a return man.
We’ll uh, ignore that Solomon Thomas comment for now, but it stands to reason that the 49ers could be looking to add depth here. Emmanuel Mosley was excellent last season, but came out of nowhere and will need to prove it wasn’t a fluke. Ahkello Witherspoon was playing at an All-Pro early on, but became almost unplayable following a sprained foot.
It’s not out of the question that Igbioghene would compete for a starting job in training camp.