San Francisco 49ers

49ers mailbag: Should team pounce on receiver Antonio Brown now that he’s available?

John Lynch: Mock draft “exercises are invaluable”

General manager John Lynch held his pre-draft press conference in the John McVay Draft Room, which is where he'll be for the start of the draft.
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General manager John Lynch held his pre-draft press conference in the John McVay Draft Room, which is where he'll be for the start of the draft.

“Mr. Big Chest” is officially available.

That’s the new nickname Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown gave himself on Instagram this week while announcing he held a meeting with Steelers president Art Rooney II. The result: The sides agreed it was best to part ways, putting Brown on the open market.

That’s where we’ll start with this week’s edition of our 49ers mailbag.

RMcClelland asks: If the Niners can get AB for a 2nd rounder, they have to pounce. Look at all of their 2nd round picks in the last 10 years. No one close to AB. Thoughts?

It’s important to remember trades like this aren’t as cut and dried as landing a productive player for an early round pick. There’s much more to consider. The 49ers would be getting a player with significant off-the-field baggage who turns 31 in July and might want to redo his contract. Those are all factors that would lead to Brown’s value falling.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network said this week excutives around the league think Brown might be had for as little as a third-round pick because of all these factors, but a bidding war could drive up the price to a first-round pick. All it takes is one desperate team willing to offer that kind of compensation.

I don’t think 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will be desperate when it comes to trading for Brown. They don’t want to upset the good feelings they have in the locker room by bringing in such a volatile personality who will instantly become one of the team’s most expensive and high-profile players (nor do they have interest in having to deal with questions about Brown’s constant social media habits).

But if Brown came at the right price and could convince the 49ers he would be a good soldier, it’s possible they pull the trigger. They badly need a No. 1 receiver now that they’re expected to move on from Pierre Garçon. Brown could be the type of player that vaults them into the conversation with the Rams and Seahawks atop the NFC West — which has to be the goal in Year 3 of Shanahan’s tenure.

Marcus Covarrubias asks: If the 49ers were to sign a stud free agent EDGE, what do you see them doing with their first rounder? Who becomes the favorite at the number 2 spot, or do you see a trade back?

I don’t think free agency will impact their decision-making with the No. 2 pick because they could use multiple additions along the edges. And not all edge players in their scheme are the same.

For example, say the 49ers landed Eagles pass rusher Brandon Graham in free agency. He’s an ideal “Leo” in base downs who could also play on the edge in sub packages. They still could use upgrades on the other side of the formation, so a prospect such as Kentucky’s Josh Allen, who can play “Sam” linebacker, would still make sense to draft even after adding Graham.

Then, the 49ers could have some combination of Graham, Allen, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas/Arik Armstead getting after the quarterback on third down. That could be a promising group of pass rushers.

Rod Simmons asks: What is the chance that 49ers blindside everyone and draft another 1st rd pick on a OL like Jonah Williams by trading back?

It seems unlikely — but it can’t be ruled out entirely.

The 49ers at some point have to think about replacing Joe Staley, who is non-committal about playing beyond 2019, which means they’ll be forced to dole out big money to a free agent or use another early round draft pick on a tackle.

Adding Williams, who played at Folsom High School, this year could make sense. Some evaluators view him as a guard, which could lead to him replacing Mike Person — a pending free agent — at right guard. Then, Williiams could move to right or left tackle when Staley retires, depending on how San Francisco views Mike McGlinchey.

It wouldn’t be a bad plan. But I think the 49ers would be better served taking a potential star pass rusher, like Nick Bosa or Allen, and worry about the offensive line when the issue is more pressing. After all, Staley might decide to play in 2020, leaving the offensive line in a good spot over the next two seasons, as it’s currently constructed.

Bishop3rd000 asks: You said a couple of weeks ago that (defensive coordinator Robert) Saleh does not want to take Buckner out of the (three technique) position, which insinuates Quinnen Williams out of the picture at #2. You get the feeling they’ll trade down or go after Allen, assuming Bosa’s off the board.

There’s always a chance they trade down, particularly to a team needing a quarterback. But I think there’s a sizable gap between Allen and Bosa and the rest of the pass rushers expected to go in Round 1. I’m of the mind the team needs a star at that position and shouldn’t get too cute by moving back.

Either Allen or Bosa would be a fine pick. Moving back would come with significantly more risk, particularly if they don’t land an instant impact player while each looks like a potential Pro Bowler.

Regarding Williams: I can’t see the 49ers taking another defensive tackle. I don’t think comparing Williams to Aaron Donald is warranted, and there have been many examples of defensive tackles shooting up draft boards, as Williams has, and having mediocre NFL careers. If the 49ers wanted to address that position this offseason, I feel it would be wiser to go after someone like Ndamukong Suh or Sheldon Richardson in free agency.

King me asks: Why is N’Keal Harry such an under the radar prospect? I would love to see him in the Red and Gold! #mailbag

Shanahan when scouting receivers looks for the ability to separate from man coverage above all else. Harry has good speed for his size (6-foot-3, 216 pounds), but talent evaluators have questions about his route running and short-area quickness, which translates to beating man coverage. Surely, the scouting combine next week will help paint a picture of how well Harry would fit in Shanahan’s offense.

The good news for San Francisco: Between Harry, Riley Ridley (Georgia), Deebo Samuel (South Carolina), A.J. Brown (Mississippi) and others, there should be plenty of intriguing options on the board at pick No. 36 overall in Round 2 as the 49ers look to find a replacement for Pierre Garçon.

Sean Patrick Scott asks: What Edge do you think absolutely blows the Combine away?

It sounds like scouts are expecting Allen, Jochai Polite (Florida) and Brian Burns (Florida State) to test the best among the edge defenders.

Allen is expected to be the most ready prospect that can play multiple positions. He played well in coverage and as a pass rusher, with 17 sacks last season, which is why he’s expected to be a top-five pick. Polite (6-2, 242) is also a good pass rusher, but he’ll need to add weight and it’s unclear if he can offer anything outside of rushing the passer after playing defensive end exclusively for the Gators.

Burns is a great athlete, but he’s a featherweight listed at 235 pounds. There are questions about his ability to convert speed to power and might be a year away from building the strength to become an every-down player in 2019. Some think he might have been better off returning to school for his senior season with a chance to become a top-five pick in 2020.

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