San Francisco 49ers

49ers mailbag: On draft-day trades, picking a receiver who can start, contracts and more

Check out the top three prospects the 49ers could select in the 2019 NFL Draft

Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams and Josh Allen are the top prospects the 49ers could be looking at for their No. 2 pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft.
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Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams and Josh Allen are the top prospects the 49ers could be looking at for their No. 2 pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft.

The 2019 NFL Draft is just over a week away and the San Francisco 49ers are finalizing their big board, running draft simulations and hosting prospects at their facility. But before the team decides on the No. 2 pick, let’s get to another edition of our Tuesday mailbag:

Grant Rodgers asks: How do teams finalize a draft day trade within 10 minutes? Do they have “in case” deals in place beforehand?

Many trades are talked about beforehand, including the 49ers’ decision to trade back one spot from No. 2 with the Bears for two third-round picks in 2017. Those initial discussions happened roughly a month before the draft at the annual owners meetings when general manager John Lynch, then a first-time executive, had a conversation with Bears GM Ryan Pace.

“So things like that happen when you start to talk to people and those things oftentimes are relationship like, who do you feel comfortable talking with and who do you trust?” Lynch said last month.

That’s not the case for every trade. Some happen on the fly while things are moving lightning fast during the draft. It’s why teams do several draft simulations in the weeks beforehand. They try to see which scenarios might present themselves, which could lead to planning phone calls and trade offers that could happen in real time.

And yes, I think there are trades that are agreed to beforehand if certain situations come to fruition. It’s the most efficient way to operate, given how hectic the draft can be.

Marcus Covarrubias asks: Do you believe Jordan Matthews or Kendrick Bourne are quality options to start at the “Z” WR position? Or do you believe that will need to be addressed in the draft? If so, who are some likely candidates you can see fitting in the Shanahan offense?

The market generally dictates how the league values certain players. For Matthews, despite being productive in his first three seasons, he garnered a minimal one-year deal from the 49ers after bouncing from Buffalo to New England and back to Philadelphia, which drafted him. He’ll have to battle for a roster spot, which is far from a sure thing. There are many similarities between adding Matthews this year and signing pass rusher Jeremiah Attaochu last offseason.

Attaochu also was a second-round draft pick that showed flashes in the NFL. But there were injury concerns, and ultimately, he didn’t make the team despite San Francisco’s obvious void at edge rusher. Matthews is in a similar situation now that the team badly needs help at receiver. He’ll need a strong showing during the offseason program and training camp to solidify a role heading into the fall.

Bourne has shown promise and developed nicely after going undrafted in 2017. But all indications are the team is still looking to add at the “Z” position. Coach Kyle Shanahan has said as much.

And, I fully expect the 49ers to find a potential starter at receiver in the draft. On Tuesday, they hosted Mississippi receiver A.J. Brown for an official visit a day after bringing in N’Keal Harry of Arizona State. They’ve also been linked with South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel, whom they coached at the Senior Bowl, and Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler. All seem like reasonable options in the second round at pick No. 36 with Pierre Garçon no longer around. It’s a good draft to find a receiver on Day 2.

NDE The Rock asks: If (the 49ers) draft Quinnen Williams, does that change our needs in the second or third round?

If they pick Williams over Nick Bosa, an idea we explored earlier this week, it seems they would still need to find another defensive end to play opposite Dee Ford. That is, unless they’re still determined to try Solomon Thomas or Arik Armstead outside despite both proving to be better in the interior.

But there’s still a chance the team tries Buckner outside more often, which is what the Jaguars did with similarly-sized Calais Campbell, to great success. But how Buckner would fit into the new emphasis on “Wide 9” alignments remains to be seen.

Zack Van Dyck asks: With the depth and competition we have been acquiring at cornerback, is there a chance the coaching staff entertains putting Tarvarius Moore back at free safety? I like his fit there much better — it would fill a position of need, and I’d hate to see another Jimmie Ward scenario.

I’ve thought about this and agree it’s an intriguing possibility. But the 49ers already have numbers at free safety, even if they don’t have a sure-fire starter with Jimmie Ward, Adrian Colbert, D.J. Reed and maybe a draftee competing. It’s hard to see where Moore would fit into that mix and if he would get the practice reps needed to develop quickly.

If Moore moves to safety, San Francisco would also risk taking away his reps at cornerback, a thin position group to begin with. I’d bet the 49ers keep Moore at cornerback, where he could win a starting job at some point.

To your point about Ward, I think bouncing around to different positions each season has taken a toll on his development (as injuries have, of course). I’d imagine the coaching staff will feel more inclined to stick him at one position in 2019, likely free safety, to maximize him.

Chris Falco asks: If QW winds up being the pick, what are the chances we still extend Buckner? If we have to trade away a DT, wouldn’t shaving $9 million off our cap on Armstead this year be more prudent?

The 49ers committed to Armstead at the start of the new league year last month by keeping him on his fifth-year option, which guarantees his salary. That salary is also what makes him hard to trade, so all signs point to him sticking around in 2019.

I don’t think Buckner would be extended if Williams was the pick. It’s too hard to imagine the 49ers paying, say, $25 million to $28 million per season for their top two defensive tackles (not factoring in Thomas and Armstead) with Jimmy Garoppolo making franchise-quarterback money. That’s a ton to spend on one position group while the rest of the roster lacks top-end talent.

Ultimately, I still think drafting Bosa is more likely than the team taking Williams and moving away from Buckner. But, as we know, the draft is unpredictable. We didn’t expect the 49ers to draft an offensive tackle last year with Trent Brown and Joe Staley in tow. But they wound up with Mike McGlinchey before trading Brown to the Patriots.

Buckner is on a different plane from Brown. But over the long haul, there’s a case to be made that paying Williams some $8.3 million annually wouldn’t be a bad alternative to giving Buckner $18 million to $20 million per season if the team is convinced Williams will be as productive.

It would make things tricky for 2019, given their positional overlap, which is why plugging in Bosa at defensive end opposite Ford would be significantly smoother over the short term.

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