49ers fill needs, Packers fall short on draft weekend
The task for the San Francisco 49ers heading into the draft was straight forward.
Find replacements for departed starters DeForest Buckner at defensive tackle and Emmanuel Sanders at receiver and then find a player to step in for longtime left tackle Joe Staley, who informed the NFC champions before the draft that he planned to retire.
The Niners filled the first two spots in the first round with defensive tackle Jevon Kinlaw and receiver Brandon Aiyuk and hoped they wouldn’t regret passing on a potential starting tackle like Tristan Wirfs.
They couldn’t have scripted it any better when they were able to trade for seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams on Saturday.
“It was a good gamble that worked out well,” coach Kyle Shanahan said.
While the 49ers were one of the teams that filled their needs on draft weekend. Others like Green Bay fell short.
The Packers got a first-round quarterback in Jordan Love to sit behind Aaron Rodgers for a couple of years but didn’t get their star quarterback any wideouts in a receiver-rich draft.
“It’s a little bit the way everything kind of fell early in the draft,” Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said. “It just didn’t work out that we were able to select some of the guys we had rated really highly.”
Here’s a look at how some other teams filled their needs or didn’t on draft weekend:
Minnesota’s needs were clear after trading star receiver Stefon Diggs and losing cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. They managed to fill them despite trading down a couple of times in the draft and ended up taking 15 players and acquiring two mid-round picks in 2021. The highlights of this class are first-round receiver Justin Jefferson and cornerback Jeff Gladney. They added another promising cornerback in Cameron Dantzler in the third round, a good coverage linebacker in fourth-rounder Troy Dye. Second-round offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland also provides good value and could be a starter by 2021.
Quarterback Drew Lock showed promise in a five-game audition at the end of his rookie season in 2019. Denver GM John Elway gave Lock plenty of help. The draft’s best route runner in Jerry Jeudy fell to the Broncos at No. 15 in the first round and they added Penn State speedster KJ Hamler to team with Courtland Sutton for a powerful receiving trio. Elway also added fleet tight end Albert Okwuegunam on day three. Lock gets some protection with two strong interior blockers in LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry and Fresno State guard Netane Muti.
The Bucs are in win-now mode after signing Tom Brady and acquiring Rob Gronkowski. They did a good job of filling their roster with players who can help their soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback. They got one of the top tackles in round one in Wirfs and a talented slot receiver in fifth-rounder Tyler Johnson. They also added a third-round running back in Ke’Shawn Vaughn to team with Ronald Jones and a ball-hawking safety in Antoine Winfield.
After signing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and receiver Robby Anderson in free agency and locking up running back Christian McCaffrey with a long-term extension, new coach Matt Rhule set out to replace nine defensive starters in the draft. Carolina became the first team in the common draft era to use all of their draft picks on defensive players. Stud defensive tackle Derrick Brown highlights the seven-player class that also includes edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos, and defensive backs Jeremy Chinn, Troy Pride Jr., and former West Virginia and XFL safety Kenny Robinson.
New England couldn’t expect to find Tom Brady’s replacement in the draft but didn’t even take a shot on any of the quarterbacks. They also failed to bolster their weak receiver group, instead adding to their stellar defense with the first three picks before taking two tight ends in round three.
The Rams had one of the league’s worst offensive lines last year and didn’t address that spot until taking Clemson tackle Treymayne Anchrum in the seventh round. They had no first-round pick after trading it for cornerback Jalen Ramsey and used their first selection on running back Cam Akers. This is the second straight year they took a running back on day two, which isn’t always the best value.
Los Angeles’ other team also had problems on the offensive line last year that weren’t addressed in the draft. They took QB Justin Herbert sixth overall and traded back into the first round for LB Kenneth Murray. That left them with no more picks until round four and they didn’t end up with any linemen.
This draft will be a success for Miami if QB Tua Tagovailoa remains healthy and develops into a franchise QB. But it wouldn’t have hurt to get him a starting receiver in a draft filled with prospects. Instead, they spent their next six picks on the offensive line and secondary and didn’t take a receiver until grabbing Navy QB Malcom Perry in the seventh round. That leaves them with DeVante Parker and few other proven options at receiver.
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee contributed to this report
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