Thursday, March 12, 2020

2020 49ers Mock Draft (Act One)

Well, it is that time of the year.  The one time where the 49ers fans channel their inner GM while praising or cursing every move the team makes during free agency and then the draft.  Where the fans tend to think that they know better than the team’s front office and will proclaim far and near to the top of their lungs.  You know, like what the New York Giants fans did during the 2019 draft.
This isn’t a slam at the fans who do a mock draft or two (or a hundred) between the months of January to April; it is just what tends to happen, sometimes with just a few fans, and other times with a majority of a fan base.
Now onto my mock.      
Currently, the 49ers are scheduled to pick 31st in the first round of the draft and then not make another selection until the fifth round.  It goes without saying, but a good chunk of the analysts and fans are predicting the 49ers will trade out of that pick in order to garner some picks during the draft.  I agree with that sentiment, so this is how I think their draft will go.

49ers trade the 31st pick to the Eagles for the 53rd, 85th, and 103rd picks

WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
Durability concerns and being a boom/bust prospect will cause Shenault to suffer a freefall during the draft, and the 49ers will be there to stop it and pair the Swiss Army knife playmaker with the Swiss Army knife WR Deebo Samuel.

OL Lloyd Cushenberry III
Cushenberry is a starting caliber center who has the frame to also play guard.  He is a player with a high level of character who is tough to beat in pass protection and plays with a mean streak.  The 49ers need both since the offensive line was the 7th worst in terms of pass protection in 2020.

PICK 103
CB Bryce Hall
The 49ers need a cornerback to challenge Akhello Witherspoon and  Emmanuel Moseley for the starting position opposite of Richard Sherman, and Hall easily fits the bill.  He is a long defensive back who excels in zone coverage and is a year removed from being one of the best CBs in college football.
PICK 157
DL Raekwon Davis
Maturity and a lack of results despite having all the tools will cause Davis to plummet in the draft, but here the 49ers can afford to take a chance on someone capable of replacing DT/DE Arik Armstead while also putting the heat on current bust Solomon Thomas.
PICK 177
S/CB Jaron Bryant
Tavarius Moore is looking to be the starting FS for the 49ers in 2021, but the 49ers can give him some competition by drafting this kid.  A high character player, Bryant has the skill set needed to be effective against the pass and the run at the next level.  That he can be a good addition to the special teams is just icing on this potential diamond in the rough.
PICK 211
TE Dalton Keene
The 49ers really do not need a developmental TE rookie since they are fairly set at the position, but I am willing to bet that Shanahan will watch the tape showcasing Keene’s impressive versatility, speed, and athleticism and tell Lynch, “Yeah, I can definitely work with that.” 
PICK 218
OT Charlie Heck
Heck is a developmental prospect who needs to hit the weight room, but he is a solid blocker in the run game who is a quicker mover on his feet than one would think and could be developed into a swing tackle.

PICK 246
WR Jeff Thomas
Honestly, I would be surprised if Thomas is drafted due to the concerns about his character, but he is a true vertical threat in the passing game who could help open the 49ers offense up more and an exceptional kick returner who could help flip the field.

CB/S Elijah Riley
WR Austin Mack
QB Steven Montez
DL Khalil Davis
S Geno Stone
CB Myles Bryant
OG/OT Jon Runyan
OT Scott Frantz

And there it is, my first seven-round mock draft for the 49ers.  What are your thoughts?  Comment below if you can, or leave a response on the Inside the 49ers blog hosted by Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

About a Brady

Look, up in the sky! 
 It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
What?  You don’t believe me?  Why just ask guys like Skip Bayless, Deion Sanders, or a Patriots insider, and they will tell you he is there.  All you need to do is put on a pair of rose-colored glasses and you too shall see him.
…Hold up, you say you aren’t going to put on those glasses?  What’s wrong with you?!  (I mean asides from being smart and using your brain to think.)  You don’t believe a 43-year-old QB is the missing piece that the 49ers need to win a Super Bowl?
 Me neither.
 The truth of the matter is all of this chitter being heard from the media and dreamers like the ones mentioned above in this article is just that.  It’s not even worthy of being the squishy present Fido left in your slipper.
I could go into length about why adding Brady is a bad idea by discussing things like the questions surrounding the 49ers receiving corps or the poor pass protection by the offensive line.  But I want to try to keep this article short, so I will point out the major issue which is The Wall
What is The Wall?  Why, it is the point at which a player reaches where their performance on the field falls off a cliff, with the player needing to be carried by the team instead of the player putting the team on his shoulders and leading his team to victory.  Look no further than Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. 
Now some players have been able to deny The Wall its victory over them for some time, but it always gets those guys in the end.  The Wall caught the best of the 49ers in Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott.
How far away is Tom Brady from being caught?  
Should the 49ers gamble that The Wall will still be evaded by Tom Brady for a least two more years and give up on Jimmy Garoppolo due to blind faith?
Should we the fans really count on the 49ers to turn some water into wine?

