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San Francisco 49ers 2017 Season Preview




Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Posted on 7/9/2017.


San Francisco 49ers Free Agency Recap


The 49ers got a second string and third string quarterback from the Chicago Bears with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. Both are short-term answers. The 49ers got Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin in Free Agency. San Francisco also traded for center Jeremy Zuttah and got 4-3 right end Elvis Dumervil in Free Agency after Baltimore released him.



San Francisco 49ers Draft Recap


The 49ers got two of the top 3 players on their board in the first round with Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster. John Lynch did a phenomenal job on day 1. He let head coach Kyle Shanahan help him make decision and advise him on day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft and that's why none of the 49ers day 2 picks are projected as starters.




San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Summary: The 49ers moved on from Colin Kaepernick due to his constant protesting along with the fact that he really struggled last year. Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are both downgrades though from what they had at the quarterback position. Their third round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft C.J. Beathard was an undrafted prospect.


Head coach Kyle Shanahan specializes in developing quarterbacks. The thing is Shanahan already is abusing his power being the head coach/offensive coordinator/advisor to John Lynch on draft day. Shanahan is wearing suits like Nick Saban did when he first got to the NFL before going back to Alabama which also grinds my gears. Shanahan won't be able to specialize in developing quarterbacks with all his responsibilities on the 49ers now.


It doesn't help that Rich Scangarello is a quarterback coach going from Wagner straight to the NFL. You can do so much better with recruiting a quarterback coach then going out to freaking Wagner. It's almost like the 49ers are waiting until the offseason hoping for another top 5 pick so they can rebuild at the quarterback position in the 2018 NFL Draft.


San Francisco 49ers Running Back Summary: The San Francisco 49ers got Carlos Hyde the injury prone running back back. No depth is behind him though for the second year in a row. Robert Turner Jr. was the running backs coach in Atlanta the last two years where he helped Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have breakout seasons with the Falcons. Hyde could easily rebound in Fantasy Leagues with Robert Turner Jr. if he stays healthy. Hyde enters a contract year and he could be deadly under Robert Turner Jr. if he stays healthy. Otherwise the 49ers will have to find a running back in the 2018 NFL Draft.


San Francisco 49ers Wide Receiver Summary: San Francisco replaced their mediocre receivers with guys who are all slot receivers at best with Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, and Bruce Ellington. Their best receiver of those three is Garcon and he's the one they want to move to the slot. Goodwin played slot receiver in Buffalo and never grew past that role and Ellington is 5-10 175 lbs, putting him on the outside will be a disaster.


Mike Lafleur was a wide receivers coach with the Atlanta Falcons. He's now a wide receivers coach and passing game specialist with the 49ers calling passing plays in practice. Lafleur was the tight ends coach last year and has also worked with quarterbacks in the past. If any of these receivers manage to get 1,000 receiving yards this guy needs to be promoted to offensive coordinator right away so Shanahan can mediate the team. Getting multiple wide receivers will also be something for the 49ers to consider in the 2018 NFL Draft.


San Francisco 49ers Tight End Summary: Vance McDonald is a good tight end who can be great. He's not an elite tight end and there is no depth behind him.


San Francisco's tight end coach is the assistant head coach and would take over as interim head coach if something happened to Kyle Shanahan so that's promising. Unlike Cleveland, the 49ers actually have an assistant head coach, but they really don't need one with Shanahan getting a 5-year deal, but it's good to know they have one.


San Francisco 49ers Offensive Line Summary: Right now the 49ers starting offensive line features Joe Staley at left tackle, Zane Beadles at left guard, Jeremy Zuttah at center, Joshua Garnett at right guard, and Trent Brown at right tackle. San Francisco has John Theus as the backup left tackle, Brandon Fusco as the backup left guard, David Kilgore as the backup center, Erik Magnuson as the backup right guard, and Garry Gilliam, Seattle's starting right tackle as the backup right tackle.


I raved about the depth with starters and backups on Cleveland's offensive line. I feel the same way about the 49ers. The only thing that concerns me is the offensive line coach.


John Benton was the assistant offensive line coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. He was an assistant to Doug Marone who was the assistant head coach and eventual head coach on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Benton has way more depth in terms of talent on the offensive line than Marone so if he can take what to do and what not to do from Marone and apply it in San Francisco he could work.


The 49ers brought in better positional coaches outside of their quarterback coach, but are still thin at quarterback and wide receiver. The 49ers were 27th in points per game, 31st in total yards, 32nd in passing yards, and 4th in rushing yards in 2016. The 49ers finished 4th in rushing yards last year and still fired their running backs coach. The only reason, I'm defending the 49ers decision is because the running back coach they hired had a lot of success in Atlanta and there won't be a drop off in the running game this year when you consider how much depth is on the offensive line.



San Francisco 49ers Defensive Line Summary: San Francisco is switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Elvis Dumervil will play 4-3 right end with rookie Solomon Thomas complimenting him at 4-3 left end. Dumervil and Thomas will start with Aaron Lynch complimenting those two defensive ends in a depth role. You also got DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead starting at defensive tackle along with Earl Mitchell for depth.


