NFL: Super Bowl LVIII San Francisco 49ers Press Conference
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The 49ers could be in a good position to take a receiver early in the 2024 NFL Draft.

The San Francisco 49ers found themselves embroiled in the rumor mill over the weekend as talk surfaced about star wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk requesting a trade, with the 2024 NFL Draft approaching just two weeks away.

Now, Aiyuk’s agent, Ryan Williams, seemed to dispel the rumors on Sunday morning, questioning the validity behind such rumors, but the 49ers are still amid a contract negotiation with the star receiver, who is looking to earn an extension this offseason.

San Francisco has remained steadfast with their notion that Aiyuk will be a 49er in 2024, with general manager John Lynch even indicating the team would be willing to let the receiver play on his fifth-year option this upcoming season if a deal can’t materialize.

The timing of the discourse is intriguing with the NFL Draft coming up, leading us to the question: should the 49ers prioritize the receiver position, and would an early selection indicate anything about Aiyuk’s status with the team?

Taking a receiver early

The 49ers are returning to the first round for the first time since 2021, when the organization traded up to select quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick.

This year, San Francisco has 10 selections, with one in each of the first three rounds, as well as three fourth-round picks to begin the draft.

Could receiver be a position to target early?

Looking back at the 49ers’ offseason, while the team didn’t make any splashes, it was clear that San Francisco looked to fill a majority of their holes, allowing them to have a clearer vision for the draft, where they could potentially go after the best available players, rather than reaching for those who best addressed their needs.

The 49ers added veterans across the board at a number of key positions, including cornerback and defensive line, while bringing back other pieces, such as right guard Jon Feliciano to ensure they had comfortable options at nearly every single starting position.

Now, looking into the 2024 NFL Draft, the top round is intriguing because the class is top-heavy at offensive line, with a number of first-round-caliber players at the position. But, overall, there seem to be options at a number of positions that would make sense for San Francisco, with receiver being among the mix.

Drafting a receiver in the first round could give San Francisco that coveted fifth-year option, providing them with some additional flexibility as they currently have with Brandon Aiyuk.

But, the team could also look for a more impact-ready player, as they return each of their top three receivers, creating a tough path for playing time at the position in 2024.

Looking into the second and third rounds, however, this class seems fairly deep with receiver talent, as there are a number of intriguing slot and outside options that fit what San Francisco likes, such as Washington’s Jalen McMillan.

If San Francisco truly wanted to go best-player-available, it may be tough to pass on receiver in one of those rounds, and it absolutely would make sense to take one.

Impact on the future

San Francisco enters the upcoming season with a strong receiver group, as they return Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Jauan Jennings to the fold.

However, projecting one year into the future, the 49ers could be in a much different situation.

Jauan Jennings is an unrestricted free agent after the season, and could command a healthy salary in free agency, which may be too pricey for the 49ers.

Deebo Samuel has one year remaining on his deal, and San Francisco could have to choose between their top receivers, as it would be tough to pay both wideouts with the number of impending deals still to come in addition to the 49ers’ current cap situation.

So, the 49ers could see two of their top three receivers depart next season, leaving a clear void at the position for the future.

As the last few years have shown, getting receivers via the draft, where more and more talent continues to appear, rather than overpaying for the position in free agency, seems to be the best ideology to add to the position.

Over the past few drafts, San Francisco has looked to not only address immediate needs, but also look to fill future voids, and that could very well be the case this offseason when it comes to the receiver position.

By drafting a receiver on Day 2, the 49ers could allow for a year of growth for a rookie before placing them into the fire as the No. 2/No. 3 option in 2025.

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