For San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan’s first season finished much better than it started.
They made a bunch of signings in the offseason to try to improve the roster, but ultimately, their move at the trade deadline acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo was what helped them finish the season as arguably the hottest team in the NFL.
This move puts them in such a great position going into free agency and the draft, solely because they don’t have to find their franchise QB. Sure, they are going to have to give him a huge contract, and he’ll end up as one of the highest paid players ever, but they have a ton of money. And if he plays anything like he did during the season, it would be totally worth it.
One other thing that puts them in such a great position moving forward is that this will be the first offseason since 2013 that will not end with a coach being fired. Shanahan is there to stay, and can further implement his offense with the team.
Moving onto their actual needs this offseason. It is important to note that the 49ers are coin flipping with the Oakland Raiders to see who gets the 9th or 10th overall pick. They both finished with a 6-10 record and had the exact same strength of schedule.
One glaring weakness was the offensive line. Joe Staley and Trent Brown are fantastic tackles, but Staley is getting older, and Brown has had trouble staying healthy. Though, they should be able to hold down the fort at tackle.
The real troubles are at guard. Laken Tomlinson, and former first round pick of the Detroit Lions, was acquired for a 2019 fifth round pick. Zane Beadles was not good, and Brandon Fusco is a free agent.
Quenton Nelson, a guard from Notre Dame, has recently declared for the draft. He is widely considered one of the best overall players in the 2018 NFL draft and could be a fit. If not, Will Hernandez from UTEP may be an option in the second round.
If they do opt to wait until the later rounds to take linemen, there are plenty of other options they could consider.
They need upgrades all around the defensive secondary. Ahkello Withserspoon, a third round corner, and Adrian Colbert, and seventh-round safety have both played well and made strides throughout the season. They will likely be starters to open the season. Dontae Johnson, the other starting cornerback, and Eric Reid, the starting strong safety, are both free agents.
Sliding back to the back half of the top ten really helps in this class for defensive backs. Minkah Fitzpatrick, the do it all safety and corner may not be there when the 49ers pick, however, he would be a no-brainer selection.
Instead, they could opt for someone such as Josh Jackson, a corner out of Iowa, for their first pick. Jackson has been one of the biggest risers in this draft. He has good size, standing at 6’1, and led the country with eight interceptions. Derwin James, the safety out of Florida State who NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said could be the next Kam Chancellor could also make sense. He is a freakish athlete.
Other positions they could consider at that pick is EDGE and wide receiver. Harold Landry out of Boston College is one of the top two EDGE rushers in the draft and could be available. Washington State’s Hercules Mata’afa and Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo would both be fantastic second round options. This draft doesn’t have an elite receiver that is a no-brainer top ten picks, and unless they really value Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, that may be a later round or free agency priority.
With Carlos Hyde potentially leaving in free agency, a running back being taken in the mid rounds seems inevitable. And this class is a great class for that. Oregon’s Royce Freeman, Georgia’s Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny would all be fantastic options.
In free agency, the first priority will obviously be Jimmy Garoppolo. Even after his eventual huge contract, they will still have a ton of money because they are going into free agency with $117 million in cap space.
With Davante Adams signing an extension with the Green Bay Packers, that takes one of the best options off of the market. Now, Allen Robinson is the big fish, and should be a primary target. Terrelle Pryor and Sammy Watkins could both be cheaper options due to having a down 2017 season. This team desperately needs a true red zone option. A receiving corp is Robinson, Pryor, and Pierre Garcon would be solid.
Le’Veon Bell is set to be a free agent, assuming the Steelers don’t re-sign him. Yet, he doesn’t seem like a top priority for the 49ers when they can spend at other positions.
Trumaine Johnson is one of the top corners in the league and he is set to hit free agency, and he would be a fantastic edition to a secondary that needs drastic upgrades.
While, yes, this team has plenty of needs, the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo along with one of the best play-callers in the league has put their rebuild into hyperdrive. Giving him a receiver and true red zone option would go a long ways. Getting a shutdown corner and EDGE rusher could put this team on the fast track to competing for a wild-card spot.