(CBS Local) — The San Francisco 49ers’ turnaround season left them one win short of a Super Bowl title. And their offseason leading up to the NFL Draft, while relatively quiet, positioned them for another run. Arik Armstead was re-signed to continue anchoring a dominant defensive line. Jimmie Ward was brought back to secure the secondary. The team maintained much of its depth along the offensive and defensive lines, and held on to some key play-makers.
The loss of DeForest Buckner obviously hurt, but teams sometimes have to make financial decisions. And this was one of those cases.
So going into the NFL Draft, the 49ers were already the NFC’s leading contender, albeit one with a couple needs — defensive tackle and wide receiver. The team addressed those needs with their two first-round picks. And then they traded away a current pick and a future pick to address a sudden need at left offensive tackle.
They were successful on all three counts, according to NFL Today analyst Phil Simms. “The rich, to me, got richer. San Francisco, what did they do? They trade DeForest Buckner. They get a starter in [Javon] Kinlaw. [Brandon] Aiyuk, a wide receiver, in the first round. The biggest thing of all, they got Trent Williams, arguably the best left tackle in the NFL. They got him on a trade from Washington.”
Kinlaw, the 14th pick out of South Carolina, is a near-perfect fit for the hole left by the Buckner trade. So there should be little drop off for a unit that dominated the line of scrimmage for much of last season. Aiyuk, the 25th pick out of Arizona St., is a playmaker who will certainly have his chance in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Maybe the biggest move was the pick the 49ers didn’t make in the fifth round. San Francisco traded away its fifth-round pick along with next year’s third-round pick for former Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams. Adding an offensive lineman became critical over draft weekend with the retirement of stalwart left tackle Joe Staley.
Staley, a 13-year veteran with six Pro Bowls to his name, left big shoes to fill in protecting Jimmy Garoppolo’s blind side. His replacement may be the single most qualified player to step up. Williams is a 10-year veteran (nine seasons on the field) with seven Pro Bowls under his belt. He sat out the 2019 season over unresolved differences with the Redskins and their medical staff. Those irreparable differences, of course, proved to be an opportunity for the 49ers.
The real strength of San Francisco’s 2020 draft will become known in the coming seasons, as draft picks transition to the pro game and Williams shakes off the rust. But the 49ers will enter the 2020 season as a clear favorite. According to NFL Today analyst Boomer Esiason, “teams that helped themselves to make a run at the Super Bowl this year… San Francisco, like Phil said, would be one of those teams.”