I didn’t think so.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Game Plan For the 49ers Off-seaon

            You all know by now that our beloved 49ers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl on Groundhog’s Day.  You also know that a combination of the team shooting itself in the foot and the type of poor officiating which had not been seen since Roethlisberger’s first Super Bowl crowning was the reason for this loss.  But it’s time to let that go and have the past be the past.  Why?  Because the 49ers have a considerable number of decisions to make before the 2020 NFL season begins, a season which will have the team facing the fourth hardest schedule on paper, so they have no time for the Super Bowl blues.
In a previous article, I detailed who the unrestricted free agents (UFAs) were for the 49ers and whether the front office should keep them or let them walk.  I plan to expound on some of that for this article, but I will also be updating my current view on what the 49ers should do with each UFA, along with providing a game plan of what needs to be done in order for the team to get back to the Super Bowl and quench’s the Faithful’s thirst for a sixth title.

Replace Joe Woods.
The 49ers have lost a key figure to the secondary’s success during the past season with the Cleveland Browns naming Joe Woods as their new defensive backs (DB) coach.  However, this vacancy may not be for long because of two former defensive backs coaches that have recently hit the market.  One is Steve Wilks, who was the Carolina Panthers’ DB coach from 2014-2016 before a one-year stint as the Panthers defensive coordinator, followed by another year-long stint as the Arizona Cardinals head coach, and then his short stay as the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Blahs Browns. 
But the other guy, Kris Richards, maybe the better option to pair with Saleh; while he was with the Dallas Cowboys, he ran a system that is similar to what the 49ers ran in 2019.  Richards is also a no-nonsense coach who could help Witherspoon and Moseley take the next step needed for one or each one to become a capable starting NFL cornerback. 
(UPDATE):  While I was working on this, I stumbled onto an article from Kyle Posey of detailing that the 49ers interviewed former Dolphins DB coach Tony Oden.  I am not sure how I feel about the 49ers potentially hiring Oden to replace Joe Woods.  On the one hand, Oden has coached three secondaries which finished in the top five for interceptions in the 2013, 2014, and 2017 seasons.  On the other hand, the Dolphins secondary was rated the worst of 2019 by PFF.
Personally, I think Richards would be the better choice of the three.

Cut WR Marquise Goodwin and OG Mike Person.
Goodwin is a player you want to root for because of the personal tragedies he and his wife has faced during his tenure with the 49ers, but the production on the field does not even come close to matching the nearly $5 million salary hit the 49ers will take if Goodwin remains on the roster.  Why pay a player who was essentially eliminated from having any type of role on the offense when the 49ers traded for Emmanuel Sanders?  The writing appears to be on the wall.
Unlike Goodwin, Person was a starter that never lost his starting role throughout the season either through an injury or a trade.  He also will only cost the 49ers $2.5 million during the upcoming season. 
So why on earth should the 49ers cut Person?  Because he is horrid in pass protection.  David Lombardi recently posted an article on The Athletic detailing how bad pass protection was for the 49ers.  In it, Lombardi cited PFF which ranked Person 52nd in terms of pass-blocking efficiency out of 62 qualifying NFL guards.  Yikes.  Granted, OG Laken Tomlinson was ranked 41st, but Person was worse.  If the 49ers want to improve their pass protection so they can open up the offense more and give Garoppolo more time to throw, then cutting Person should be no problem.  That cutting him will result in no dead cap hit is just a bonus.

Extend TE George Kittle.
Kittle has become one of the most complete TEs in the league, and the 49ers should try to get an extension done with him before his price tag becomes too high for the team to be able to take on.  Currently Kittle is expected to get a contract extension that will be around at least $13 million a year, but there is a possibility that amount could go even higher if TE Travis Kelce gets a new deal like Adam Teicher from discussed in his most recent blog article.  Couple this with the almost certainty of Kittle’s worth increasing even more after the 2020 NFL season, and it makes sense that the 49ers should get a contract extension done with Kittle during the offseason.

