With the departure of Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, the 49ers now are likely to go after a wide receiver with the highest of their two first-round draft choices.
The Niners went into this offseason with just one first-round choice, at No. 31. That changed when the team traded defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Colts last week for pick No. 13.
Wide receiver already was a position in need, so Sanders’ decision to sign with the New Orleans Saints last week puts a playmaking wideout at the top of San Francisco’s wish list with that top choice.
As the analytic website Pro Football Focus notes, that means the 49ers could get one of the top-rated wide receivers in a deep pool of wide receiver prospects, such as Henry Ruggs or Jerry Jeudy of Alabama or Oklahoma’s Ceedee Lamb, one of whom will be “assuredly still on the board at No. 13.”
Wrote PFF: “The 49ers would be silly not to add another dynamic playmaker to that offense. More weapons at Kyle Shanahan’s disposal means more headaches for opposing defensive coordinators. There are needs on defense, but no one on the board at No. 13 will move the needle quite like one of the (top three) wideouts.”
Others agree, including Bay Area News Group columnist Dieter Kurtenbach, who believes the wide receiver the 49ers would most love to snag is Jeudy.
Wrote Kurtenbach: “In researching the cream of the crop in this draft class, it’s evident to me – and everyone I’ve talked to over the past few days – that the Niners want Jeudy at No. 13. They want him bad.”
Kurtenbach believes Jeudy would be a perennial Pro Bowl receiver who could “take the 49ers offense to the next level.”
Jeudy, a 6-foot-1, 193-pounder, is coming off a season for Alabama in which he had 77 catches for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Analyst Lance Zierlein of NFL.com says his combination of “top-end speed” and skill makes him look like a future elite player.