The worst pick of the 2020 NFL Draft's first round

Arizona State Sun Devils and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk

There were a handful of questionable picks in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, but one egregious selection stood out.

The San Francisco 49ers traded up to select Arizona State wideout Brandon Aiyuk. The front office sacrificed picks No. 31, No. 117, and No. 176 to the Vikings for No. 25.

In a bubble, the value of that trade isn’t all that bad. What we’re critical of is the team’s selection of Aiyuk.

The 6-foot-0, 205-pound wide receiver had a productive 2019 campaign, hauling in 65 receptions for 1,192 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. While the wideout seems to have above-average offensive awareness, he’s a bit short and occasionally has an issue with drops.

He’ll certainly have an NFL career as a return man, but he’s got to improve some of his basic receiver skills if he ever wants to be anything more than a team’s third receiver. That low floor is why Aiyuk never established himself as one of the top-tier receivers in the draft.

To make matters worse, the 49ers have invested plenty of draft capital into receivers over the past few years. They used second-rounders on wideouts in both 2019 (Deebo Samuel) and 2018 (Dante Pettis), and their passing offense revolves around tight end George Kittle. In fact, the 49ers haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver throughout Kyle Shanahan’s tenure as head coach.

Are you really that confident that Aiyuk will buck that trend and emerge as one of Jimmy Garoppolo’s preferred targets? Or is it more likely that the first-round pick will become just another name behind Kittle?

We’re assuming the latter, which is why we’re so critical of the trade. Why invest assets in a position that seems to be so marginalized? Instead, the 49ers could have opted for a safety like Xavier McKinney, or they could have taken a lineman like Ezra Cleveland or Josh Jones.

Fortunately for the 49ers, thinks aren’t all doom and gloom. The team still returns much of the same roster that won the NFC last season, and they made an excellent selection by taking defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw at #14 (they even got an extra pick by moving back a spot).

Still, come playoff time, you’ll have to wonder if the 49ers would have been better off opting for a different player at #25.

“Apologies” to:

  • #18 Miami Dolphins: OT Austin Jackson
  • #19 Las Vegas Raiders: CB Damon Arnette
  • #21 Philadelphia Eagles: WR Jalen Reagor
  • #27 Seattle Seahawks: LB Jordyn Brooks
  • #30 Miami Dolphins: CB Noah Igbinoghene

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