Despite the deep and talented receiver pool in this year's draft, the majority of NFL experts have linked the San Francisco 49ers to the wideout position with their first of two first-round selections. Many analysts project the 49ers to fill the void left by Emmanuel Sanders following his departure in free agency.
In 10 games in San Francisco, Sanders trailed only George Kittle and Deebo Samuel in yards and receptions and was credited with just one drop on 96 targets. John Lynch and Co. are more likely than not to seek an immediate impact player as a replacement for Sanders in the draft.
"The draft class is incredibly strong," Lynch said during the Combine in February. "This is my fourth Combine and it's as good as I've ever seen. The depth of it, the top-end players, it's a really good class. You kind of get whatever flavor you like. If you like a smaller quicker guy, those guys are there. If you like the big guys that can move, those guys are there. If you like speed, that's there. If you like separators. And so, I think the whole league is smiling about that."
Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins headline an extensive list of talented draft possibilities. It is likely that several prospects could come off the board ahead of the 49ers 13th-overall pick with a number of receiver-needy teams vying for franchise-altering talent. But hypothetically speaking, if the 49ers could have their pick of any pass catcher of their choosing at No. 13, which would make the most appealing pairing in Kyle Shanahan's offense?
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes there's one wideout in particular that would fit seamlessly in San Francisco's offense: Ruggs III.
Take a look at some of the names being associated with the San Francisco 49ers in various mock drafts.
"He's the dreamy fit," Jeremiah said in a conference call. "I want to see it. Just as a football fan, I want to see what Kyle Shanahan could do with Ruggs, with his speed, with his toughness with the ball in his hands. I just envision the stretch bootleg that they like to run there and having Ruggs running those deep over routes and watching people try and run with that dude. No chance. And I think Kyle Shanahan got a front row seat to see what the speed looked like in the Super Bowl with Tyreek Hill on the biggest play of the season. It cost them a Super Bowl ring, and that speed was the difference."
Ruggs III (5-foot-11, 188 pounds) is recognized for his "world-class speed" and physical toughness. The Alabama product ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, the fastest time among wide receivers and the fastest since John Ross III set the Combine record with a 4.22-second time in 2017. Ruggs III averaged a team-high 18.7 yards per catch in 2019, catching 40 passes for 746 yards and seven touchdowns while sharing targets with fellow Crimson Tide wideouts, including Jeudy.
Aside from his speed and physicality, Ruggs III is a reliable pass catcher. He registered just one drop during the entire 2019 season. He's capable of playing the slot or outside the hashes. As a versatile option in Shanahan's motion-heavy offense, Ruggs III could be a sound complement to Kittle and Samuel in the pass game.
"I think they'll know what that value is, and I would love to see what he can do with him creatively. Man, it would be a lot of fun," Jeremiah continued. "But don't get me wrong, those other top three receivers, and I would throw Justin Jefferson even in there, although 13 might be a little bit early, but any of the top four receivers in a Kyle Shanahan offense are going to be extremely productive. They're great players."
It's worth noting, San Francisco has selected a wide receiver in 17-consecutive drafts. Regardless what the 49ers choose to do with pick No. 13, with the wealth of talent at the position, it's almost certain San Francisco lands another talented pass catcher with one of their seven picks in the draft.