49ers draft safety Mustapha via Trey Lance pick; running back Guerendo, receiver Cowing added

SANTA CLARA — Safety Malik Mustapha is not just the 49ers’ first pick on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. He now enters team lore as the player drafted with the fourth-round selection acquired in return for Trey Lance in last August’s trade with the Dallas Cowboys.

Speaking of trades, the 49ers dealt a pair of fifth-round picks to the New York Jets to move up for Louisville running back Isaac Guerendo, then they closed out the fourth round by picking Arizona wide receiver Jacob Cowing.

Only two picks remain in the 49ers’ clutches: Sixth round (No. 215 overall) and seventh round (No. 251).


Mustapha, selected 124th overall, adds depth to a spot needing bodies, including as insurance for starter Talanoa Hufanga as he returns from last season’s anterior cruciate ligament tear. Two years ago, Mustapha was coming off his own ACL injury, which he sustained in the Gator Bowl.

“I’m a downhill, speed, tenacity ballplayer that plays physically with a lot of fire,” Mustapha said on a video conference with Bay Area reporters.

A team captain at Wake Forest last season, Mustapha totaled three interceptions, four sacks, four forced fumbles and 10 passes defended in his three seasons there. He played his freshman year at Richmond during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Mustapha (5-foot-10, 206 pounds) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds. Aside from being an understudy to Hufanga and fellow safety Ji’Ayir Brown, look for him to try winning a roster spot via special teams, as Mustapha himself professed. He claims he fits the 49ers’ defensive model “perfectly,” and although he’s picked up gems from studying Hufanga’s film, he’s also modeled his game after Budda Baker as an undersized yet fearless safety.


A 6-foot, 221-pound rusher, he sped through the combine’s 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds. He spent five years at Wisconsin before moving to Louisville last year. He averaged 6 yards per carry in his college career.

Guerendo made the most of his only college start, that coming in the Holiday Bowl win over USC. He ran for a career-high 161 yards and three touchdowns, which tied for the most in Louisville bowl history. He scored 18 touchdowns in his six-year college career.

Guerendo is excited to learn behind NFL rushing champion Christian McCaffrey.

“Obviously he’s one of the greatest backs. I was just telling my family he’s going to get annoyed with me and how many questions I’ll ask him,” Guerendo said on a video conference call. “With the amount of production he has, how consistent he is, his recovery plan … being able to pick a great back’s brain is really important.”

Guerendo is only the fifth running back drafted by the 49ers in eight years under general manager John Lynch, the others being Joe Williams (2017, fourth round), Elijah Mitchell (2021, sixth round), Trey Sermon (2021, third round) and Ty Davis-Price (2022, third round).

Mitchell has served as McCaffrey’s backup the past 1 1/2 seasons, with Jordan Mason also in reserve.

“It’s a talented backfield and I’m exited to learn from those greats and hopefully contribute,” Guerendo said.


The 49ers now have drafted two Arizona-born wide receivers (Ricky Pearsall, first round) to target for Queen Creek native Brock Purdy.

“The Arizona guys,” Cowing said from Chandler in his video conference. “I know Ricky for sure because we’ve worked out throughout this process. I’m excited to work with Brock, Ricky, the whole team to get that Super Bowl win.”

Cowing (5-foot-8, 168-pound) is a blazing-fast option out of the slot, having covered the combine’s 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds.

After three seasons as the University of Texas-El Paso’s leading receiver, Cowing transferred to Arizona and produced: 85 catches, 1,034 yards, seven touchdowns in 2023; 90 catches, 848 yards, 13 touchdowns last season.

Cowing patterned his game initially after Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, envisioning his speed as a great asset the 49ers could also use as a return specialist. “I want to bring that Super Bowl ring back to the Bay Area,” Cowing said. “Wherever they plug me in to get that ‘W,’ I will contribute.”

Cowing made a pre-draft visit to the 49ers, adding: “I thought it was a great fit, great atmosphere. It went extremely how I wanted everything to go. Now we’re here, I’m a 49er and I’m ready.”

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