Extend CB Richard Sherman.
Most of the fan base can agree that Sherman did not play well in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.  However, Sherman has been the consummate leader and best piece of the 49ers secondary since he joined the team in 2018.  Therefore, it is probably a smart move if the 49ers try to work out an extension with Sherman which will keep him with the team until after the 2021 or 2022 NFL season.  Working out an extension would allow for the 49ers to keep a top 10 CB on their defense and allow them to find someone to eventually take over as the best starting option at CB; the 49ers may already have that guy on the team, but so far Witherspoon has not been instinctive enough, and Moseley has struggled with savvy receivers.

Have players take a pay cut or restructure their contract.
The 49ers are expected to have around $20 million in cap space thanks in part to Kwon Alexander restructuring his contract.  But most of that is probably already earmarked for the 2020 draft class and a new deal for Kittle.  That leaves little room to extend Buckner, re-sign any of their pending free agents, or add a player or two from free agency that can help them get back to the Super Bowl.  Needless to say, the 49ers have their work cut out for them if they wish to gain some cap relief.
The front office can start this process by finding out how Jerick McKinnon wants to stay with the 49ers.  Recently, McKinnon indicated that he was willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field.  Does this include taking a pay cut?  If so, then it presents a golden opportunity for the 49ers to gain back a decent amount of cap space without taking a $4 million cap hit if McKinnon is released.
DE Solomon Thomas is someone the 49ers could also ask to take a pay cut.  Currently, Thomas is expected to cost almost $9 million.  That is a lot of money for a player on the defensive line who was not a starter in 2019.  Thomas’s stats do little justice in creating an argument that he is worth that much to the team, so asking him to redo his contract and take a pay cut sounds like a reasonable request.
As for a player the 49ers could ask to restructure their contract, the best choice is Jimmy Garoppolo.  The starting 49ers quarterback is set to earn $26.6 million in 2020, which is a pretty good hit.  Asking Garoppolo to shift some of his salary to signing bonus money which can be distributed throughout the remainder of his contract would be beneficial to the team.
Some of the other players whom the 49ers could ask to restructure their contracts are DE Dee Ford, OT Joe Staley, OG Laken Tomlinson, and CB Ahkello Witherspoon.

Figure out what they have in WR Dante Pettis and DE Solomon Thomas.
Pettis and Thomas were expected to be cornerstones by GM John Lynch when he drafted them, but so far neither player has even come close to that aspiration.  Pettis entered the 2019 season as a starter but lost that role and significant playing time due to his inability to fight for the contested catches and be an aggressive pass catcher.  Meanwhile, Thomas has yet to live up to the status of being the third pick in the 2017 NFL draft; part of this is due to the tragedy and depression which beset him through 2018, but it does not change the reality of Thomas being a backup on the 49ers defensive line.  Can Pettis and Thomas finally establish that they are a fit for the 49ers, or will the team’s patient approach towards the two end with one or both players getting cut, traded, or asked to take a pay cut? 

Re-sign DE/DT Arik Armstead and let FS Jimmie Ward, WR Emmanuel Sanders, and DE Ronald Blair walk.
            In my previous article, I said the 49ers should let Armstead walk while trying to resign Ward, Sanders, and Blair.  But since writing said article, Armstead and 49ers GM Lynch have both stated they want him back with the 49ers and OLB Kwon Alexander restructured his contract to give the 49ers an additional $8.1 million in cap space.  According to, this now gives the 49ers almost $20 million in cap space to work with.  With the likelihood the 49ers will shed more payroll, it makes all the sense in the world for the 49ers to try to resign a player who gelled so well in the Wide 9 the 49ers implemented in 2019.
            Ward had a fantastic season in 2019, but he has struggled to stay healthy during his NFL career, and a weak free-agent market and draft class at the FS position could cause another team to overpay for his services.  Ward is an above average safety, but his overall history does not justify giving him a big contract.
            There is no argument that the trade for Sanders upgraded the passing game, but Sanders will be 33 in March and was the second-best WR on the team.  It is expected that Sanders will try to go after one last big payday, and while he does fit in Shanahan’s offense, the 49ers would be better served to address the position through free agency or the draft.
            If Blair can return to the 49ers without costing more than what the 49ers believe he is worth, then the team should do their best to resign him due to what he brings as a depth piece on the defensive line.  But the ability to sign Blair is dependent on whether the 49ers re-sign or tag Armstead and extend Buckner or Kittle.  Given that choice, the 49ers would most likely allow Blair to test free agency.

            There is my game plan for the 49ers to implement for them to go back to the Super Bowl in 2020.  Do you agree with it?  If not, then what do you think the 49ers should do? 
            In my next article, I plan on looking at the free agents the 49ers could sign to help them continue to contend in the NFC West and for the Super Bowl.  Look forward to it!!!

Sources used in creating this article: