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San Francisco 49ers Offseason Needs – TSJ Sports

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Examining The San Francisco 49ers Offseason Needs

Not too long ago, the San Francisco 49ers were once regarded as one of the top teams in the NFL.  Times have changed, however, and they’re now staring down what is likely a complete rebuild.  They’ve lost key players to early retirements, a head coach to a dysfunctional front office, and have employed more head coaches than they’d care to admit.

Unthinkable Loss

The 49ers lost several key players to early retirement, something that seems to more and more common these days.  It all starts with All Pro linebacker Patrick Willis.  The pairing of Willis and Novorro Bowman were the core of a once-dominant defense.  While Bowman continues to be consistently outstanding, missing a player of Willis‘ caliber has exposed the flaws of this defense.

Part of what made their linebacker group so dynamic was that behind the two greats was a player named Chris BorlandBorland played one season in the league and chose to retire shortly after his spectacular rookie season.  He would have likely been a capable replacement for Willis, and the loss of both players was almost unthinkable for fans in the Bay area.

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On the offensive side of the ball, the team suffered a similar fate with former draft pick Anthony Davis.  Like Borland, Davis chose retirement not long after his career began, citing that he needed to let his body heal.  The former 11th overall pick vowed to return the following year, which he did, until he called it quits again shortly after.

Turnstiles At The Top

San Francisco has fallen with grace.  Their front office has been scrutinized often, including top executive Jed York and former general manager Trent Baalke.  One of the biggest mistakes the team has made was their inability to satisfy former head coach Jim HarbaughHarbaugh took a 6-10 team and transformed them into Super Bowl contenders, earning himself Coach of the Year honors in 2011.

Since his departure, the team has posted an unimpressive 15-33 record.  They’ve employed three head coaches and started three different quarterbacks.  None of those just mentioned has succeeded, so with the newly hired Kyle Shanahan, it’d make sense for this Bay Area team to take a shot at finding it’s next great signal caller.

Team Needs

The 49ers should know how to build their team.  They have a history of grooming their own players, and were once ranked as the most talented roster in the league.  That wasn’t all that long ago, and things have certainly changed, but they know the formula at the top.  For their team needs, I’m going to go through several draft prospects that could be fits.

Quarterback

They have such a rich history of great, great quarterback play, it’d be shocking to see them look away from that position with the second overall pick.  While each of these quarterbacks slotted into this spot come with obvious risks, they hope their new coach is successful enough where a pick like this isn’t a recurring thing.

The three names that are considered the cream of the crop for this quarterback class are Notre Dame‘s DeShone Kizer, Clemson‘s Deshaun Watson, and North Carolina‘s Mitch Trubisky.

Kizer and Watson both have impressive physical skill sets and competed at a high level in college.  However, both also have questions about their abilities as passers.  There have certainly been flashes, and Watson was able to defeat Nick Saban‘s Alabama team in the 2017 BCS National Championship Game.

Trubisky is a little bit different, coming out of a smaller program and with a limited resume.  He resembles last year’s second overall pick Carson Wentz in that he has impressive measurables and game tape, but there will be hesitation to use this pick on a one year starter.  That didn’t stop Philadelphia from rolling the dice, and their risk appeared to be paying off in Wentz‘s first season.  Perhaps the 49ers will be feeling lucky as well.

With the Browns likely to take top-ranked pass rusher Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) with the first pick, it seems as though San Francisco will have their choice at quarterback.  The key for each of these layers will be their ability to be coached up, and whoever stands out in the interview room could find themselves wearing red and gold.

Wide Receiver

With the amount of history this team has at the wide receiver position, it’s hard to imagine their front office to push for a receiver with an early draft pick.  Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Kyle Shanahan was pretty good with his receivers in Atlanta.  They’ll take one (or more); they have to.

If they choose to look in the second round, they could potentially acquire one of either Washington‘s John Ross, Eastern Washington‘s Cooper Kupp, or East Carolina‘s Zay Jones.

Ross is a speedster who likely projects to be more productive than anyone currently rostered by the Niners, including “speed guys” Quinton Patton and Torrey Smith.  He is, however, the least likely to be available, as many consider him to be a first round pick.

Kupp and Jones fit the “solid receivers, but not elite athlete” type.  They both run quality routes and have impressive hands.  Their ability to develop as technicians is what will either make or break them, and they appear comfortably slotted in the second tier of receivers, headed for a second or third round selection.  Several analysts have raved about their recent Senior Bowl performances, which could force the hand of a team looking to get a quality receiver.

Inside Linebacker

While there’s not much doubting that Alabama‘s Reuben Foster is the prize of the linebacker class, it doesn’t seem like he’d be available to the 49ers when they select.  Or will he?

Early projections had Foster going as high as in the top 5 picks, and with good reason.  He’s an outstanding athlete, he was ultra productive, and he played on the best defense in the nation. What’s not to love? Some people, including team blog Niner Noise have questioned whether Foster could be a fit with the team’s first pick.

While I don’t believe that’s too likely, it is possible to imagine a scenario where they want to get back to what they’re comfortable with, and that’s having multiple studs in the middle of their defense.

Top level, versatile players like Foster often don’t fall out of the first round, but recent injury talk could cause hesitation around the league.

While I do believe quarterback is this teams most important need, and likely where they will look, if this player falls to the second round he could be one of the bigger draft steals we’ve seen in a while.