The new league year in the NFL started last week, and with it comes one of the most exciting times on the NFL schedule: free agency. Every year there are moves that take the football world by surprise, and this year was no exception. One of the bigger surprises was the San Francisco 49ers trading DT DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. The move gives the San Francisco 49ers two first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
With this deal, the 49ers now own the 13th pick that they received in exchange for Buckner and their original selection at 31. Our very own Andrew DiCecco detailed some possibilities for the 49ers at the 13 spot earlier this week.
It’s the 49ers’ original pick that has me intrigued. What does the Buckner move say about the San Francisco 49ers possible NFL Draft strategy, and just how valuable is the 31st pick in the first round?
What are San Francisco 49ers’ plans with the 31st pick?
The 49ers shipping Buckner to Indianapolis in exchange for their first-round pick tells me the team isn’t anywhere near done wheeling and dealing. Nor should they be! Before the Buckner trade, the 49ers had their original selection at 31, and they would not be on the clock again until the fifth round. For a team looking to get back to the Super Bowl and get over the hump this time, that’s not a winning formula.
Their original pick was already going to be valuable and was likely already on the table. We see teams move back into the last few picks of the first round every year. This is due to the fact that teams get a 5th-year option on players drafted in the first round. That extra year on a cap-friendly deal is huge to teams. So what kind of deal can the San Francisco 49ers expect for the 31st pick in the NFL Draft?
In last year’s NFL Draft, we saw two of the final three picks traded to teams wanting to jump back into the first round. The Seattle Seahawks traded the 30th pick to the New York Giants, who drafted CB Deandre Baker. In exchange, the Seahawks received picks in the second, fourth, and fifth rounds. One pick later, the Los Angeles Rams sent the 31st pick and a sixth-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for Atlanta’s picks in the second and third rounds.
It’s likely that, should the 49ers choose to move their latter first-round pick, they could reasonably expect at least a similar package to the one Seattle received for last year’s 30th selection. Likely a bit more. For a team currently without picks in the second, third, or fourth rounds, it’s a move that makes a ton of sense. But what do the 49ers do if they don’t get an acceptable offer?
Do the 49ers have a plan B?
The two biggest needs for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL Draft are on the outside. With Richard Sherman aging and Emmanuel Sanders departed to the Saints, the team needs to find depth and replacements at both the WR and CB positions. If they aren’t able to trade out of 31, what they do at this spot largely depends on what they’ve done with the 13th pick.
If for some reason, someone like Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy or Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb falls to them at 13, my money is on them running to the podium without a second thought. That would leave them looking to address the cornerback position with the 31st pick. Cornerback isn’t a terribly deep position in this year’s draft class, but players like Alabama’s Trevon Diggs and Clemson’s A.J. Terrell could be good options here.
The more likely scenario, however, is that the team has taken a cornerback with the 13th pick and is looking to pick up a wide receiver with the 31st pick. The 2020 NFL Draft has a truly insane amount of talent at the wide receiver position, and there should be a ton of talent on the board when the 49ers come back on the clock. Two players who should be available and would make a great fit for a Kyle Shannahan offense are TCU’s Jalen Reagor and Clemson’s Tee Higgins.
It’s also possible that the 49ers look to double-dip on defense if they aren’t able to trade away the 31st pick. The team could opt to take a safety with the 13th pick if the right player is still on the board and look to grab a cornerback at 31. The draft is so deep at wide receiver, the 49ers may decide they can still find value at that position when they come back on the clock in the fifth round. And they likely can, that’s how deep this class is.
No matter what the 49ers decide to do with their first-round picks, they’ve gained major flexibility. The 49ers came into the free agency period looking for ways to increase their draft capital, and they’ve done that. Not only have they done that, but they’ve also given themselves a great bargaining chip to gain even more draft capital. It’s a win all around.
Chris Spooner is an NFL Draft contributor for PFN. You can follow him on Twitter @CSpoonerPFN.