San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Running backs, safety — no receivers JAYLON MOORE By Eric Branch
Head coach Kyle Shanahan and 49ers running backs coach Bobby Turner go back a long way.
But for the past several weeks, the old friends and colleagues have rarely seen each other around the facility because of Shanahan’s hectic predraft schedule. At least that was Shanahan’s version of events.
“He keeps telling me I’ve changed,” Shanahan said, “because I didn’t come down to his office much in the last month.”
Said general manager John Lynch: “I even got on Bobby’s list this offseason.”
However, Turner, 71, was in far better spirits Saturday afternoon. That’s because the 49ers completed their eightman draft class by selecting speedy Louisiana running back Elijah Mitchell in the sixth round, a pick that came a day after they grabbed Ohio State running back Trey Sermon in the third round. It marked the first time since 1991 that the 49ers had selected two running backs in the same draft.
Said Shanahan of Turner: “Today he forgave me.”
Good for Shanahan. But he might have some explaining to do to wide receivers coach Wes Welker after the 49ers didn’t draft a wideout, which appeared to be a position of need, for the first time since 2002. The 49ers don’t have an obvious replacement for slot receiver Kendrick Bourne, who signed with the Patriots in March, but Shanahan indicated he wasn’t enamored with the options at the position.
“I would always like to take a receiver,” Shanahan said. “… But it’s got to be a guy you think can make your team.”
The slot candidates on the team include Richie James, Jauan Jennings, Travis Benjamin and Jalen Hurd. Of that group, Hurd, a 2019 thirdround pick, is the most intriguing. But he’s yet to play a regularseason snap because of a back injury two years ago and a torn ACL he suffered in training camp last year. Lynch offered that Hurd was rehabbing away from the facility, but his recovery was “going well” and the 49ers “think he’ll be ready to go.”
When asked, Shanahan didn’t rule out adding a veteran on the freeagent market, but indicated that was unlikely.
“I think we can win with the receivers we have,” he said.
Instead of a receiver, the 49ers wrapped up the draft with Mitchell and three fifthround picks: Western Michigan offensive tackle Jaylon Moore, whom the 49ers view as an NFL guard, Oregon cornerback Deommodore Lenoir and USC strong safety Talanoa Hufanga.
Hufanga is the most accomplished of the finalday picks. Last year, he was a firstteam AP AllAmerican and was named the Pac12 Defensive Player of the Year, but his middling speed and injury history that included surgeries for a broken collarbone and dislocated shoulder hurt his stock.
However, the 49ers clearly think he has the potential to eventually take over for incumbent Jaquiski Tartt, 29, who signed a oneyear contract in March.
“Love him at safety,” Shanahan said. “Hits like a linebacker. His mentality is — he’s an oldschool badass.”
Hufanga trained during the predraft process with Troy Polamalu, a Hall of Fame safety who also played at USC. Another Hall of Fame safety, Lynch, was sold by his skill and spirit.
“He’s an exciting player — he really is,” Lynch said. “He plays it with tremendous passion. Tremendous energy.”
Hufanga’s passion was evident when he spoke with Bay Area reporters via Zoom after he was selected. He exuded emotion and gratitude as he referenced his Tongan roots.
“The tears came already just so you guys know,” Hufanga said. “It’s just a blessing. My family has been through a lot. My dad grew up on an island where he grew up with dirt floors. When you make that transition, and I got to see where he grew up and see what it was like, you’re grateful for these opportunities and how we can live our life.”