In a draft rich with wide receivers, this year’s most highly touted prospects include the likes of Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, plus LSU’s Justin Jefferson.
Yet all of those receivers are likely to be gone by the time the 49ers use their first-round pick at No. 31.
Does that mean the Niners won’t be able to add an impact wideout for 2020?
Not at all. This draft is so deep at the position that San Francisco can still add a quality wide receiver at the bottom of the first round. He may not have the recognizable name of Jeudy or Lamb, but he’ll be a solid pick nonetheless.
That’s the prediction of the analytic website Pro Football Focus, which released its first mock draft Monday (following the recent NFL Combine) and projects the 49ers will select Tyler Johnson of Minnesota at No. 31. Johnson would be the ninth wide receiver selected in the first round, according to PFF, a whopping total.
Writes PFF: “The 49ers don’t have any glaring issues, so long as Patrick Mahomes isn’t on the other sideline. George Kittle and Deebo Samuel are both tremendous receiving options, but a third guy would sure be nice to have. Johnson earned the highest grade of any wide receiver in the FBS last season, and his production and route-running ability should allow him to excel in the Shanahan offense.”
Johnson is a big receiver at 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds who decided to play all four years at Minnesota to get his degree, despite a record-setting junior season. He’s a two-time all-Big Ten first-team selection who caught 86 passes for 1,318 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2019, breaking his own team records from 2018, when he had 78 catches for 1,169 yards and 12 TDs.
General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have shown they love wideouts who are physical and will battle for the ball vs. defensive backs (such as draftees Samuel and Jalen Hurd last spring), and Johnson is in that mold, says NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein.
“Contested-catch warrior who plays the game like a big brother imposing his will on his younger brothers on the playground,” wrote Zierlein.
Johnson isn’t considered a burner who’s able to sprint away from defenders, but a player with impressive instincts, body control and strength.
Added Zierlein: “His production speaks directly to his ball skills and competitiveness.”
Wide receiver is considered one of the 49ers’ primary needs in this draft, along with cornerback, safety and linebacker.
The first round of the NFL draft will be held April 23.