49ers, Raiders could be competing in NFL draft again this year
One underrated aspect of the DeForest Buckner trade is that it could, for the third straight year, leave both the 49ers and Raiders coveting the same player atop the NFL draft.
There’s compelling evidence the 49ers snatched the guy the Raiders also targeted in the first round of the past two drafts by taking Mike McGlinchey and Nick Bosa. But this time it could be the Raiders spoiling the 49ers’ plans at the draft — still scheduled for April 23 in Las Vegas, albeit without the draftniks in the audience.
After acquiring the Colts’ first pick (No. 13 overall) for Buckner on Monday, the 49ers are now scheduled to choose right after the Raiders make the 12th pick in the draft. And, as fate would have it, both of the teams’ needs seem to be aligned again.
Whereas both teams identified and chose offensive tackles (in 2018) and defensive ends (last year) to satisfy needs with their top picks in the last two drafts, this year they each seem to desire a game-changing wide receiver.
The Raiders, who were fooled badly last summer when All-Pro Antonio Brown became the antagonist and not the answer, are desperately seeking a go-to target for Derek Carr (or, if it comes to it, Marcus Mariota). Injuries or not, Tyrell Williams still seems a complementary receiver.
Meanwhile, the 49ers may be forced to prioritize receiver because of salary cap implications. Emmanuel Sanders proved an effective lead receiver after he was acquired at the trade deadline — 36 catches for 502 yards and three touchdowns and some big plays down the stretch. On the other hand, he turns 33 on Tuesday and he’s a free agent who could earn a bigger deal elsewhere than the 49ers can afford. Should Sanders not return, it would leave last year’s standout rookie Deebo Samuel and three-year veteran Kendrick Bourne as their only reliable receivers.
Fortunately for both teams, this draft is loaded with talented wide receivers. The best of the bunch, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, may even last until it’s the Raiders’ turn to pick and perhaps turn the tables on San Francisco.
Depending on whom you talk with, draft experts and NFL scouts have Jeudy, Ruggs and Lamb ranked a bit differently but still atop the positional rankings. TCU’s Jalen Reagor, LSU’s Justin Jefferson and Colorado’s Laviska Shaunault Jr. are also seen as first-round talents, but it’s Jeudy, Ruggs and Lamb who stand out.
Superlatives have been synonymous with Jeudy, who had 77 catches for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide last year. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. says the Biletnikoff Award winner “can run every route and has elite ball skills” and is flat out the most talented receiver to come into the NFL since Julio Jones and A.J. Green arrived in 2011.
Given how NFL play-callers are using sub-4.4 sprinters to terrorize defenses, Ruggs is an appealing first-round target. The speedy Ruggs may have ceded the No. 1 receiver spot to Jeudy at Alabama, but with a 4.27 40 time it’s the only race he’s lost in a long time. Still, he averaged 18.6 yards per catch last season and had 18 touchdown catches the past two years.