John Lynch was very open this week about his willingness to trade one or both of the 49ers’ first-round picks.
Well, “open” might not be the right word. “Vocal” is more like it, because we have no idea what Lynch’s true motivation was. He may have been earnest and pure when he said, “There are scenarios where we’re going to be open at both of those picks to moving back. It’s out there for everyone to see.” He may have been announcing that the 49ers are open for business, and gently preparing the fan base for not getting a new toy in the middle of the first round.
Or it may all be BS. Because when you think about it, you don’t have to tell your NFL trade partners you’re open for business. Every team is manning its phone lines, for just about every pick.
So, should the 49ers trade out of the No. 13 spot, or the No. 31 later in the first round, or both? It’s impossible to answer that, because we don’t know the specific offers Lynch will get. During his first draft in 2017, there was no way to predict the Bears would be dumb enough to throw four picks at the 49ers just to move up one spot, from No. 3 to No. 2. It was literally an offer Lynch couldn’t refuse.
Without knowing the real deals, we can speak only in generalities. And the most general is this: Bad teams are advised to trade down. Good teams should be trading up.
Bad teams – and you know what they look like, because there was one in Santa Clara as recently as two years ago – need help on many fronts. The 49ers’ roster was terrible when Lynch and Kyle Shanahan arrived. One or two stud players weren’t going to turn it around. They needed starters and depth at virtually each position group. Every team wants to find quality in the draft. For bad teams, quantity is important, too.
The 49ers aren’t a bad team anymore. They took a lead into the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. They were agonizingly close to winning an NFL championship, and it’s reasonable to argue that one or two additional puzzle pieces, if they were the right ones, could have delivered that title. Or may deliver it this season.
The Niners no longer need a massive influx of warm bodies. They need a couple game-changers. The draft isn’t the only way to find them, but it’s a way. All things being equal, Lynch should hang onto the No. 13, and probably No. 31, too.
I know it would be brutal to go three rounds (2 through 4) without making a selection, as the 49ers are currently slated to do. That’s a lot of inactivity during the busiest time of year for NFL front offices. But so be it. Unloading a first-round pick for a couple of second- and third-rounders, just to be represented on Day 2, doesn’t make sense for this team.
Anyway, if the 49ers really are desperate to get into those middle rounds, they might be able to accomplish it by trading a veteran player – a Tevin Coleman or a Matt Breida.
Simply put, if Jerry Jeudy or Tristan Wirfs or CeeDee Lamb is available at 13, and Lynch and Shanahan believe he’s the type of player to get them over the hump – if he’s a “foundational player,” in Lynch’s words – well, that’s how championships are made.
Here’s another way to think of it. The 49ers got that No. 13 pick by trading DeForest Buckner, who was without doubt one of their three best players. It was a logical trade, but his absence will hurt the team in 2020. If the Shanahan system is clicking again this year and the 49ers wind up back in the Super Bowl, pitched in a dogfight with Kansas City or Baltimore, who will be the difference-maker, the guy who makes up for not having Buckner on the field?
It’s a lot easier to envision that person arriving via the No. 13 pick rather than the No. 75.