Monday, November 29, 2021

Kyle Shanahan says 49ers in choosing Star WR. Have looked ‘really close’

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It turned out that “The Griddy” was almost becoming a popular dance craze in the Bay Area for the San Francisco 49ers.

There was a chance and chatter from head coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and the rest of the SF front office picking up Justin Jefferson in April 2020.

That’s right, the same LSU star who would later become a future 1,400-yard receiver for the Minnesota Vikings who also popularized the end zone celebration while torching cornerbacks.

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The 49ers held two first-round selections this draft year, with one place coming in 25th through a swap with the Vikings.

Talk of Jefferson possibly turning 49 was true when Shanahan answered that question during his press conference with the Bay Area media on Wednesday, November 24th.

“Oh yeah, we took a good look at it,” said Shanahan.

In one of the Wide Receiver Heavy classes, six different wideouts were taken in the first round.

The 49ers sat first in 14th place via an exchange with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where they eventually took Javon Kinlaw to strengthen the line of defense. Finding a replacement for DeForest Buckner became the # 1 priority for a 49ers team that saw the defensive game become a catalyst in the pursuit of the NFC title.

But at # 25 it became clear that the ‘Niners were looking for a wide receiver.

Every WR name you can think of – from CeeDee Lamb to Jerry Jeudy to Jefferson – Shanahan and the 49ers Front Office came to mind in their design room. But it was the latter recipient that Shanahan says the team were huge fans of.

“We took a very close look at all of these receivers,” said Shanahan. “And we were huge fans and I think he’s one of the best receivers in the league, if not the best. So, I think he was amazing. I love his style of play, he reminds me a lot of the (former 49er) Emmanuel Sanders back then. But he’s one hell of a player. “

Unfortunately, the 49ers saw the Vikings snap their future star receiver in 22nd place overall, with that place coming via the Buffalo Bills.

Three places later, the 49ers got a receiver: Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State in 25th place, who would be the last wideout in this charged and historic class.

Anyone looking back on previous draft classes will now wonder why certain teams lost Jefferson … or keep a list of who left him out.

But do the 49ers really deserve some bashing here? I honestly don’t think so.

Sure, the jury won’t be on the 6-foot-5,312-pound Kinlaw as he was limited to a total of 16 starts in his first two seasons – and his second NFL campaign was wiped out at the end of the season due to his knee injury . However, here are other notable teams who lost Jefferson when they got the chance:

Las Vegas: Took place 12th on Henry Ruggs III as the first WR in this class. Ruggs now faces up to 20 years in prison on DUI charges from his November 2nd arrest and is currently under house arrest.

Denver: Jeudy, having caught an average of 16.5 yards in his rookie year, was limited to four games in 2021 with an ankle injury and has yet to score one goal this season.

Miami: The No. 18-Dolphins Pick Austin Jackson did well on the guard. But South Beach could have had a pair of Jefferson and Jaylen Waddle … which might have given Tua Tagovailoa two playmakers with dynamite and less criticism.

Philadelphia: Jalen Reagor was placed ahead of Jefferson. But the TCU star got off to a slow start in the NFL: 31 receptions in 11 games last year and 23 catches in 11 games this season. His average yards a catch (7.4) is also down from his rookie performance (12.8).

Meanwhile, during the current spark of the 49ers, Aiyuk looked like a completely different receiver. He has gone from just 9 passes for 96 yards and a TD in the first five games to 20 receptions for 245 yards and two scores during SF’s 3-1 turnaround.

So the 49ers didn’t lose all for not drafting Jefferson, even though the opportunity to add “The Griddy” to “The Smeeze” or “Turfing” in the Bay Area Dance lineup almost happened.

Anyone looking back on previous draft classes will now wonder why certain teams lost Jefferson … or keep a list of who left him out.

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