It looked as though the 2020 Draft was gonna be a bit uneventful for the Super Bowl runners-up until early in the Veteran Free Agent period, when the team decided it had excess dollars invested in their stellar DL and dealt DeFOREST BUCKNER to the COLTS. In so doing they gained a second First Round Pick (#13) from the COLTS for BUCKNER. All of a sudden, the trade made the Niners a significant player in this year’s Draft proceedings with 7 overall Picks, including those 2 First Rounders.
Round 1, Pick 13 ANDREW THOMAS OT Georgia 6’5/315 (PP#14) THOMAS stepped into the Bulldogs offense as a true freshman, excelling at that spot until deciding he was heading for the NFL after the 2019 season, with one year of eligibility left. THOMAS is a natural athlete, and a polished football player. He’s big and athletic. He has 36 1/8″ long arms (in the TYRON SMITH range) and an 83 1/2″ wingspan. With sweet dancing feet, he’s excellent in pass-pro. He’s massive without being a stiff, bulked up player. Even if he doesn’t start as a Rookie, he looks like the heir apparent to JOE STALEY at the LT spot. Interesting note from his career @ UGA: He started 41 straight games at LT, playing 1,021 passing snaps for the Bulldogs, and allowed only 5 Sacks!
Round 1, Pick 31 ROSS BLACKLOCK DT TCU 6’3/290 (PP#33) Even though the team has a fairly deep DL group, if you give up a Pro Bowler I guess you’d best replace him. Thus the pick of BLACKLOCK, who will likely see action both inside and out along their defensive front. ROSS has lost a lot of weight while at TCU, and it has paid off in gains in his quickness and burst. However, he can still hold up at the line-of-scrimmage to contain the run game on the interior. It is assumed that the Combine medical revealed that he is 100% recovered from the Achilles injury that cost him the 2018 season. BLACKLOCK only played 24 games as a collegian. so it is assumed that he will be used in somewhat limited roles as he gains playing experience and learns the nuances of his position with Frisco. Look for BLACKLOCK to develop quickly into a major contributor for the 49’ers. Just to give you an idea of his athleticism, BLACKLOCK ran a 4.90/40 at the Combine, with a 1.70/10-yard split.
Round 5, Pick 156 JARED PINKNEY TE Vanderbilt 6’4/254 (PP#157) I’ve been watching PINKNEY closely, and patiently, for the past two seasons. Watching him play in 2017, I saw him as a star in the making. I’m still waiting for that projection to come true. At times, he’s lived up to the old classic line of “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane”. Potential can be a heavy weight to put on an athlete’s shoulders, and that seems to be a burden he’s struggled with. Granted, Vandy has had some poor seasons during his career there. PINKNEY can do it all and occasionally does. He can block and catches in traffic, dragging would be tacklers with him. Then a bit later in the game, you wonder if the coaches have benched him for some reason. I was looking forward to watching him during Senior Bowl week. Alas, it was the same old PINKNEY. He seemed to disappear for entire practices. His 4.96/40 at the Combine was a real revelation. Maybe a lack of speed is a huge limiting factor in his overall game. Whatever, this Pick has a lot of potential for San Francisco, and perhaps the day-to-day influence of playing with GEORGE KITTLE will rub off on PINKNEY.
Round 5, Pick 176 WILLIE GAY LB Mississippi State 6’1/243 (#175) This might be another reach, although it’s near the end of Round 5. GAY is an exceptional athlete, who did not disappoint at the Combine, starting with a 4.46/40 time. He also posted a 39.5″ vertical and 136″ broad jump, and game film will show that he uses that speed and explosion well in coverage situations. He consistently runs with RB’s and TE’s down the field. For a team to draft him, one has to assume he had a good explanation as to why he punched out his own QB in the locker room, and was suspended for a good part of the 2019 season. Maybe DC ROBERT SALEH can get inside GAY’s psyche and the “for-pay” aspect of the NFL will create more discipline in GAY’s life.
Round 6, Pick 210 NICK HARRIS OC Washington 6’1/293 (PP#214) If this guy were a bit bigger, he’d have been gone in the Top 50 Picks of this Draft. He’s a heady, dedicated performer who can lead an OL group on the field and in the locker room. On a positive note, he might be able to play like a young version of JASON KELCE. He is certainly well worth a selection in Round 6 for this team. He plays with a non-stop motor and a high FBI. Of concern to me is his propensity to grab and hold when he’s being pushed into the pocket by big NT-type’s, which I saw during Senior Bowl week multiple times. I wouldn’t be surprised if he either earned a starting job in the near future, or just disappeared from NFL rosters.
Round 7, Pick 217 JAYLINN HAWKINS S California 6’1/208 (PP#229) The Niners secondary is filled with former Draft Picks of theirs. However, in many cases, the interchangeable parts are pretty pedestrian in their playing levels, but form a cohesive unit. Taking a player like HAWKINS, from right across the Bay, might add another inexpensive Rookie player who might fit right in with their current mix of players. He certainly could help them on Special Teams units. He displayed some nice athleticism at the Combine with a 35 1/2″ vert and 117″ broad jump. He comes with a reputation as a hard hitter at Cal. If you watched the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, you saw that part of his game on display. In 2019 at Cal, he recorded 56 Tackles, 2 FF’s, 4.5 TFL, 2 Sacks, 3 INT’s and 5 PD. He also recorded 6 INT’s in 2018, indicating some solid ball skills.
Round 7, Pick 245 ISAIAH COULTER WR Rhode Island 6’2/198 (PP#244) It was somewhat of a surprise when COULTER declared for the Draft, coming out of Rhode Island’s football program. Perhaps he felt shirt-tailing on fellow wideout AARON PARKER, who got an invite to the Shrine Bowl, provided max exposure for him as a pro prospect. After all, COULTER is faster (4.45/40) than PARKER and showed off with a 36″ vert and 121″ broad jump at the Combine, which also bested PARKER in Indy. His stats were solid in 2019 for the Rams, with 72 catches for 1,039 yards and 9 TD’s. The 49’ers seem to like to develop young receivers under HC KYLE SHANAHAN. At the least, I’m thinking COULTER has the look of a Developmental Squad player in 2020.
Trading BUCKNER was a risk, given his talent, but his Cap hit was about to become a heavy load against their Cap, so that trade made their Draft relevant, compared to what it might have been with only 1 selection in the Top 155 Picks. And BLACKLOCK should mitigate the pain of losing BUCKNER now, instead of as a VFA soon. If the coaching staff, as a whole, gets the most out of these Picks, their roster could look even better on paper in 2020, than last season, when they barely lost the Super Bowl.
PS. Once again, a big ‘Thank You’ to our Chief Scout Larry Parker, who happens to do a solid job proofing and checking our details before you read these things.