The good news is that the San Francisco 49ers are well on their way towards another window of contention. The unfortunate news is that what you’ve seen so far is only the beginning. Here’s a possibility of what’s left to come.
The franchise has seen many changes along the roster, but in a month from now, the depth chart could be even different for the upcoming season.
After placing capable veterans at their respected positions as a result of free agency, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan more than aced the NFL Draft.
What this means is that the 49ers could be further along in the rebuild process than most people originally thought.
The draft didn’t just bring in valuable depth to the talent-hungry roster, it also brought in a total of five potential starters to a team that is filled with question marks.
Whether this years draft class is really that good, or last years team was really that bad, the roster of today is still miles ahead of where the team was sitting only one year ago.
This has given the 49ers something that they haven’t had in many years: options.
These options could maximize the final 53-man roster enough to send overpriced veterans out the front gate.
No matter what cuts are made, there is still plenty of work to be done.
Here’s a potential offseason list that could be implemented before Week 1 of the regular season.
Choose a Starting Quarterback
Shortly after the conclusion of free agency, the 49ers held a press conference to introduce their newest members of the team.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan stated Bryan Hoyer was a high-character guy that could lead this team to a championship. They also stated that their search for the future franchise quarterback was still very much in place.
Regardless of what the future holds for the San Francisco 49ers, they still need to pick a leader for the upcoming NFL season. The front runners appeared to be Hoyer and Matt Barkley.
However, since the draft rookie C.J. Beathard has been getting a substantial amount of buzz. The truth is, no one knows the fate of Beathard, but one thing is for sure. His upside is greater than that of Hoyer and Barkley.
Though the two-free agent veterans understand how the Shanahan system works, Beathard is a blank page, who has yet to pick up any professional bad habits on the field. He’s the perfect kind of prodigy for Coach Shanahan to mold. Due to the the experience Hoyer and Barkley have for the system, and the sudden peak in Beathard’s growth, this particular quarterback race may be the closest in the NFL right now.
Believe it or not, how this quarterback race plays out will speak volumes about the future of this team. While we all know that Hoyer is a bridge option, it Beathard steps up to the plate and pans out, he could be the future franchise quarterback.
Otherwise the 49ers could look to free agency again next year, or they could look too a much more talented draft class next year.
That’s the beauty of a rebuild. It’s anyone’s job to win.
Trim the Fat
Although the term sounds offensive, that’s exactly what the 49ers need to do, and have done thus far.
While it’s true that many cuts were made before the start of free agency, there are still veterans of this team who do not belong on the Week 1 roster.
To put it plainly, aside from a few players on the current roster, no one’s job is safe. Add in the fact that most of the front office has zero ties to the current team, and we could see a lot of aging veterans on the waiver list.
Thanks to a great draft haul, the 49ers could have a handful of starters playing under rookie contracts. The biggest push seems to be coming from the running back and tight end positions. After years of inconsistency from Vance McDonald and his inability to claim the tight end position, he finally has some stiff competition knocking at the door.
The running back position has taken on a completely new look. Not just in the fact that all players outside of Carlos Hyde are new, but the management of carries will also be something that is handled completely different. The offensive backfield will see action from a platoon of running backs rather than just one starter.
Thanks in large part to a rookie class looking to prove themselves worthy of a roster spot, veterans such as McDonald, Ahmad Brooks, Bruce Ellington, Aaron Lynch and even Hyde could prove to be expendable.
Rest assured that the list of cuts will feature some talented players when the team is reduced to a 53-man roster.
Maximizing Player Potential
With their first pick in the draft, the 49ers selected defensive end Solomon Thomas. Many fans were skeptical on the pick because the last thing they wanted was another defensive lineman. After two consecutive overall picks spent on the front four, many felt the selection would benefit the team greater if it was used on the secondary.
Regardless of where Thomas lines up, Shanahan saw something in him that was intriguing. Now that he’s on the roster it’s time to start thinking about where he fits the best. With the potential of Thomas and fellow first rounders Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, the 49ers have a lot of talent along the defensive front.
Talent on your roster is of no use to you if it’s not on the field as much as possible. Shanahan needs to figure out how to put these three monsters on the field at the same time. Granted, everyone loves having quality depth on their team, the value is huge.
On the other hand, stacking your defense with the best guys available will wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
There’s no doubt that Shanahan also loved the versatility of Thomas. Given his ability to play end and tackle, he gives the team options. If the combination of the three lineman turns out to be a recipe for success, the 49ers could be set along the front four for many years to come.
However, if they are not put in a position to succeed, or placed in a spot that will maximize their potential, you may never know just how great they could have been.
That’s the difference between a prospect on the rise and a bust.
In the game of football atmosphere is everything. This is only the beginning of the teams search for an identity. Right now, Shanahan is bringing in players that fit his style of play.
What you are witnessing is the beginning of his championship culture.