Submitted by Hunter Neel. Follow him on twitter: @hunterneel_
The 49ers are a very young and promising team, especially with Jimmy Garoppolo at QB for them.
Most of the top teams in the NFL have three things that make them continually successful. The first of these three things include a front office that knows how to properly evaluate talent that will fit the teams scheme and needs. The second includes having a handful of top players at their respective position in the keystone positions on a football field. These keystone positions are quarterback, offensive tackle, pass rusher, and cornerback. Don’t get me wrong all positions on the field are important and having good starters at all of them will make your team very successful, but these keystone positions are spots on the roster every team needs to be successful. When a new regime come in these positions are their priority and are the most focused on.
The third piece is having successful depth throughout the roster. Injuries happen way to often in football and any smart general manager will have good enough depth at the position to keep them afloat while the starter recovers. There’s a saying in the NFL called the next man up policy. Every team has injuries that can drastically change the way the team flows, whether on offense or defense. The “next man up” refers to replacing the starter in his absence with the challenge of having little to no drop off in production. This is a very hard thing to do as we see teams all the time struggle as a top player goes down. The Vikings have had great success in this previously. Star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a knee injury, so Sam Bradford took over then got hurt so Case Keenum took over and has had a lot of success. Most teams struggle greatly after their star quarterback goes down. This happened to the Cowboys a few years back, Tony Romo went down and the team tanked and ended up going 3-1 with Romo at quarterback and 1-11 without Romo.
Here I am going to attempt to fix the 49ers. A reminder that this is all my opinion and what I would.
Step one: front office
At their respective positions, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were signed to long term contracts last off seqson. This is as good of a front office as you can get and since their hires they have signed on many different personnel to help with the operations and scouting of the team. I believe they are in good hands here at in the front office and wouldn’t mess with any of it.
Step two: keystone players
Let’s look at the current players in the keystone positions:
- Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo
- Offensive tackle: Joe Staley (left tackle) and Darrell Williams (right tackle)
- Pass rusher: Tank Carradine (left end) and Soloman Thomas (right end)
- Cornerback: Ahkello Witherspoon (left corner) and Dontae Johnson (right corner)
The players at these keystone positions need to be pro bowl caliber players. This doesn’t mean they have to have already been to one, though for veterans it is generally wanted, but they must have the potential to be a pro bowl player. From what we have seen so far Garoppolo and Thomas have that potential, Staley is a 5-time pro bowler, and Witherspoon has been a good rookie with potential. With the keystone positions taken care of for the most part, the 49ers can look to better other positions.
This is where the draft and free agency come in place. As of right now, the 49ers have the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft. With this pick I would grab either running back Saquon Barkley or safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Let’s break down how these picks could benefit the team. Carlos Hyde is set to hit free agency this offseason and has had injury issues his whole career. I don’t believe it would be worth the money to resign him. Barkley could come in and instantly help open this offense. He is a better all around back then Hyde and can be a game changer for whatever team he goes to. Fitzpatrick is one of the best players in this draft and could provide an instant upgrade to the secondary of this team. He is a safety at the next level but can play cornerback when needed. Barkley and Fitzpatrick are my number one and two players on my NFL draft big board, respectively.
In the later rounds I would target a cornerback to oppose Witherspoon. An offensive lineman to help protect your young quarterback. And a wide receiver to oppose Marquise Goodwin.
Step three: depth
If I was in the 49ers front office I would focus my attention to adding depth to the wide receiver, offensive line, and secondary positions. This is another area where free agency and the draft play a big factor in providing long term depth options.
If all three of these were properly executed, then the team could be contenders in just an offseason or two.