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The best teams always plan a year ahead, and in what’s considered a star-studded receiver class, a wideout may be tough to pass up in the first round

The NFL Draft is right around the corner. The San Francisco 49ers are in a position to take the best player on the board at No. 31. Many believe that’ll entail an offensive lineman or the best pass rusher, but wide receiver makes too much sense.

Brandon Aiyuk, who was recently moonlighting as a server, did not request a trade — contrary to Twitter — but still needs a new contract. Let’s act as if a deal gets done.

The focus is on the 49ers WR1, but the other wideouts are why the Niners will select a receiver earlier in the NFL Draft than expected. In five seasons, Deebo Samuel has played over 800 snaps just once. For reference, Aiyuk played north of 800 snaps every season, but in his rookie year, he played 728.

Samuel, 28, does not have any guaranteed salary remaining on his contract after the 2024 season. Jauan Jennings, who was fantastic for the offense in the playoffs, is expected to play on a one-year contract.

So, even if the team locks Aiyuk up for the foreseeable future, this could be Samuel and Jennings’s final season. Even if it’s not, Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle likely have a maximum of two years remaining. There’s a plausible scenario where the current core looks completely different two years from now.

With that in mind and understanding the depth and skill in what’s perceived to be a loaded wide receiver class, it shouldn’t come as a surprise knowing that the Niners are poking around at the position.

NBC Sports Matt Maiocco explained on his podcast why we shouldn’t rule out a wide receiver in the first round:

“Would it be a good idea to consider drafting a wide receiver higher, with the thought that they would develop that player behind Aiyuk and Samuel before a trade is considered?

To me, that makes more sense. Right now, they have Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk—two guys who fit the 49ers very well. They have a No. 3 receiver who is coming off a great Super Bowl. In an alternate universe, he could’ve been the MVP of the Super Bowl in Jauan Jennings.

However, he is just signed through this season and he hasn’t signed his restricted free agent tender, but I’m sure he will do that soon as the 49ers open their offseason program on Monday.

But they really don’t have anybody reliable that they can count on besides those three. And let’s face it, there’s a tremendous drop off from one and two to three, as it is now. So, could they draft a wide receiver in the first round as it stands now? Absolutely, they could.

There are several possibilities of guys. One name we talked about was Malachai Corley from Western Kentucky. Very much a Deebo Samuel kind of guy. It has to be a certain type of wide receiver. Some receivers don’t fit the 49ers at all. Because they ask them to be physical, they ask them to mix it up in the run game, be a blocker, and run routes across the middle. So, there’s a level of toughness that they require out of their wide receivers that maybe some teams don’t put that priority on.

It is definitely a possibility that the 49ers draft a receiver higher than what you would automatically rank their needs being headed into this draft.”

I believe you take somebody who can score or prevent touchdowns in the first round. The Detroit Lions are a prime example. They went to another level as a team once they added speed and weapons on offense.

The 49ers, admittedly with some favorable bounces and luck involved in the playoffs, made it to the biggest game in the sport with a journeyman at center and two Day 3 picks starting on the right side.

If you were the Niners, would you rather have WR5 and OT7 or OT4 and WR8 in this draft? Depending on how the board falls, I’d sprint to the podium if Texas WR AD Mitchell was available. He and Florida State’s Keon Coleman would be electric in the’ 49ers’ offense.

Maiocco makes an astute point about the type of wideout the 49ers could hone in on during the draft. For example, 176-pound Troy Franklin or 165-pound Xavier Worthy probably don’t rank as high because you can’t count on them to block in condensed formations.

We will discuss the receiver position more this week, but based on the Niners’ depth chart, you could argue that the team needs two receivers instead of one wide receiver.

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