Grades Are In! How Did the 49ers Fare in the 2020 NFL Draft?

The San Francisco 49ers were hard at work making logical and sensible moves coming out of the 2020 NFL Draft. San Francisco diligently filled holes created by the departure of several players this offseason by restocking its roster with starting-caliber talent.

NFL pundits have already begun to assess each teams' improvement over the three-day event. While the true value of a pick cannot thoroughly be evaluated until a few seasons down the road, analysts have provided an instant reaction of San Francisco's picks and how the 49ers made the most of their draft resources.

Table inside Article
Round, Pick Player School
Round 1: Pick 14 DT Javon Kinlaw South Carolina
Round 2: Pick 25 WR Brandon Aiyuk Arizona State
Round 5: Pick 153 OL Colton McKivitz West Virginia
Round 6: Pick 190 TE Charlie Woerner Georgia
Round 7: Pick 217 WR Jauan Jennings Tennessee

"The 49ers are coming off a Super Bowl appearance and maintained that level. They landed Trent Williams from the Redskins for a modest price. He replaces the retiring Joe Staley, and his familiarity with Coach Kyle Shanahan should allow the 49ers to get the best out of him. Williams and the 49ers' two first-rounders, DT Javon Kinlaw and WR Brandon Aiyuk, should be major contributors. Kinlaw replaces DeForest Buckner, who was traded earlier this offseason. The 49ers could have taken Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb instead of Kinlaw but traded up to get Aiyuk to fill a need later in the round."

"Best Pick: First-round receiver Brandon Aiyuk will be a playmaker in their offense. He's got explosive run-after-the-catch ability. Plus, he's a Sun Devil.

"They did add two good players in defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and Aiyuk in the first round. Some scouts love Kinlaw, while others thought he played too high. The trade to land left tackle Trent Williams from the Redskins to fill the spot of retiring Joe Staley was a nice move."

"GM John Lynch didn't wait very long to find DeForest Buckner's replacement along the D-line, selecting Kinlaw at No. 14 overall. He addressed the team's receiver need later in Round 1 when he traded up six spots for Aiyuk. The deal for the Arizona State receiver, along with past trades for veterans Dee Ford and Emmanuel Sanders, sapped the Niners of any second-, third- or fourth-round selections.

"Moving a fifth-round pick and 2021 third-round pick for Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, who's expected to take over for the retiring Joe Staley, makes a strong offensive line even stronger. McKivitz, whom they drafted with the pick acquired from the Dolphins for Matt Breida, played tackle in college, but I think he could be a very good starting guard. The Niners continued dealing, moving Marquise Goodwin to the Eagles for a sixth-round pick, which they then used on Woerner -- a very good blocker/receiver pick at tight end because the team needed depth behind stud George Kittle. Jennings is a big receiver who wins with physicality -- not speed."

"Similar to the Chiefs, the 49ers don't have many holes. Their two first-rounders have high-impact rookie potential. Trading two picks for veteran left tackle Trent Williams is worth a bump. No other picks until the fifth."

"They wound up making just five selections, but jeez. Top pick Javon Kinlaw (14th overall) likely isn't the next Buckner but certainly a first-rate replacement conducive to cap management. First-round WR Brandon Aiyuk should form a dynamic tandem with 2019 second-rounder Deebo Samuel. But to pick up a Pro Bowler in Williams for two mid-round picks while offloading the remainder of WR Marquise Goodwin's contract on Philadelphia? Yeoman's work, Mr. Lynch."

"In a technical sense, a variety of trades left the Niners with just two meaningful draft picks (both first rounders), but that's not a bad thing when you're a defending conference champion and do not have many weaknesses to correct. Plus, if you count ex-Washington left tackle Trent Williams as part of this class (he was acquired for a 2020 fifth-rounder and 2021 third-rounder, and will replace the retired Joe Staley), it's a top-heavy haul of talent.

"Many expected the Niners to find a replacement for departed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders at Pick 14, when every wide receiver save for Henry Ruggs III was still on the board. But that's not how this organization thinks. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch understand that as long as they have quality route runners on the field, Shanahan's play designs can win. Quality route runners can be found in Rounds 2-4. (Plus, the Niners are said to love 2019 third-rounder Jalen Hurd, who missed his rookie season with a stress fracture in his low back.)

