Offensive Starters: Were Do We Stand?
As the 49ers move into their 3rd week without a head coach, fans are starting to get antsy. Not that we don’t know who the next coach will be, but what will the roster look like next year. The 49ers have gone from one of the most talented teams, just a few years ago, to one of the worst. The 49ers need help all over the roster. The gobs of money and an abundance of draft picks, it will be up to Kyle Shanahan and the new G.M., to bring the talent level back up. Since Shanahan’s forte is the offense, I will begin with the starters on that side of the ball.
Quarterback: Yikes!. If Colin Kaepernick opts out of his current deal, which everyone believes he will, the 49ers will have ZERO quarterbacks on their roster. No, that is not a misprint. All other 49er quarterbacks are currently free agents to be. But let’s not mince words, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis are not exactly the kind of guys you would expect to lead your franchise to the Super Bowl. Colin Kaepernick’s play on the field has disintegrated since 2013. It is time to move forward. Either though free agency, a trade or the upcoming draft, the 49ers will have to address this glaring need. So goes the 49ers quarterback, so goes the franchise.
Running Back: Carlos Hyde had been a Jekyll and Hyde since entering the league. Week one, he looks amazing, then he looks pedestrian, then he does nothing, then he gets hurt, then he looks great again. There needs better consistency from Hyde next year. Having a passing game and a legitimate backup, would help Hyde’s development exponentially.
Wide Receiver: Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Dwight Clark and Terrell Owens. Where have you gone? The state of the current receiver corp is almost as sad as the quarterback contingent. Torrey Smith has proven to be a bust. It’s certainly not all his fault. He has had zero help from this quarterbacks or a consistent running game, but he was never going to be a #1 wideout. Yet, Trent Baalke paid him like one anyway. He should be a serviceable #2 wideout in the Shanahan offense. Jeremy Kerley was picked up off the scrapheap and performed beyond expectation last year. He would be a solid 3rd option but is set to be a free agent in March. Quinton Patton ended the year on injured reserve. He did have a career high 37 receptions this year, but averaged just over 8 yards per catch. That is just not going to cut it.
Tight End: Vance McDonald turned in a solid, if unspectacular season. It seems as though he is finally picking up the nuances of the game. Although he ended the year on injured reserve as well. No tight on the Atlanta Falcons roster had more than 22 receptions. If healthy, he should be a nice option for Shanahan.
Offensive Line: Joe Staley has been the epitome of consistency. Until a late season injury, he had never missed a game in his career. He has kept his mouth shut during all the craziness of the past couple of years and should have his number retired in the future. That being said, he will be 33 years old by the time the 2017 season begins. While he may have another year or two left, it is time to start looking for his successor. Zane Beadles played about as well as one could have hoped. He moved around and was a utility knife for the 49ers this past season. He should be the starting left guard in 2017. Daniel Kilgore has been a reliable center. His health has been unreliable. He has missed parts of the past 3 seasons and there is no guarantee he will be 100% once camp begins. Looking for a legitimate replacement should be on the 49ers offseason priority list. The right side of the line is a bit more settled. Josh Garnett didn’t seem worth trading back into the first round, and it took him awhile to adjust to the game. He seemed to be playing much better near the end of the year. Trent Brown was one of the few 7th rounders who have panned out for the 49ers in recent years. While initially thought to be a project, he has done nothing but improve, and at times, dominate. With a bit more refinement, he could be a cornerstone at right tackle for the next decade.