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Top 5 Takeaways for the 49ers after Round 1 of the Draft

One: They might not have needed to trade up for Brandon Aiyuk.
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The 49ers deked us in the Round 1 of the NFL Draft.

First, they took defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw after trading down with the Buccaneers to gain a fourth-round pick. The Niners needed that fourth-rounder because they had no picks between Rounds 1 and 5. It seemed the 49ers were stockpiling assets.

But then the 49ers traded the fourth-rounder, plus a fifth-rounder and the 31st pick in Round 1 to the Vikings for the 25th pick, and took Arizona wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. So now the 49ers have no more picks until Round 5, and just three picks remaining: Nos. 156, 210 and 217.

The 49ers went all-in for two rookies.

Here are five more 49ers takeaways from Round 1.

1. The 49ers will continue spending first-round picks on defensive linemen as long as Kyle Shanahan is the head coach.

Shanahan made that clear Thursday night on a zoom conference call with Bay Area reporters.

“I’m always down to go defensive lineman (in the first round) if the right guy is there,” Shanahan said. “I can promise you, ask my high school friends when we played Madden and drafted our own guys back in '97. My first pick was always Michael Strahan. I always wanted to go D-Line, and I think that's what we've done here.”

Meaning if next year the 49ers trade or release veteran defensive end Dee Ford, who has knee tendinitis, Shanahan likely would draft another defensive lineman in Round 1 to replace him.

And who’s to say Shanahan would be wrong? The 49ers made it to the Super Bowl last season with a dominant defensive line. And Shanahan’s Madden teams were phenomenal, I’m guessing.

2. Both first-round picks have injury issues.

Kinlaw has knee tendinitis and Aiyuk recently had core-muscle surgery.

Fortunately for the 49ers, they did extensive examinations and background checks on each player’s injuries.

“(Kinlaw’s) knee did flare up (at the Senior Bowl),” John Lynch said. “Our guys did as extensive of a medical check as they could have. We got to the point where we were comfortable there.”

For Aiyuk, the 49ers reached out to his former head coach at Arizona State, Herm Edwards. Edwards also coached Lynch from 1996 to 2000. “Edwards is one of my best friends in life,” Lynch said. “He was a tremendous guy to lean on (for information about Aiyuk).”

Aiyuk’s core injury shouldn’t affect his future. Kinlaw’s knee tendinitis probably will get worse over time, but if he helps the 49ers win a Super Bowl within the next season or two, they’ll be happy.

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3. Shanahan fell in love with Aiyuk.

“He was my favorite receiver I evaluated,” Shanahan told reporters after Round 1. “There is no doubt on that”

Meaning Shanahan ranked Aiyuk above CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs -- the consensus top-three receivers in the draft. The 49ers would have drafted Aiyuk with the 13th pick had Kinlaw not been available.


Before the draft, I tweeted that teams never should fall in love with wide receivers in the draft, because it’s too hard to differentiate between the good ones and great ones coming out of college. It seems almost every season, the best rookie wide receiver is a second- or third-round pick, not a first-rounder.

But Shanahan is a former wide receiver, and he’s brilliant. And he has bold opinions. If he thinks Aiyuk is the best wide receiver in the draft, Shanahan won’t second guess himself. He’ll trade up for Aiyuk.

Shanahan is a man with convictions.

4. The 49ers believed they needed to trade up for Aiyuk.

“We feel very strongly from our intel over the last few months there’s no way Aiyuk was getting to 31,” Shanahan declared.

That’s why the 49ers traded up to take Aiyuk with the 25th pick.

But there’s no evidence a team between picks 25 and 30 would have taken Aiyuk. The Packers took a quarterback with the 26th pick. Then the Seahawks took a linebacker, the Ravens took a linebacker, the Titans took a tackle and the Dolphins took a cornerback.

It’s entirely possible the 49ers didn’t need to trade up for Aiyuk, entirely possible he would have been available at 31. We’ll never know for sure.

5. The 49ers don’t have the ammo to improve their biggest weakness: cornerback.

By trading up for Aiyuk, the 49ers left themselves no draft picks to add a quality corner who can compete for playing time next season. Meaning once again, the 49ers will have to rely on Emmanuel Moseley, Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon, all of whom had bad moments during crucial times in the playoffs.

When the 49ers lose -- and that’s not often -- they typically lose because their pass rush gets tired and their cornerbacks get exposed in big moments of fourth quarters. That’s the pattern.

Instead of trading up for a wide receiver -- not the 49ers’ biggest need -- they could have traded down into Round 2, taken a cornerback there and waited until Round 3 or 4 to take a wide receiver in what experts consider the deepest receiver class in years.

Did the 49ers make the right choice? We’ll know soon enough.