Just yesterday it felt like Jimmy Garappolo and the 49ers were hanging up a 34-spot in Los Angeles, but here we are, just a few weeks away from OTAs. I wanted to let the dust settle on free agency and the draft, before pouring my thoughts into what John Lynch and Co. have done.
To make this a little fun -- and easier on the reader -- I'm going to list off awards and see which 2018 addition is most likely to earn it.
The "Pierre Garcon" Award -- Free-Agent addition with the highest floor in 2018:
This boils down to C Weston Richburg or CB Richard Sherman, but I'm going to roll with the player that's healthy coming into the season. The 49ers' interior offensive line was a swinging door in 2017, struggling to find some consistency.
Lynch made a note of it after the season ended, adding "We're going to keep working to build a group like that, where we can really dictate and dominate the terms of how we play games on both lines."
Insert: Richburg, Weston.
Per PFF, Richburg was the second-highest valued interior offensive lineman on the free-agent market, behind G Andrew Norwell. While he did miss time with injuries in 2017, the ex-Giants' OL has only allowed four sacks in 2,112 pass-blocking snaps.
Outside of LT Joe Staley, I think Richburg will be the most consistent offensive lineman, protecting the most valuable asset of the franchise. I expect the 26-year old to be free-agent addition that has the highest floor in 2018.
The "Marquise Goodwin" Award -- Free-Agent addition that's highly underrated heading into 2018:
If it weren't for a concussion in Week 17, Marquise Goodwin was on his way to a 1,000-yard season in 2017. Not many would've expected that at the time Goodwin was signed by the 49ers.
Similarly, in this year's crop of free-agent acquisitions, there's a player that has the capability of having a significant impact on the team. While injuries held him back in 2016-17, I think DE Jerry Attaochu is set to have a big bounce-back season with the 49ers.
Playing in a similar defensive scheme under Gus Bradley in Los Angeles, Attaochu will look to play the "LEO" for San Francisco. In 2015, the ex-Charger racked up six sacks and 15 tackles for loss, but could never find the same success in the two years since.
With no star edge rusher in San Francisco -- unlike Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa in Los Angeles -- I think Attaochu will get the repetitions to shine. He only saw the field for 59 snaps, even though he was completely healthy. While many scoffed at the signing back in March, I think there's a huge chance for the 27-year old to make a significant impact on the 49ers in 2018.
The "Brian Hoyer" Award -- Free-agent signing that won't finish the 2018 season with the team:
OGs Laken Tomlinson and Joshua Garnett are probably slating in as starters, with Zane Beadles as a primary backup. While the 49ers signed OG Jonathan Cooper to a one-year deal when free agency began, I think his time in San Francisco will be short-lived.
The 28-year old has spent time with the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals and graded out with a 67.2, per Pro Football Focus. While I think he has a shot to earn some playing time, I'd rather give it to 2017 UDFA Darrell Williams Jr. over Cooper.
The 49ers' front office has been successful about signing players that address specific needs, but I think Cooper won't last very long in Red and Gold.
The "Adrian Colbert" Award -- Late-round draft selection that's going to rise into a starting role in 2018:
The story of Adrian Colbert is one that fans across the NFL root for -- a seventh-round draft pick that made the roster, earning playing time due to injury and didn't let go of his starting spot due to stellar play.
Who's going to be starring in that role this season? Middle Tennessee State's WR Richie James.
James was one of the 49ers' two seventh-round selections and is already starting to make an impression on coaches during rookie minicamp, per Niners Wire's Chris Biderman. Per the 49ers' beat writer, James is already standing out as a slot receiver and is receiving high praise from the coaching staff.
The 5-foot-10 receiver can find the same success that rookie WR Trent Taylor experienced in 2017. During his 2015-16 seasons at MTSU, James had 213 catches for 2,971 yards.
Another explosive slot receiver for the 49ers? Sign me up for a front-row seat.
The "Matt Breida" Award -- An un-drafted free-agent that's going to have significant playing time in 2018:
Not only do the 49ers seem to be striking gold during the draft, the front office is finding diamonds in the rough during the "8th round" -- AKA the un-drafted free-agent signing period.
Cornerback seems to be a position that has a lot of un-proven depth beyond CBs Ahkello Witherspoon and Richard Sherman. One of the 49ers' un-drafted free agents has a chance to make this roster and find snaps during his rookie season. That player is none other than Florida State's CB Tarvarus McFadden.
Before the 2017 college football season started, there were two Florida State defenders that caught my eye: S Derwin James and McFadden. James went in the first round, McFadden fell out of the draft.
While the 6-foot-2 corner didn't pull in an interception during the 2017 season, he was a ball-hawk the year before, picking off an opposing quarterback eight times. He allowed 50 fewer passing yards and three fewer touchdowns in 128 more defensive snaps. He also increased the number of passes defensed from six to 10 in 2017. Under the mentor-ship of Sherman, I think McFadden can develop into a solid contributor for the 49ers in 2018.
John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers' brain trust have done a decent job this offseason adding bricks to their solid foundation from 2017. They're going to need these award-winners to contribute like their predecessors to continue the up-ward trend.