Jeff Zgonina was a defensive tackle that could play in the 4-3 or the 3-4 in the 5-technique at 6-2 290 lbs. He spent last year as an assistant defensive line coach on the New York Giants. Once again Zgonina gets a pretty good defensive line to work with. If the 49ers are not getting double digit sacks from any of these edge rushers it may tell you that Zgonina is an assistant at best.


San Francisco 49ers Linebacker Summary: Malcolm Smith was Oakland's 4-3 right outside linebacker, but now he's the 49ers right outside linebacker. Navarro Bowman is the 49ers starting 4-3 middle linebacker. Ahmad Brooks will be the 4-3 left outside linebacker. You also got Reuben Foster who can play all three linebacker spots and he's listed as the main backup linebacker who will come in and start if any of the other three linebackers get injured. Bowman is injury prone, so Foster may get his chance to play at middle linebacker this year.


The 49ers went from having two awful linebacker coaches to having three remarkable ones. Robert Salem is probably going to do a horrible job calling plays as defensive coordinator, but he was a linebackers coach on the Jacksonville Jaguars before the 49ers got him as a defensive coordinator. Johnny Holland was the linebackers coach with the Cleveland Browns and now he's on San Francisco after doing an awesome job with Cleveland's inside linebackers. To top that off, you got former Texans middle linebacker Demeco Ryans as a defensive quality control assistant. Not only does San Francisco have quality linebackers, they also have 3 coaches who know how to develop them rather than two coaches who don't have a clue about coaching linebackers.


San Francisco 49ers Defensive Backs Summary: San Francisco has awful cornerback play for the fifth year in a row. Ahkello Witherspoon their 2017 third round pick out of Colorado is pushing for a nickel cornerback job with Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward starting at safety with Jaquiski Tartt as a safety for depth. San Francisco also has Jaquiski Tartt as a backup strong safety and Jimmie Ward as a backup free safety. Jeff Hafley a former Browns defensive backs coach was the only positional coach from the Chip Kelly regime to maintain his job due to San Francisco having a top 15 pass defense even with mediocre cornerback play.


The 49ers defense was a mess in 2016. San Francisco was 22nd in sacks, 32nd in points allowed, 32nd in total yards allowed, 14th in pass defense after being 27th, and 32nd in run defense. San Francisco made drastic improvements on the front 7. I'm not sure the moves they made will enough for San Francisco to stop being 32nd in points allowed and 32nd in total yards allowed, but the 49ers will still have one of the NFC's worst defenses unless Salem does a good job calling plays as a defensive coordinator.



San Francisco 49ers Special Teams Summary: Robbie Gould has big shoes to fill as Phil Dawson's replacement at kicker. Bradley Pinion struggled punting the ball 91 times last year only averaging 43 yards per punt. Bruce Ellington is becoming one of the better return specialists in the league as Ellington returns both kickoffs and punts for the 49ers.


Richard Hightower was an assistant special teams coordinator with the 49ers in 2015 when the team had Phil Dawson. I'm not sure how he handles the pressure of a promotion special teams with such a poor special teams unit to work with.




San Francisco 49ers Worst Case Scenario: San Francisco struggles and is the worst team in the NFC once again. The team goes 1-15 and makes a case for potentially getting the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.


San Francisco 49ers Best Case Scenario: San Francisco excels defensively. They improve by going 5-11 despite having lousy play at quarterback and wide receiver and end the first four weeks at 3-1 by beating Carolina and the Rams before an 11 day layoff leading up to their week 4 meeting against the Arizona Cardinals before everything goes downhill.


San Francisco 49ers 2017 NFL Schedule


Week
Date
Opponent
Time
Cable Network
Result
Week 1
September 10
VS
4:25 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 2
September 17
AT
4:25 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 3
September 21
VS
8:25 PM EST
NFL Network
W
Week 4
October 1
AT
4:05 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 5
October 8
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 6
October 15
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 7
October 22
VS
4:05 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 8
October 29
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 9
November 5
VS
4:05 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 10
November 12
VS
4:25 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 11
Bye Week
Week 12
November 26
VS
4:05 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 13
December 3
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 14
December 10
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 15
December 17
VS
4:25 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 16
December 24
VS
4:25 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 17
December 31
AT
4:25 PM EST
FOX
L


San Francisco 49ers 2017 Projected Record (3-13): Last year I said the 49ers would go 2-14 and that's exactly what happened. I also thought they would beat out the Browns for the rights to Myles Garrett at this time, but that did not happen. They picked right after Cleveland which was no surprise. This team is much deeper in the trenches and can control the clock if Carlos Hyde stays healthy. I love the improvements on the front 7 plus the additional depth on the offensive line, but quarterback, wide receiver, and cornerback play is still an issue despite tremendous safety play. That's why I have the 49ers going 3-13 this year, but if they ace the 2018 NFL Draft this team can make a case for competing down the road in the NFC West.









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