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2017 NFL Season Preview- San Francisco 49ers
Much of the spotlight on the San Francisco 49ers stemmed more from outside football rather than what was happening on the field.
On the field, the season started and ended with positives. The team won their opening day game by shutting out the Rams 28-0 then played surprisingly competitive in a season ending loss at home to Seattle.
The offense posted the second worst offensive statistics in the league despite having the fourth best rushing offense. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick garnered national attention for his protests which ultimately allowed him to be beaten out by Blaine Gabbert for the starting job, only to steal it back and play well sown the stretch. Carlos Hyde missed three games with a pair of injuries, but is still the future of the offense. All the tight ends showed up in keys moments. Vance McDonald signed a contract extension mid-season and Garrett Celek has the potential to be more than just a backup. Wide receiver Torrey Smith went on injured reserve, missing the last four games and the rest of the receiving corps was nothing special. Left tackle Joe Staley is still a standout and has a lot of good years left but the rest of the offensive line is a mess.
The defense line was ok in pass rush but awful in the run game ranking dead last in the league. San Francisco went from having the best linebacker corps in football, to one of the worst. Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman has so much weight on his shoulders despite two serious injuries. The secondary is the strongest and deepest part of the defense. Safeties Antoine Bethel and Eric Reid have been solid for years, and cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Jimmie Ward are approaching that level.
The top draft picks, were very productive considering all that went down this season. Defensive end DeForest Buckner had a solid season and could be a future All-Pro. Guard Joshua Garnett hot a late start due to commitments at Stanford, but finished the year on a high note.
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- Last
NFL Rank- 4th
NFL Rank- 14th
NFL Rank- Last
NFL Rank- 31st
NFL Rank- Last
After finishing the 2016 season 2-14, team owner Jed York fired head coach Chip Kelly after just one season and general manager Trent Baalke after five years.
On January 29, 2017, the 49ers hired John Lynch as their general manager. Lynch had previously played 15 seasons in the NFL at safety between the Buccaneers and Broncos. On February 6, 2017, the 49ers hired Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as the new head coach. Shanahan will also serve as the team's offensive coordinator. The team also hired Robert Saleh to replace Jim O'Neil as the team's defensive coordinator.
Notable Additions- QB, Brian Hoyer, QB, Matt Barkley, RB Tim Hightower, FB Kyle Juszczyk, WR Pierre Garçon, WR Marquise Goodwin, DE Elvis Dumervil, LB Malcolm Smith, K Robbie Gould
Notable Departures- QB Colin Kaepernick, QB Blaine Gabbert, QB Christian Ponder, QB Thad Lewis, WR Torrey Smith, WR Rod Streater, NT Glen Dorsey, S Antoine Bethel, K Phil Dawson
Carlos Hyde Highlights
2017 NFL Draft
San Francisco held the second overall pick in the draft with key positions that needed to be addressed. Primarily at quarterback, wide receiver, and inside linebacker.
The stench of Colin Kaepernick is going to linger for awhile. Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are capable starters, but neither are the long term answer.
Torrey Smith is now in Philadelphia. They signed Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin, but the 49ers need a true number one receiver in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
Replacing Patrick Willis has been harder than Michael Crabtree. With Chris Borland retiring after one season, the team needs another middle man to pair with NaVorro Bowman.
On draft day, San Francisco traded back one spot with Chicago so the Bears could draft North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky. With the third overall pick, the 49ers selected Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas. Thomas has all the skill to play tackle or end, but played in a defensive scheme that directs plays toward him. San Francisco also traded back into the first round with Seattle to take the 31st pick. With the 31st selection, the 49ers picked Alabama middle linebacker Reuben Foster. Foster was seen as the top inside linebacker in the draft and had the best run stopping ability of any linebacker prospect, but fell in the draft because his shoulder surgery had not healed properly and he was sent home from the NFL Combine after getting into a "heated argument" with a hospital worker. It was discovered that Foster had failed a drug test due to a diluted sample.
San Francisco also notably drafted Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard in the third round. Beathard was said to have the best set up and release of all the quarterback prospects, but his frame and arm are average at best.
Solomon Thomas Highlights
What to Expect
The hiring of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan should give 49er fans hope, but it is still going to be a rebuild.
Brian Hoyer has the most starting experience so he will likely be the opening day starter, but that could change depending on how training camp goes. Carlos Hyde will still be the fixture of the offense and it will be key to keep him healthy. Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, and the tight ends will be very involved in the passing game but the team will still need a consistent playmaker in the future. The offensive line will have the struggles, but adding Kyle Juszczyk will help open holes for Hyde and bring additional pass protection.
With three first round defensive linemen, San Francisco should develop one of the best lines in football. Adding Reuben Foster puts less pressure on Navorro Bowman and allow him to return to a Pro Bowl level. The secondary should continue to be strong despite losing Antoine Bethea and Tramaine Brock.
The past two seasons have been rough for the 49ers since Jim Harbaugh left, but Lynch and Shanahan know what they have to do to get back on track. Within the next two years, they have the potential to be a Wildcard team.
Best record they can hope for: 6-10