NFL Scouting Combine 49ers First Step to Succeed in 2020
Jose Luis Sanchez III
The NFL scouting combine is officially underway as teams will get an in depth look at the players who are entering this years draft in Las Vegas. For the San Francisco 49ers, today begins their first step towards reappearing in the Super Bowl. Accomplishing such a feat will require a strong offseason to keep the team trending upwards.
Luckily, the 49ers enter the offseason with minimal turnover. Other than Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward, their core players who propelled them to a Super Bowl appearance in 2019 will be returning in 2020. The same goes for all of their coaches with the exception of defensive backs coach Joe Woods. San Francisco has a fair shot at another Super Bowl contending season with the pieces they have in place.
They still have decisions to make on what to do with Armstead and Ward. Franchise tagging Armstead seems the likeliest scenario, while letting Ward walk due to his high price. Regardless, the 49ers are in a fantastic position entering the offseason and are poised to make ruckus in the NFC once again in 2020. It's all a matter on if they can find the right pieces in the draft to keep their talent level ascending from 2019.
2019 Season in Review
Last season was a phenomenal year for the San Francisco 49ers. The defense was out of this world all season long, especially in the first half of the regular season. As great as the defense was, the 49ers were the ultimate complimentary football team. That phrase "complimentary" gets tossed around in football discussions every so often, but not many teams are actually able to make it reality. The Niners made it so and proved it on a consistent basis.
This team stormed onto the scene so quickly as a dominating force that no one wanted to give credence to their legitimacy. A trip to Super Bowl LIV would clear up any doubt surrounding the 49ers as the real deal. Unfortunately for the red and gold, they were dealt a heartbreaking loss by the Kansas City Chiefs. Now the 49ers must continue to build so that they can right the wrongs from Super Bowl LIV. While the 49ers are in a strong position with their team, they must now focus on how to improve it.
2020 Draft Position
San Francisco will be picking 31st overall in the first round of the NFL draft, which is always a tough spot to be in. It's nearly impossible to tell who is going to fall that deep. To make matters worse, once the first round is over the 49ers will not be picking again until day three of the draft.
Their next pick following the first round doesn't come until the fifth round. The 49ers have six picks in this draft and five of them are in the late rounds. There is no doubt in my mind that the Niners need to trade down from No. 31 and accumulate picks. This is where the team has to fill out the roster and fill the holes left by their free agents.
Help Wanted and Help Needed
Once again, the limited salary cap space forces the 49ers' hands. They need to hit on good portion of their picks. However, they cannot do that with almost every draft choice slated towards the back end of the draft. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch would be wise to not fall in love with a player who they believe could potentially fall to them at No. 31.
The value in trading that pick supersedes the value in hoping that a player they love falls to them. This is what makes the draft the ultimate crap shoot because you just never know who is going to rise and fall. The scouting combine starts it out by trying to paint a clear picture of it when the draft arrives. For the 49ers, they surely are going to dive into the safeties and corners.
Richard Sherman is no spring chicken, so they have to start looking for his future replacement. And outside of Emmanuel Moseley, there isn't an outside corner presence on defense. Let's not forget that Jimmie Ward could be on the move in a month, which adds to the list of needs for the 49ers.
Five Players 49ers Must Watch
- Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne: Most players from division two programs aren't household names entering the combine, and Dugger isn't exactly that just yet. Although, after he answered numerous questions at the Senior Bowl, showing he can play to the level of other prospects coming from power-five programs, he's put himself into consideration as a top safety in this year's draft class. Dugger would provide the 49ers defense with a player who can roam the secondary, while also contributing to the team's efforts in run support playing box safety.
- Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State: Brandon Aiyuk has received plenty of first-round buzz after filling the shoes of N'Keal Harry as ASU's primary offensive weapon. He picked up right where Harry left off, posting adequate numbers towards the top of the Pac-12 conference in many statistical categories. His 2019 season ended with 1,192 receiving yards, ranking second in the Pac-12. His efforts also went on to accumulate 226 punt yards and a 31.9 average of kick return yards, which both tallied inside the top three in the conference.
- Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame: Troy Pride Jr. was a two-year starter for Brian Kelly while also running track for the Golden Domers. His 2019 season didn't start with much of an acknowledgment as a top draft prospect, but after an impressive Senior Bowl week in which he held every bit of his own, Pride begun receiving more of a widespread recognition due to his blazing speed and sticky coverage ability.
- Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan: Entering the college ranks out of high school, Donovan Peoples-Jones was the No.1 ranked wide receiver in the country, deeming him a potential early draft pick. However, things haven’t gone accordingly to Peoples-Jones' exact trajectory. Erratic quarterback play and numerous up and down games from Peoples-Jones himself have slotted him towards the mid-rounds as a draft prospect.
- Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois: Southern Illinois University isn't exactly a powerhouse institution that assembles high-end draft talent every season. However, fourth-year safety Jeremy Chinn is a playmaker who's projected to hear his name called within the first two days of this year's draft. Chinn participated in the Senior Bowl last month where he measured in at 6-3, 219 pounds, with a 77-inch wingspan and 32-inch arms. He's quite the physical specimen for safety to say the least.
Who Makes The Call and Recent Draft Hits and Misses
If the 49ers succeed in trading pack and stacking up second and third round picks, then these players will be in play for them. This years draft puts the 49ers in unfamiliar territory. Ever since Shanahan and Lynch took over they have been picking in the top 10 every season. Now they must figure out a way to maneuver with their picks so they do not draft a flop.
The first draft under this regime in 2017 was not ideal. They whiffed on players like Rueben Foster and Soloman Thomas who were both first round selections. The only bright side to it was that they ended up with George Kittle. Since that draft the 49ers have been hit on some quality talent. They selected offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey in the 2018 draft ninth overall to give them stability at the position. So far, McGlinchey was looked like a stud who continues to improve.
2018 was a great rebound from the 2017 draft and it turned out to be the warmup act for the 49ers' stellar 2019 draft class. Nick Bosa is the clear homerun player of the draft, but what the 49ers did after him is what made it strong. From drafting Deebo Samuel in the second to getting Dre Greenlaw in the fifth. The 49ers have set themselves up for success in the next few years with solid selections like this.
The question is: who makes the calls on these draft choices? Of course most will believe that it is John Lynch since he is the general manager. But Lynch is not at the forefront of authority. It undoubtedly is Kyle Shanahan who calls the shot. Lynch does have a say in the matter and the two do work together. Shanahan isn't an ego driven maniac who will shun out a helpful voice. It's why this team has hit on their last two draft classes.
These two must now make an impressive pairing once again with their most difficult draft ahead of them. Picking second to last in nearly every round is challenging, especially with most of the selections placed in the late rounds. The 49ers have their work cut out for them and it all starts today at the NFL scouting combine. Finding a hidden diamond in the rough can keep this team above water as one of the most elite teams in the league.