SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — The San Francisco 49ers filled two large holes left in their lineup by the free agent departure of veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and the Deforest Buckner trade in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday — a selection process forced to go virtual by the coronavirus outbreak.
Most of the mock drafts had San Francisco targeting a wide receiver with their first pick, instead they used the pick acquired from Indianapolis in the Buckner trade to select his possible replacement. An All-American last season, Kinlaw will join one of the top defensive lines in the NFL.
In three seasons at South Carolina, Kinlaw had 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in his three seasons. He said being teammed up with Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Arik Armstead was a dream come true.
“Yeah, I think they might’ve been the best defensive line in football last year,” he said. “I’m not just saying that. The way they play, they play the right way. I feel like they play the way the game is supposed to be played.”
Kinlaw got off to a quick start last season, but then was the target of double teams. He said opponents now won’t be able to focus on him.
“Well playing next to guys like that, I think it leaves opportunities for me to get a lot of one-on-one,” he said. “And, I feel as though the D-Line coach, I feel like he’s gonna do a good job of developing me the right way and help me understand the game of football more and more as the years go on.”
San Francisco was originally slotted to pick 13th but made a deal with the Buccaneers to move back one spot and received Tampa Bay’s 4th round pick. The 49ers also sent the Buccaneers a 7th round pick to complete the trade.
The 49ers got their wide receiver with the 25th overall pick, selecting Brandon Aiyuk of Arizona State.
Aiyuk had a breakthrough season in 2019 for Arizona State with 65 catches for 1,192 yards and eight TDs. He had only 33 catches for 474 yards in his first season with the Sun Devils after playing in junior college as 2019 New England first-rounder N’Keal Harry was the focal point of the passing game.
Aiyuk adds another threat in the passing game for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo alongside star tight end George Kittle and versatile second-year receiver Deebo Samuel.
“I know that this offense is crazy with [TE George] Kittle and [WR] Deebo [Samuel] and [WR] Kendrick Bourne,” the former ASU star said. “I just know [head coach] Kyle Shanahan is a great offensive coordinator. He moves people around. Just the way he manufactured touches for Deebo last year and just gets everyone involved. I just know it’s a scary offense and I’m very excited to get added to that offense.”
Like so many others, Aiyuk has been dealing with sheltering in place and trying to keep in shape.
“I’ve been lucky. I have a pretty nice garage set up that I’ve been able to work,” he said. “And then, I have a nice empty field right around the corner from my house. Trying to figure out ways to work out hasn’t been too much of an issue for me, but I just know that the main thing is to be in shape whenever we do get back to football.”
For sports fans, the televised draft was their first taste of what life used to be like before the quarantine. It went on as planned, in what could be the most watched draft ever in history.
“We understand what’s going on but it’s nice to have a piece of what’s normal again and have something we enjoy doing,” said Art Feldman from Concord.
For the first time ever, the Feldman family — long-time 49ers fans — forced to shelter-in-place, gathered together around the TV to watch the draft.
“We would watch for results and have it on in the car but to sit here and actually watch, we just don’t have the time on a Thursday night during a normal school year,” Michelle Feldman said.
Nate Feldman echoed the sentiments of many sports starved fans
“I’ve been excited to see any sort of live sport,” he said. “To look at the results and just to look at something new and not replays.”