Jimmy Garoppolo: The Foundation of the Rebuild
The most handsome player in the NFL, (yes, even better looking than Tom Brady), is currently 5-0 as an starter and he’s only getting warmed up. Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers current starting quarterback, is looking to be the future of the franchise. Starting the last three games after being traded to the 49ers by the Patriots, Jimmy has a 68.3% completion, 1,026 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and a 98.0 QB rating. He has looked exceptionally well against good defenses like the Texans and Titans pass rush but will have his first true test against the historic Jaguars. If the 49ers pull off the win, many teams will start to recognize who he really is and start giving the team some respect.
So what does this mean for the future? First things first, Jimmy needs to get the long term deal once the season is over. I don’t believe the franchise tag will do much help since it could give Jimmy even more leverage than he does now and could possibly scare away potential top free agents. The 49ers don’t want to do what the Redskins are doing with Kirk Cousins deal. That could easily ruin John Lynch’s reputation as being General Manager after only his rookie year. Garoppolo has been nothing short of amazing while leading the Niners to three straight wins and making players like Marquise Goodwin and Garrett Celek look like All-Pro players. Who knows what that this team could have looked like if Lynch had acquired Garoppolo at the beginning of the year instead of midway through the season.
The 49ers need to address the EDGE, True #1 WR, Lockdown CB and LB, Guards and a Center. That’s a lot of holes to fill but it is possible with the projected $116 million cap space and projected top 5-10 pick in the 2018 NFL draft to fill most of them up. There are quite a few big name players on the market with the likes of WRs Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, CBs Trumaine Johnson and Kyle Fuller, RB Le’Veon Bell and more. If I were GM, I would absolutely go after Watkins or Robinson for the #1 WR. The 49ers lack a big bodied red zone threat since Anquan Boldin and Terrell Owens which is one of the reasons for the lack of touchdowns this season, excluding costly penalties. I would then pay some good money to Kyle Fuller. After playing against the Chicago Bears in Week 13, Fuller gave the Niners receivers an extremely hard time by making big time tackles and having great coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, he earned an 83.4 overall grade that game and has a 76.4 grade throughout the season. Dontae Johnson has got to go. He’s been getting punished by receivers for the past couple of years with a 35.5 grade from PFF. In case you didn’t know, that’s really bad. After we get those two needs out of the way, pay for a Guard and a Center because otherwise, Jimmy is going to be squashed like a bug in the backfield. Those 2 needs will also help build a running game for Carlos Hyde, who I hope they resign after this season. Hyde is easily a top 10 running back with an average line and could be better if the line is solidified in the long run. Picking up a linebacker or an EDGE will be extra helpful as well.
Now that I’ve talked about free agency, let’s talk about the upcoming draft. As I mentioned earlier, the 49ers are projected to pick within the top 5-10 range. There are plenty of great prospects in this year’s draft and it seems to be a strong QB class but lucky for us, we don’t need to draft one. The only logical reason I can see Lynch and Shanahan drafting a QB is either in the 7th round or UDFA. I hope the Niners trade down to get more picks to help fill up the remaining holes that they were not able to complete in the free agency. If the Niners are not able to trade down, I would like them to pick up either Bradley Chubb (EDGE) or Josh Jackson (CB). People would probably be upset by using another 1st round pick on the defensive line for the 4th straight year but Chubb will help both Thomas and Buckner get more sacks while giving the opponent’s O-line a very hard time blocking all of them. They can’t double block everyone. On the other hand, they could use the pick on Jackson. Jackson will quickly help out with the secondary which is one of the weakest positions on the team. I don’t watch much college football but I have been watching highlights of the big names that the media have been talking too and these two have stood out to me the most.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan will be awfully busy this upcoming offseason and draft. If they play their cards right, not overpay anyone too much, and have a great draft, the 49ers could be looking at being a playoff contender once again as soon as next year. Seattle Seahawks are on the decline while the 49ers and Rams could be looking at a renewed rivalry that started back in the 90’s. The future is looking quite promising for this young team!