Mitch Wishnowsky has a long way to go to win over skeptics of his fourth-round pick by the 49ers, but the punter has made a good start.
While the San Francisco 49ers received a lot of praise for adding impact players in Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel in the 2019 NFL Draft, their fourth-round selection, punter Mitch Wishnowsky, saw them draw the ire of plenty in the franchise’s fanbase.
With the secondary a particular area of concern for the Niners, the decision to use their top pick of the third day on a specialist was one that earned general manager John Lynch criticism. Yet, while taking a punter at that point in the draft demonstrates a questionable understanding of positional value, Wishnowsky has taken some early steps towards vindicating the pick with a strong start to his NFL career in OTAs.
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The former Utah punter, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, hit all six of his punts of 50-plus yards inside the 10-yard line on Wednesday, with two downed inside the three-yard line.
#49ers practice note: Rookie punter Mitch Wishnowsky went 6-for-6 on plus-50 punts inside the 10-yard line, including two that were downed inside the 3-yard line.
5:50 AM – May 30, 2019
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Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham told 49ers.com Wishnowsky is a “huge weapon” for a defense, having averaged 45.7 yards in his career with the Utes. For him to justify such high praise and his relatively lofty draft status, Wishnowsky will need to replicate Wednesday’s practice showing on a consistent basis in games.
That would mean outperforming Australian compatriot Michael Dickson, who was selected in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks last year and – after earning first-team All-Pro honors – may well have been the inspiration behind the selection of Wishnowsky. Still, even in an unquestionably impressive first year, Dickson was only sixth in net punting average (42.5) and downed just 28 punts inside the 20-yard line, 13 behind the leading mark set by Tress Way.
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The early signs from Wishnowsky suggest he is capable of posting better numbers as a rookie than his countryman and, having gone a round earlier than Dickson did, there is already substantial pressure on his shoulders to do so and end talk of him being a wasted pick by Lynch and the Niners.