Trading down

With five top receivers off the board in the first 15 picks, the 49ers switched gears Saturday in the first round of the NFL draft and went a direction in which the team was inclined to go all along. Eschewing the quality that could be found at the No. 16 overall pick, the Niners traded down to add quantity and will have four picks today after trading their top pick to Philadelphia for the Eagles' No. 28 pick in the first round and No. 58 overall pick in Round 2.

The Niners still will be hoping to pick up a top receiver, defensive back or defensive lineman when they go back on the clock later this afternoon. But after eight minutes on the clock at high noon Saturday, San Francisco opted to add another second-round selection to their own No. 46 after relinquishing 12 prime trading slots in Round 1.

The Eagles immediately selected Arkansas tackle Shawn Andrews with the No. 16 pick, a player the Niners wouldn't have selected had they kept the pick. Looking for an elite receiver, lockdown cornerback or top defensive tackle, San Francisco passed on a selection of elite defensive prospects the team had rated highly, including Miami linebacker D.J. Williams – a San Francisco Bay area product who quickly was snapped up by Denver on the 17th pick – Miami tackle Vince Wilfork and the draft's two top defensive ends, Ohio State's Will Smith and USC's Kenechi Udeze.

Smith went on the 18th pick to New Orleans and Udeze – rated by several as a top 10 pick – was grabbed with the 20th pick by Minnesota. Wilfork went on the 21st pick to New England.

Niners general manager Terry Donahue said last week that the Niners would take either Udeze or Smith should the one the team had rated highest fall to them in the first round. But the lure of an extra second-rounder was too enticing.

The quick call on top receivers obviously had an impact on San Francisco's decision to trade down. Arizona took Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald with the third pick, Texas' Roy Williams went to Detroit with the seventh pick and – in a bit of a surprise – Washington's Reggie Williams went to Jacksonville with the ninth pick. Reggie Williams was a consensus pick for the Niners at No. 16 by many draft observers.

Buffalo took Wisconsin speedster Lee Evans with the No. 13 pick, taking another top receiver off the board earlier than expected, and San Francisco's decision to move down was sealed when Tampa Bay selected LSU's Michael Clayton at No. 15 right before the Niners went on the clock.

Clayton, who visited with the Niners last week, had been moving up draft boards all week and, after the top picks began to fall into place, several observers at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara believed that Clayton would be San Francisco's pick at No. 16 if he were available.

Tampa Bay made sure he wasn't, and now the Niners must wait until No. 28 while several top prospects they could have taken fall off the board.


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