One of the hardest bounce backs in the NFL is rebounding after a Super Bowl loss.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan has experienced it twice in the past five seasons — once as offensive coordinator for Atlanta and this past season at the hands of Patrick Mahomes — and it forced the team to regroup and retool.
General manager John Lynch is entering his fourth season at the helm and he's spearheaded the 49ers’ overhaul. The 2020 draft was his first opportunity to strengthen where San Francisco fell short a few months ago.
The 49ers’ complete 2020 draft class:
- No. 14: Javon Kinlaw, IDL, South Carolina
- No. 25: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, ASU
- No. 153: Colton McKivitz, OT, West Virginia
- No. 190: Charlie Woerner, TE, Georgia
- No. 217: Jauan Jennings, WR, Tennessee
In this new series, I will analyze quotes that stuck out the most from executives’ pre- and post-draft press conferences. Below are quotes from Lynch.
Question: Just curious how much action you got on the pick at No. 13 and what led you to make the decision to just do the one thing there and with Kinlaw being the guy, how much, was he one of your six guys, that you mentioned the other day?
Lynch: “The answer to the latter part of that is yes. Kinlaw was one of those guys. He was actually the first guy on our list that we would've taken at [No.] 13. In response to how much action, you know, I think we did a lot more and I think the entire league did before the draft because of the potential hitches that could go on with the virtual drafting. And so there was a lot of calling before the draft and the last, in the days leading up and then during that. So, we had a lot of different things going. I think the Tampa thing came about while we were in that pick and we felt like there was a good chance that Kinlaw would be there.
“If not, you know, a couple of the other players that we really liked at kind of that [No.] 13 slot would be there. So, we felt comfortable getting back one spot, gaining a fourth-round pick and had a good idea that Javon would still be there and he's a guy that we had zeroed in on for a while. You know, you go back to when we first built this thing, Kyle and I came together, one of the things that we really believed in is that that's an equalizer in a football league where everything's set up for offenses to be successful. One of the ways you can equalize the equation is to get after and knock down the passer. We built a pretty good unit there and we wanted to keep that strong. We thought he was a great fit for that."
Analysis: The 49ers completed a blockbuster trade that sent star defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Colts for the No. 13 pick. It was possible San Francisco could have swapped out a cheaper option and a rookie to replace Buckner; the 49ers could have also selected one of the top-three wide receivers that were left on the board. After Henry Ruggs III was selected by the Raiders at No. 11, the 49ers could have taken Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb.
San Francisco opted for Kinlaw, who has one of the best stories of any prospect in the 2020 class. He persevered and become a first-round selection. Kinlaw can immediately fill into the spot that was left after trading Buckner, who signed a four-year, $84 million deal with $44.3 million guaranteed.
Question: At what point, John, did you realize that you couldn't sit at No. 31 and get the guy you wanted? Was it during that run of wide receivers or was the plan to go up all along?
Lynch: "Well, you know, in both these situations I want to give a lot of credit, you know, I think this year probably more than ever you've got to trust a couple of things. That's your film, your scouts, your coaches. With Aiyuk, [Arizona State coach] Herm Edwards is one of my best friends in life. He was one of my coaches. And so Herm was a tremendous guy to lean on. There was talk throughout the league that Aiyuk was one of the guys getting hot. And I think that's just because people started just watching the film. And, albeit the one-year starter, what he put on film was extremely impressive and we decided to pounce and we gave up a lot for it and we sure hope it's worth it, but he's a guy that we value tremendously."
Analysis: One of the 49ers’ more aggressive moves of the first round was trading up from their second first-round selection to acquire Aiyuk.
After a run on receivers started with Jeudy, Lamb, Jalen Reagor and Justin Jefferson would be the next prospects to come off of the board. Lynch traded three selections to move up six spots in the draft, sending the Nos. 31, 117 and 176 selections to the Vikings. What made Aiyuk so appealing to Lynch and Shanahan was his ability to gain yards after the catch and the upward trajectory that he's shown each year.