Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
John Lynch, Jason Peters, and Martin Mayhew had quite the offseason. Following a 2018 that saw the team lose quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to an ACL tear and ultimately finish 4-12, the front office talent evaluators got to work bringing in talent that would eventually lead the team to an NFC Championship and an appearance in Super Bowl 54.
Lynch and company wasted little time identifying their targets. Linebacker Kwon Alexander was brought in from Tampa Bay and become the heart and soul of the 49ers defense. Along with Fred Warner and rookie Dre Greenlaw they began calling themselves the Hot Boyzz and were driving force of a new swagger on the defensive side of the ball.
The additions continued, a second round pick was sent to Kansas City for pass rush specialist Dee Ford. Ford filled a glaring need on defense: speed on the edge and the ability to get to the quarterback. Teamed with DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and rookie Nick Bosa, they terrorized opposing quarterbacks all season.
Kyle Shanahan then brought up a name from his time in Atlanta and Lynch got his signature on the dotted line.Running back Tevin Coleman was brought in to bolster an already deep running back group. His addition proved even more valuable after Jerick McKinnon was lost for the season with complications from his surgically repaired ACL. While Colemanhas posted modest numbers this season, his veteran leadership and big game contributions wereessential to the offense.
But the front office’s most important additions may have been two of their most overlooked. Interior offensive lineman Ben Garland and swing tackle Daniel Brunskill were both brought in on modest deals and expected to add depth to a thin lineman room. Their combined value to the team couldn’t be overstated. Brunskill filled in at both tackle positions and right guard at various time throughout the year without the running game missing a beat. Garland stepped in for injured starter Weston Richburg and has helped lead the offenseto the Super Bowl.
It’s always darkest just before dawn, and in the third quarter of a Week 3 game in Kansas City things got dark. On April 25, 2019 dawn broke, in what could be one of the better drafts in franchise history, Lynch and the front office landed future cornerstones.
Nick Bosa was the easy pick at number two. The Ohio State product was better than advertised in his rookie season. Rushing opposite Ford, Bosa would routinely dominate veteran tackles on his way to winningthe Pro Football Writers of America’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFLRookie of the Year awards. Development is never linear, but if Bosa continues on this path the team may have a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
In the second round the team pounced on Deebo Samuel, a South Carolina receiver who the coaching staff fell in love with during the Senior Bowl. With an offense as diverse as Shanahan’s he’s always looking for players that he can move around like chess pieces, and Samuel is exactly that. While he may not be a typical number one receiver Samuel has the talents to excel in Shanahan’s offense and grow with a young receiver group.
With the 148th pick, the 49ers selected another standout from their trip to Mobile, Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw. While Greenlaw was a four-year starter in college, he was still viewed by many as a project during his rookie season. But surprised the coaching staff and eventually won the starting Samposition. Following an injury to Alexander, Greenlaw moved into the starting Willrole, a move that saw him make the PFWA’s All-Rookie team. With Warner, Alexander, and Greenlaw, the defense has young linebacker core ready to carry them into the next decade.
Heading into the 2019 offseason pressure was beginning to mount on the Shanahan-Lynch regime. John Lynch and his team of the talent evaluators in the front office may well have delivered with one of the best offseasons in franchise history. They brought in not only game-changing talent, but depth pieces whohelped push the team to a 13-3 record and an NFC championship. Because of their hard work and vision Lynch was rightfully awarded with the PFWA Executive of the Year award.
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