2019 NFL Season Preview- San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco went into 2018 with high expectations, but injuries plagued them to a 4-12 record.
Quarterback Jimmy Garappolo was pretty mediocre before his season ended with a torn ACL in Week 3. Backup CJ Beathard is a reliable quarterback and has the trust of Kyle Shanahan. Running back Jerick McKinnon was lost in early September with a torn ACL and Matt Breida was among the league's leading rushers before landing on injured reserve with a bad ankle. Tight end Garrett Celek established himself as one of the league's top blocking tight ends. Wide receivers Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garçon were hampered by injuries all season. Despite giving up 48 sacks on the season, the offensive line was solid.
The defense was middle of the road in terms of yards given up, but set an NFL record with the fewest number of interceptions by a team with two and the fewest turnovers in a season with seven. The defense also had a league worst -25 turnover differential. The defensive line was solid thanks to great depth. Defensive ends Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas have yet to take the next step and play up to their first round billings, but played well enough to keep around. Linebacker Reuben Foster was released after another alleged domestic violence incident and set the team back two years after the 49ers traded up to get him. Cornerback Richard Sherman had a nice bounce back season coming off a torn Achilles. The main concern with the secondary is at safety. Jimmie Ward has played well when healthy, but that hasn't been the case of late. Adrian Colbert and Jaquiski Tartt are solid but not game changers.
Kicker Robbie Gould kicked two game winning kicks and San Francisco can ill afford to lose a valuable weapon like that.
Despite the losing record, the team produced three Pro Bowlers in fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tight end George Kittle, and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Juszczyk is one of the last of a dying breed and made his third straight Pro Bowl. Kittle had a breakout year which is surprising since he played with three different quarterbacks, setting an NFL record with 1,377 yards receiving by a tight end in a season. Buckner established himself as one of the top interior pass rushers in the league with 12 sacks.
The rookie class should give 49er fans hope for the future. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey did everything expected of him and should be the anchor of the line for hears to come. Wide receiver Dante Pettis made some incredible catches late in the year and forced Marquise Goodwin to the slot. Linebacker Fred Warner made 124 tackles for the defense, but doesn't blow you away with skill as does Malcolm Smith. Defensive back DJ Reed provided depth in the secondary and return game. Wide receiver Richie James Jr. made an name for him self as a kick returner and had some big catches. Undrafted quarterback Nick Mullens started eight games on the season and played well all things considered. He may not beat out Beathard as the backup, but could be nice trade bait down the line.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
Despite the 4-12 record, head coach Kyle Shanahan did a solid job of keeping the team together given all the injuries. It will be up to him and general manager John Lynch to get back on track and have them playing like they did late in the 2017 season. This being their third season together, in a lot of ways this can be scene as a make or break year for the duo.
Notable Additions- RB Tevin Coleman, WR Jordan Matthews, TE Levine Toilolo, DE Dee Ford, LB Kwon Alexander, CB Jason Verrett
Notable Departures- RB Alfred Morris, WR Pierre Garçon, DE Cassius Marsh
49ers 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
With the second overall pick in the draft, San Francisco has to fix some glaring holes on the team. Primarily at wide receiver, defensive end, and free safety.
Dante Pettis was a solid find in the second round last year, but additional depth is needed now that Pierre Garçon is gone and Marquise Goodwin is coming off multiple injuries.
The 49ers only intercepted two passes last year and a lot of that can be attributed to a lack of pressure off the edge. A true edge rusher would be needed seeing as how Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas aren't getting the job done.
The secondary has a lot of bodies, but Richard Sherman is the only fixture. Addis playmaker at safety would bring some balance to the defensive backs.
On draft day, the 49ers end up selecting Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa with the second overall pick. Bosa was viewed as the top prospect in the draft and the best pass rushing defensive end in the class, but missed most of the 2018 season rehabbing from a groin injury.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina- Top route running receiver, may be limited to the slot
Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor- Three position versatility, still learning to play receiver
Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah- Highly accurate directional punter, shin injury concerns
Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas- Impressive tackle numbers, multiple injuries
Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford- Quick off the line, needs to improve footwork
Justin Skule, OT, Vanderbilt- Good zone blocker, too top heavy
Notable Undrafted Free Agent Signings:
Wilton Speight, QB, UCLA- prototype size, back injuries
Nick Bosa Highlights
What To Expect
All things considered, expectations for San Francisco will be much lower in 2019.
Jimmy Garappolo will be back and the main priority will be keeping him healthy so he can return to his 2017 form. By signing Tevin Coleman to pair with Matt Breida and Jerick McKinnon, the offense has a solid group of running backs to carry the load and also make good catches in the backfield. George Kittle will likely be the focal point of the offense, and could occupy multiple defenders which will open up opportunities for other receivers and backs. Dante Pettis played well enough last season to be seen as the top receiver in the offense with Jalen Hurd being a likely number two receiver and deadly red zone weapon. Deebo Samuel and Marquise Goodwin could be dangerous inside receivers with Samuel also possibly being the team's primary punt returner. The offensive line should remain in tact with guard Joshua Garnett likely gone after the season as he cannot stay healthy and losing his job to Mike Person.
By drafting Nick Bosa, the 49ers finally look to have a top notch defensive end who can rush the passer and stop the run. DeForest Buckner should remain a disruptive force inside and Dee Ford will pair nicely with Bosa. San Francisco has to hope that either Arik Armstead or Solomon Thomas step up and be a good complement to Bosa. Kwon Alexander brings a veteran presence to the linebacker corps and hopefully he can help make Fred Warner and Malcolm Smith better players. There are still some concerns about the secondary. Richard Sherman showed he's still not close to being done, but Justin Verrett and Jimmie Ward have a long injury histories. The main hope is that players like DJ Reed and Marcell Harris make big strides in their sophomore seasons.
With the Rams having become such a dominating team and the Seahawks refusing to accept that their championship window is closed, its hard to picture the 49ers making a lot of noise in 2019.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 6-10