Jerry Jeudy will be a first-round pick in April’s draft, with multiple teams taking a hard look at taking him. The San Francisco 49ers have a clear need a wide receiver, which general manager John Lynch is sure to not led slide.
Upon arrival in a trade from the Denver Broncos last season, Emmanuel Sanders played over 80 percent of the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive snaps in seven of 10 games (over 90 percent six times) as he posted 36 catches for 502 yards in those 10 contests.
But Sanders is gone as a free agent, having agreed to a two-year, $16 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. He’ll leave a void, as it was likely him or no one if the 49ers were going to sign a notable wide receiver in free agency.
As league business started this past week, the 49ers held the 31st overall pick in April’s draft. A deep wide receiver class put them in position to get a good rookie at that spot.
The 49ers have traded defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the 13th overall pick. In some order, the top three wide receivers in the 2020 draft class are CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. With a pick in the top half of the first round now, San Francisco can get one of them.
But here’s why Jerry Jeudy should be the primary draft target for the 49ers, regardless of position.
No less an authority than ESPN’s Todd McShay is very high on Jeudy, calling him the most polished route runner he has ever seen coming out of college.
As a sophomore in 2018, Jeudy had 68 catches for 1,315 yards (19.3 yards per catch) and 14 touchdowns on his way to winning the Biletnikoff Award. He followed that with a strong junior season (77 receptions for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns), and it was a formality he would leave Alabama early for the NFL Draft.
Jeudy is not big (6-foot-1, 192 pounds), but he has the kind of ball skills more typically associated with bigger receivers. He answered questions about his timed speed with a 4.45 40 at the NFL Combine, but comparisons to Marvin Harrison look well-founded.
Jeudy will be firmly in play for the New York Jets at No. 11, the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 12 ,Philadelphia Eagles at No. 14, Denver Broncos at No. 15 or the Dallas Cowboys at No. 17 if he falls a bit. The Arizona Cardinals at No. 8 could consider taking a wide receiver, but their acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins may lean them toward another need there.
The 49ers may have to get above the Jets and Raiders to make sure they get Jeudy. The Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 9 might be the team to target in trade talks, or maybe the Jets could be persuaded to move down two spots to 13 in a deal.
Jeudy is the most complete wide receiver in this year’s class, and the most ready to contribute immediately. As they look to keep the momentum of last year’s Super Bowl berth going in 2020, he’s exactly the kind of player the 49ers should be looking to draft in April.
If it means packaging the 31st overall pick to move up from No. 13 to assure getting Jeudy, and there’s a good chance it will, Lynch needs to stay in aggressive mode and get it done.