In 11 days, fans of the San Francisco 49ers will know who the first rookie will be as the franchise will make their first 2023 draft pick.
But this is also an opportunity for general manager John Lynch to add some possible familiarity — through his Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary days.
Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports released his newest mock draft on Sunday, April 16 which features this new projection: The 49ers start their draft by taking local talent cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly out of Stanford at No. 99 overall. It’s not just the Cardinal connection Kelly shares with the Stanford alum Lynch. But the general manager is additionally familiar with Kelly’s dad Brian — as the two won the Bucs’ first Super Bowl together in the 2002 season.
Younger Kelly Starting to Rise on Boards & Making Name for Himself
Brian Kelly was one of the early pieces the Bucs added to their stacked defense in the 1998 NFL draft, going 45th overall in the second round. Four years later, he snatched eight interceptions during the Bucs’ run to the Vince Lombardi Trophy alongside Lynch in the secondary.
Now, the Cardinal CB has become a fast riser with the projections of him going later in day two of the draft.
There was a time when Kelly was thought of as a sixth-rounder, with Pro Football Network slotting him at No. 190 to the Cleveland Browns in their seven-round mock. While Nelson has Kelly going to the 49ers toward the end of the third round, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Jordan Reid has Kelly going higher at No. 83 to the Seattle Seahawks.
What’s the reason behind Kelly’s rise up boards? Having NFL bloodlines and being around the GM Lynch in his younger years certainly helps. But there’s more to his game as PFN notes.
“When you fire up Kelly’s tape, it’s hard not to vault him up your board. At 6’0″ with excellent arm length (32″), he’s a tough beat for bigger receivers. And yet, Kelly sports the smoothness and fluidity of a smaller corner, allowing him to keep pace in the slot (where he had 100+ snaps in 2021) against shiftier opponents,” PFN’s James Fragoza wrote.
Fragoza also added how Kelly plays with quick feet to mirror wide receiver releases and rarely looked out of place when backpedaling, showing a low center of gravity facing wideouts. He’s also a technically sound press cornerback — which bodes well for a 49ers secondary that has often seen Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir play up to receivers and getting them to rattle their routes. But the best trait Fragoza points out? How Kelly attacks when the ball is in the air — proven by his 36″ vertical.
Who Comes After Kelly in Round 3 for S.F.?
Circling back to the CBS mock, Nelson has the Niners addressing the offense after the Kelly projection.
At 101st overall and two picks after the Cardinal, the 49ers are predicted to address the offensive line through Wanya Morris of Oklahoma.
Morris hails from the alma mater of All-Pro Trent Williams and is another heavy-handed blocker known to show brute strength on defenders. He’s a violent finisher who was ranked the ninth-best tackle prospect by Bleacher Report.
Following him at No. 102 overall is Jayden Reed, wide receiver out of Michigan State. The 5-foot-11, 187-pound Reed is best known for running his 40-yard dash in 4.45 at the NFL Scouting Combine. His deep ball ability has teams enticed. But he also adds value on special teams as a return man.