"The fact that the Niners traded up in the late first round to get Brandon Aiyuk says they must be smitten with the Arizona State star. Stylistically, he fits their offense. Scouts liked Aiyuk's effectiveness operating on the move, which is a key characteristic in Shanahan's timing-based offense. He also has shown he can align in a variety of positions.

"As for how San Fran used that No. 14 pick … what Shanahan and Lynch understand is that, while their offensive system is not player-dependent, their defensive system is. Coordinator Robert Saleh's scheme is predicated on having a potent four-man pass rush. The Niners rode that to a Super Bowl appearance last year. After financial constraints forced them to trade DeForest Buckner to the Colts, they needed to restock for this year. NFL draft expert Greg Cosell has said that Javon Kinlaw is not a flawless prospect, but his best-case scenario is to develop into a Chris Jones type of force. That's a helluva best-case scenario, and the Niners believe they have one of the NFL's best defensive line coaches in Kris Kocurek."

"The 49ers knew this draft wasn't one meant for volume and also knew they had to get immediate rookie replacements for DeForest Buckner (Kinlaw) and Emmanuel Sanders (Aiyuk). They also jumped on the trade for Trent Williams with Joe Staley retiring and were able to get rid of two superfluous offensive players, Matt Breida and Marquise Goodwin, for extra picks. McKivitz and Woerner were solid depth picks. Jennings may end up being a final-pick steal."

"With just five selections, this 49ers class is difficult to evaluate. But for a team that played in the Super Bowl and has mostly kept its team intact, apart from trading defensive tackle DeForest Buckner for a first-round pick and losing wideout Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, it does have two defined needs. Credit general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan for doing all they could to fill those needs on Day 1.

"San Francisco scooped up interior penetrator Javon Kinlaw (14), and he'll be a Buckner fill-in. He's cheaper than Buckner, of course, but does he have Buckner's ceiling? Then the 49ers traded into the 25th pick to get wideout Brandon Aiyuk, a fantastic athlete who dominated in the Pac-12 last season. Shanahan is already fired up about how he'll use Aiyuk, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will love him.

"After that, though? I don't see much. Offensive tackle Colton McKivitz (153), tight end Charlie Woerner (190) and wide receiver Jauan Jennings (217) are all NFL backups. What keeps this in the B range is that the 49ers were able to use picks to get left tackle Trent Williams in a trade with Washington, and it cost them only a fifth-rounder this year and next year's third-rounder."

"Day 1: The 49ers had a busy first round, with two selections and two trades. Moving back one pick to take Kinlaw at No. 14 with players like Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb on the board may not have been the optimal decision, but it's not as if they reached. Kinlaw was the top interior defender and the 13th-ranked player overall on PFF's Big Board. He's a physical specimen with the kind of pass-rushing tools and production you love at the position, highlighted by an 18.1% pass-rush win rate in 2019 that trailed only Jordan Elliott in the class.

"This was a man who went from homeless to junior college and now to South Carolina, overcoming every obstacle in his way. Those are the kinds of players you bet on in the draft." – PFF’s lead draft analyst Mike Renner

"After the draft, there were reports that Aiyuk was WR1 on the 49ers' board, and it's not hard to see what they'd like about his skill set. He's one of the best wide receivers in this class — a certified freak of an athlete who recorded nearly 11 yards after the catch per reception on 65 catches in 2019. There is reason to be worried about Aiyuk not doing much at all until his senior season, but he has well-defined strengths that should play well in Kyle Shanahan's offense.

"Day 3: The biggest news of the day for the 49ers was the retirement of their longtime fixture at left tackle, Joe Staley, and the resulting trade to acquire Trent Williams from the Washington Redskins. Staley has been underappreciated for just how good he has been — he has recorded overall grades of 80.0 or higher in each of the past eight seasons. Williams was the only option out there who could hope to match that kind of production. The former Washington tackle has put up eight consecutive seasons of 75.0-plus overall grades and is one of the top tackles in the league when healthy.

"The other noteworthy move for the 49ers here is scooping up Jauan Jennings — the No. 70 overall player on the PFF Big Board — in the seventh round. With his after-the-catch ability, he could not have landed in a better spot. Jennings averaged over 7.5 yards after the catch per reception in both 2018 and 2019, and he forced a whopping 30 missed tackles after the catch last season. That will certainly play well in Kyle Shanahan's offense."