Re-grading 49ers 2020 NFL draft
The 49ers didn’t have many picks to work with in the 2020 NFL draft, but they wound up making the most of their selections.
Draft grades immediately after the draft are always a fun speculation based on projections of how a player will translate from college to the pros. Those projections aren’t always correct though and a more accurate observation of a class can’t really be made until they have a few NFL seasons under its belt.
A three-year sample is enough to get a good idea of how a player will pan out in the NFL (with some exceptions, of course), so we went back through the 49ers’ 2020 NFL draft and re-graded it based on three full seasons of play:
Round 1, Pick 14 | DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Health has certainly been an issue for Kinlaw in his first three years. He’s played in only 24 of the team’s 50 regular-season games since 2020, but his performance in those games hasn’t been great either. Part of the issue has just been a lack of playing time. He flashed big-time talent in his rookie year when he posted 33 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 4 pass breakups and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. Since then he hasn’t been on the field enough to build on that rookie season. The door is still wide open for him to become a productive NFL player, but so far it’s been a disastrous first-round selection for the 49ers.
Round 1, Pick 25 | WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
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The numbers haven’t been eye-popping for Aiyuk through three years, but he battled through some adversity in his second season to improve in each of his three years. As a rookie he posted 748 yards and five touchdowns on 60 catches. In 2021 he put up 826 yards and five touchdowns on 56 catches. Last season he finally broke the 1,000-yard mark with 1,015 yards on a career-best 78 receptions and a career-high eight touchdowns. Aiyuk gets open consistently in all three levels of the passing game, and he could break out with a huge year if the 49ers’ passing attack becomes more effective down the field in the post-Jimmy Garoppolo era.
Round 5, Pick 153 | OL Colton McKivitz, West Virginia
(AP Photo/Scot Tucker)
It’s been a strange path for McKivitz the last three years. He earned a roster spot as a rookie and it looked like he’d work in as an interior lineman. Instead he started three games at tackle. His second season saw him get waived at final roster cuts before re-signing with the practice squad and then starting at left tackle during the team’s must-win Week 18 game against the Rams with Trent Williams out. Last season he played sparingly and started in Week 4 vs. the Rams, again with Williams out. Now he’s the likely front runner to take over at right tackle if Mike McGlinchey exits in free agency. Even if he doesn’t snag that job, he’s likely the team’s swing tackle, which isn’t a bad place to be for a fifth-round selection.
Round 6, Pick 190 | TE Charlie Woerner, Georgia
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There was some hope that Woerner’s lack of pass-catching production at Georgia wouldn’t be indicative of his receiving prowess and there would be a bit of a breakout in that area when he got to the NFL. That hasn’t happened, but Woerner has still carved out a role in San Francisco’s offense. He played 18 percent of the offensive snaps last season and 22 percent the year before that. It was in 2021 that he took over for Ross Dwelley as Kittle’s backup. While he’s hauled in just eight catches as a pro for 88 yards, he’s been utilized enough as a blocker to get on the field with some regularity. It hasn’t always been pretty, but finding a capable TE2 late in the middle of Round 6 is a win.
Round 7, Pick 217 | WR Jauan Jennings, Tennessee
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Jennings’ emergence as a key piece of the 49ers’ passing game was somewhat out of nowhere for those not paying incredibly close attention. The 2020 seventh-round pick spent his rookie year on the practice squad, and by the time the team needed to bring him up to the active roster he was sidelined for the year with a hamstring injury. In 2021 he made the roster out of camp, caught a touchdown in Week 2, and then was relatively quiet until Week 13 when he put up 46 yards on three catches. From Week 13 through the end of the regular season he posted 16 receptions for 212 yards and three touchdowns. In 2022 he picked up where he left off and 35 balls for 416 yards and one touchdown. 38 of his 59 receptions as a pro have gone for either a first down or a touchdown, and he’s quickly become one of the team’s go-to targets on third downs. It’s hard to do a lot better than this in the final round.