Towering 49ers Pick Claps Back at the Teams That Passed Him up

Brayden Willis

Getty Brayden Willis at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.

Count one new member of the San Francisco 49ers who has 31 motivations ahead of the 2023 season.

Brayden Willis of Oklahoma slipped all the way to No. 247 overall in the seventh round on Saturday, April 29, which made him the 30th pick of the final round in the NFL Draft. But the 6-foot-4, 235-pound hybrid tight end/fullback didn’t take long to send one fiery clap back to the 31 NFL franchises who chose to pass on him.

“Thirty one teams are gonna pay,” Willis said not once, but five straight times in this viral video after getting selected. “I promise you, I’m going to be the best tight end out of this class. Thirty one teams are going to pay. I promise you. They got me messed up.”

His “31 teams are gonna pay” became a central theme during his draft celebration. Willis became one of two tight end selections for the 49ers in the 2023 draft along with Cameron Latu of Alabama, who went in the third round on Friday, April 29.

Willis Sounds Off on Working With George Kittle

Willis’ NFL journey not only will begin in the Bay Area, but will have a perennial Pro Bowl tight end in the same room with him.

He’ll line up with George Kittle and be in a situation where he can pick his brain on the NFL game. While Oklahoma spent most of its offense operating out of the shotgun, the 49ers present more multiple looks but to Willis’ liking.

“I think the system fits me very well. I think I can learn a lot from George Kittle,” Willis said (h/t David Lombardi of The Athletic).

Willis dove further into working with “The People’s Tight End” in a one-on-one with 49ers team reporter Lindsey Pallares — calling Kittle “one of the best of the best, if not the best” tight end in the league.

“Getting to be able to learn from a guy that’s going to be a future hall of famer…that’s big time,” Willis told Pallares. “Not many people get the opportunity to do so. You know, I can’t wait to get there, meet him, be able to learn from him and pick his brain. I’ll have a lot of questions for him. I’m just excited. I couldn’t think of a better situation for me.”

Breakdown: How Willis Fits 49ers

Given his stature and past as a receiving option, early signs point to Willis entering the tight end room in Santa Clara.

However, the 49ers may become convinced to plug him elsewhere…particularly being paired with another perennial Pro Bowler on offense in Kyle Juszczyk.

Oklahoma often trusted Willis to attack gaps and space against defenses as a lead blocker. He became a glorified fullback for an offense that often ran four to five wide receiver sets. However, he was skilled at sealing off his leverage and finishing in a dominating fashion. One of his clips here shows Willis lining up behind the offensive line to start, then went on to block up to three different defenders on this long rushing score:

But again, his ability to violently finish his blocks makes him a potential option to clear the lane for the 49ers’ ground attack:

Willis will get the chance to show his versatility when the entire team reports to training camp in late July. But in the meantime, he has the other 31 teams on his mind…vowing to make them all play like he repeatedly said after learning his NFL fate.

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