SANTA CLARA – In the 2019 draft, the 49ers punted on their biggest need: defensive back.
In 2018, the 49ers allowed 35 touchdown catches and intercepted just two passes — the worst touchdown-to-interception ratio allowed by a defense in NFL history. Rather than take a defensive back on Day 1, or Day 2, or with their first pick on Day 3, the 49ers traded down in Round 4 and took a punter — Mitch Wishnowsky of Utah. They did not take a defensive back until their final pick.
The 49ers originally owned the second pick in Round 4. They traded that to the Cincinnati Bengals for the eighth pick in Round 4, which the 49ers used on Wishnowsky. They also acquired the 10th pick in Round 6 and the 26th pick in Round 6 from the Bengals in the deal.
Wishnowsky is a 27-year-old punter from Australia, who averaged 45.7 yards per punt in three years of college.
“With all due respect to the other punters, we felt Wishnowsky was a big-time prospect,” general manager John Lynch said Saturday in the 49ers auditorium. “Hopefully, (Wishnowsky) is the long-term answer — we’re talking a 10-year guy.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said he did not enjoy scouting punters, and hopes he doesn’t have to scout them again for at least a decade. “It was painful, but I learned a lot doing it. That was the first time I spent a lot of time (scouting punters). You can get a lot from analytics, because you need numbers for hang time. You can read a lot of it on paper, which is nice.”
Wishnowsky played his home games in Salt Lake City, which is 4,226 feet above sea level. Meaning his punts may have carried farther in Salt Lake City than they will in Santa Clara. His numbers may have been inflated.
“Everyone knows he’s the best punter in the draft,” Shanahan explained. “You always want to take (a punter) as late as possible. But, I promise you we wouldn’t have gotten him if we waited until the fifth round.”
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