The San Francisco 49ers have a problem.
No, it’s not the fact that their number of wins is equal to the number of WR1s they have.
The 49ers have a body problem. A problem of getting enough bodies on the field, that is.
The 49ers currently have 18 players on injured reserve.
19 if you include Ronald Blair who was recently activated off IR. 17 if you include Tank Carradine who will be joining him as soon as this weekend.
For a team that is so young and with a coaching staff and front office that is basically building a team from scratch, this is one of the worst things they could’ve wanted. You can’t evaluate depth and talent in various position groups when the majority of those players are on IR. You can’t really see how players handle themselves and the stress of the game when they’re on IR. Having so many players getting injured can also wreak havoc on the morale of the locker room. How do you justify going out and giving your all when you might fracture your forearm or rupture your achilles?
The show must go on, though. Thankfully none of the injuries have been so detrimental that none of the players will be out next year. So of the 16-18 players on IR, who stands the best chance of making the roster next year?
As a caveat, I will not be using obvious starters like Jimmie Ward and Jaquaski Tartt. We’re going to look at the diamonds in the slings and the deep cuts.
OL Joshua Garnett
This may be breaking my first and only rule, but I feel like he deserves to be an exception. Garnett is a player with the athleticism to excel in HC Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, though a knee injury sidelined him for the year before the year ever really started.
His talent alone will easily help him work his way back from injury, and while people would scoff at cutting such a high draft pick, (they can be busts too, *cough* Brandon Thomas *cough*) GM John Lynch and Shanahan have shown that they are rather cutthroat and no one is expendable. Ultimately Garnett will be key in upgrading the offensive line next year.
TE Cole Hikutini
Hikutini is the type of player Shanahan loves. He has a versatility thanks to his athleticism that, when healthy, can potentially be one of the better pass catching tight ends in the league.
The asterisk associated with the healthy part is tough to gauge right now though. His draft stock plummeted thanks to a knee injury, and while he was able to see time on the field, he never really flashed much and you got the feeling that he was activated off the practice squad earlier than the coaching staff would’ve liked. If he sticks around the bay and works on his rehab with the trainers, he could have a bright future with the organization. Shanahan and Lynch will likely address the tight end position in the draft, but Hikutini offers some much needed depth and an added pass catching element the tight end position has been sorely lacking in recent years.
CB Asa Jackson
Jackson joined the team and people didn’t seem too enthusiastic about him. He seemed to be mainly a camp body. Not that thats a bad thing.
By the end of preseason though, it was clear he was passionate for the team and fought for his roster spot. Putting up multiple interceptions is, while flashy, the kind of effort and ability to finish a play that coaches want to see. His injury is one of the more heartbreaking ones in my eyes. Having to stifle that kind of momentum is incredibly tough. I look forward to seeing him fight for his roster spot again and see him help improve the secondary.
What players do you think will make the team next year off IR? Let us know on twitter and stay tuned to 49ersHUB for more great content!