(KPIX) — The 49ers were one of the more active teams during the three days of the NFL draft. They added six new players, but also said goodbye to three integral members of the roster — none bigger than veteran left tackle Joe Staley who retired after 13 seasons with the franchise.
Bay Area News Group beat writer Cam Inman said on Gameday that he surprised by the announcement.
“All indications we got was that Joe was going to come back,” he told KPIX sports director Dennis O’Donnell. “One of the greatest players to ever wear a 49ers uniform.”
Speculation after the Super Bowl was that Staley would retire, but after weeks of silence, Inman assumed he would return.
“He had a lot of health issues this year,” Inman said. “He has two daughters and that was the prevailing sentiment.”
General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan quickly mobilized over the weekend and acquired Trent Williams in a trade with Washington to replace Staley on the offensive line. For months, there have been rumors about the 49ers interest in Williams who made the Pro Bowl seven times with Washington.
Instead of drafting Staley’s replacement on Thursday, the team pulled the trigger on South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw with the 14th overall selection. Later, picking up Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk 25th overall.
Inman gave the Kinlaw pick an “A” grade simply because they addressed the vacancy left over from the DeForest Buckner trade.
“This is five of the last six years they’ve used that top pick on a defense lineman,” Inman said. “This is how Lynch and Shanahan think — they want a dominant defensive front.”
There’s a hope that receiver Brandon Aiyuk will fit into the 49ers offense the way Kinlaw is expect contribute on defense.
“Shanahan fell in love with his versatility,” Inman said. “They’re expecting Aiyuk to come in and play the role that Emmanuel Sanders did so well during the second half of last season to get them into the playoffs.”