Mere hours away from the opening of one of the more important drafts in recent San Francisco 49ers history, the decision at pick 13 is still a mystery.
With chatter regarding which of the top three wide receivers the 49ers may choose at pick 13, it’s important to recognize the very real possibility that the 49ers address a less-flashy position group with the mid-first-round pick. Here are three non-wide receiver prospects the 49ers may target.
C.J. Henderson – CB, Florida
Aside from the three wide receivers, Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson is the most popular choice at pick 13. The second-best corner in the draft, behind Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah (who will be long gone before the 49ers pick), has been mocked to the 49ers numerous times over the past few weeks.
Weight: 204 pounds
Arm length: 31 5/8th inches
Hand size: 9 inches
40-yard dash: 4.39 seconds
Vertical jump: 37.5 inches
Henderson has many impressive traits, but none more impressive than his length and ball skills. An off-the-ball corner who plays tough, Henderson’s highlight tape was very impressive. The first thing that stands out is his nose for the ball, and not just in coverage. Oftentimes while watching Florida film, I saw Henderson break off of wide receivers to go chase somebody down all the way on the other side of the field. Or better yet, how he chases down quarterbacks on a blitz.
The knocks on Henderson include his drop-off as a defender in zone coverages as opposed to man coverages, in which he excels. Also, is his tackling. He was all over the field on tape, but there were quite a bit of missed tackles.
Looking at the 49ers defense, cornerback may not jump off the page as a position of need. On one side, you have Richard Sherman who has been lights-out since joining the 49ers in 2018. On the other side, you have the combination of Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon. Moseley played very well in 2019, filling in for the injured Witherspoon.
So why use such a valuable pick on a player who may not start right away? Simply put, Sherman will not be around much longer, which will leave a huge hole in the 49ers secondary. If the 49ers were to select Henderson, he would go to a team with one of, if not the best cornerback mentors there is. Once Sherman departs Santa Clara, whether that be in 2021 or 2022, it’s crucial that the 49ers have his replacement in-house.
Javon Kinlaw – IDL, South Carolina
What better way to use the pick you got in the DeForest Buckner trade by going out and replacing Buckner, right? With Arik Armstead, the lone threat (for now) rushing from the interior of the defensive line, drafting a stud defensive lineman such as Javon Kinlaw would supply the 49ers with another premiere defensive lineman, who is much much cheaper than what Buckner would have cost if they decided to hold on to him.
Obviously Kinlaw will not come in and immediately wreak the level of havoc Buckner did for years as the heart and soul of the defensive line, but he would certainly be a pillar to pair alongside Armstead and Nick Bosa for years to come.
Weight: 324 pounds
Arm length: 34 7/8th inches
Hand size: 10 1/2 inches
The immediate thing that stood out to me while watching Kinlaw is just how explosive he is. He jumps off the line like a rocket, timing his attacks very well against opposing offensive linemen. He’s one of those massive human beings who is surprisingly quick and agile. As a pass rusher, he is polished with his moves, he’s not a one-trick pony. You won’t see him bull-rush most of the time, he’ll throw in some clubs, hammers, and sweeps in order to defeat linemen.
The first downside to Kinlaw is a rather big one: his mental processing. He’s transformed his body a lot over his college career, but his decision making has been a bit of concern thus far. Another concern with Kinlaw is his ability to slip through tackles, and how he’s more of a linear rusher, who relies on power more than bend and athleticism. That’s something that you can see in his hips and how they’re pretty straight most of the time.
Mekhi Becton – Offensive Tackle, Louisville
Out of the four position groups the 49ers may address with the 13th pick, I believe offensive line to be the least likely choice. That’s not to say the 49ers won’t take a tackle, because I still think that’s absolutely a possibility.
49ers General Manager John Lynch answered the question on Monday if offensive tackle could be a position of need at pick 13:
“Well it certainly could and I think at that pick 13 is a fairly high pick and I use the term difference maker. You obviously have positions and I think people can look and say well if not this year in the near future you’re going to have to address and so does that enter the picture. Really at 13 I think you think more about if this guy is a difference maker whatever position he plays and that’s really what we’re focused on more than anything.”
So why would the 49ers use such a high pick on an offensive lineman, especially when both tackle positions are filled? Well, recent reports regarding Joe Staley’s immediate future would suggest that finding a replacement now, regardless of if he plays this season or not, would be wise.
Lynch also addressed Staley’s status, saying:
“We’ve kept in good contact with Joe. He’s doing his typical routine down with this family in San Diego, working out and we’re encouraged. We’ve heard nothing that would lead us to believe that Joe’s not going to play. So, we are encouraged with that. We’ll see where that goes.”
The need at tackle is similar to the need at corner back. There isn’t necessarily a hole at the position right now, but you want to plan for when veterans such as Sherman and Staley retire.
That was a long-winded way of introducing a prospect, but tackle Mekhi Becton is the most likely tackle prospect for the 49ers at pick 13. I say he’s the most likely tackle to be available because the other top tackle prospects (Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, Andrew Thomas) are likely to be gone by pick 13.
Weight: 364 pounds
Arm length: 35 5/8 inches
Hand size: 10 3/4 inches
40-yard dash: 5.10 seconds
First of all, Becton is a physical freak. Standing in a 6-foot-7 and weighing 364 pounds, Becton can move like no other human being who is that size. When I first looked at his size, I thought that he could be another Trent Brown type of lineman, a guy who is massive and very good, but not very athletic and not a great fit for Shanahan’s system. I was wrong.
Aside from his freakish size and surprising athleticism, Becton is powerful at the point of attack (as seen in those highlights) and is great at using his arm length and technique in situations that require him to be light on his feet.
Now lets get to the negatives.
Yes, the flagged drug test is a reason as to why Becton could be available for the 49ers at pick 13. Would they even consider taking a prospect with a red flag like that? That remains unclear, but aside from the drug test, there are no character concerns for Becton. In terms of his on the field ability, there are some concerns.
For one, his hand technique is rather inconsistent. On some plays, you will see him win big with his punches, only to be beaten on the next play. Another area of concern is his body weight. He is athletic for his size, but his weight has been known to fluctuate. Whether or not he can maintain his target weight could be an area of concern, something the 49ers struggled with dating back to Brown and former first-rounder Joshua Garnett.
What’s the pick at 13?
I still believe that a wide receiver is the most likely position the 49ers will select with the 13th pick. If the 49ers’ choice at receiver is not available, then I believe they turn to Henderson first, then Kinlaw, then Becton, if the board falls the way it’s expected to.
There’s also the off-chance that the 49ers can trade out of pick 13 and/or pick 31, according to reports.