49ers

49ers Mailbag: Is roster better than a year ago?

49ers Mailbag: Is roster better than a year ago?

It is 10 days before the NFL Draft, and 49ers general John Lynch remains “open for business” when it comes to discussions to trade the No. 2 overall pick.

A trade down appears to be the 49ers’ best move, especially in a draft with no obvious No. 2 overall choice. But in order for the 49ers to trade down, there must be another team that falls in love with a prospect and becomes eager to trade up.

Let’s go to the 49ers Mailbag to field some of the most-pressing questions as the 49ers open the second week of their offseason program:

Do you think the 49ers are already better overall than this time last year? (Taylor Savinon)
The 49ers’ roster is slightly improved in some areas, but weaker in other areas. Overall, the team is probably better, but not enough to catapult the 49ers into playoff contention.

The most-noticeable difference is Brian Hoyer takes over at quarterback for Colin Kaepernick. Hoyer is a better fit for Kyle Shanahan’s system, while Kaepernick would probably be more productive in Chip Kelly’s system.

The biggest improvement is likely going to Shanahan’s proven NFL scheme from Kelly’s offense, which is better suited for the college ranks.

Wide receivers Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin replace Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton. That’s an upgrade. The addition of fullback Kyle Juszczyk gives the 49ers a lot more flexibility in both the run game and passing attack.

The offensive line should benefit from the addition of Pro Bowl center Jeremy Zuttah, which allows that unit the flexibility to move some pieces around to get the best-possible starting five.

Defensively, the team’s front seven no longer includes Michael Wilhoite, Nick Bellore, Gerald Hodges and Glenn Dorsey. The team added Malcolm Smith, Dekoda Watson and Earl Mitchell. More help is needed there.

Projected starting cornerback Tramaine Brock was released after his arrest following an alleged domestic incident. Antoine Bethea was released, and the 49ers will give Jimmie Ward a look at free safety before deciding whether his best fit is there or cornerback.

Cornerback Will Redmond has a chance to win a job this season after missing his entire season with the ACL injury that lowered his draft stock to the third round, where then-GM Trent Baalke scooped him up.

What positions, in order of need/weak positions on the depth chart, do you think the 49ers should target in the 2017 NFL draft? (Zach Benjamin)
The 49ers will draft a quarterback at some point, but that’s not to say that they should select someone at that position with the No. 2 overall pick. (If the 49ers did take a quarterback at No. 2, Mitchell Trubisky would be the most-likely target.)

The team’s top need is a pass-rusher for new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s “Leo” position. Aaron Lynch is penciled in at that position. But the new 49ers regime is not relying on Lynch. There are enough questions about Lynch that the 49ers are looking to get somebody else into that spot. Then, if Lynch shows the commitment and focus that could turn him into a standout player, it would be “found money” for the 49ers.

Right now, the 49ers’ starting linebackers are NaVorro Bowman, Malcolm Smith and Ahmad Brooks. Depth is needed there. And three of the four starters in the secondary are Jimmie Ward, Rashard Robinson and Eric Reid, with corners Redmond, Dontae Johnson and safety Jaquiski Tartt among those who would compete for the other starting job.

The 49ers' corps of wide receivers remains a spot that could use a young, dynamic presence.

GM John Lynch made a comment about the traditional draft trade chart and how Paraag had made their own version of it. . . . I'm definitely interested to know more. (Greg Whitlow)
Paraag Marathe was working in management consulting at Bain and Co., when then-49ers executives Bill Walsh and Terry Donahue hired the firm to evaluate the widely used NFL draft-trade chart before the 2001 draft.

“It was a chart that everyone used and nobody knew where it came from, exactly, and nobody knew what it was based off,” Marathe said this offseason on "The 49ers Insider Podcast.”

“So Coach Walsh and Terry hired Bain to work on looking at that chart. It was a three-month project. I came here and did that.”

After the completion of that project, the 49ers hired Marathe to join the organization on a full-time basis.

Marathe is the 49ers’ chief strategy officer and executive vice president of football operations. It is safe to assume there have been adjustments made to the chart due to the slotting system under which draft picks have been paid since the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The old chart, which many teams are still believed to use, can be found here.

49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

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49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

UPDATED: The 49ers announced Monday morning that Joe Staley has accepted a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team. He will replace Dallas offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

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Veteran 49ers left tackle Joe Staley is expected to benefit from the Philadelphia Eagles’ trip to the Super Bowl.

Staley, originally chosen as an alternate, is expected to be named to his sixth Pro Bowl to take the place of Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson.

The Pro Bowl will be played Sunday, Jan. 28, in Orlando, Florida. Members of the Super Bowl participant Eagles and New England Patriots will not play in the all-star game. The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The other Pro Bowl offensive tackles representing the NFC are Dallas’ Tyron Smith and Los Angeles’ Andrew Whitworth, who replaced Washington’s Trent Williams.

Staley got off to a rough start last season as the 49ers opened on a nine-game losing streak. The idea of his career coming to an end began to creep into his mind, he said recently on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

But Staley said he had a talk with coach Kyle Shanahan that got him refocused for the remainder of the season. The 49ers finished with a five-game win streak to finish with a 6-10 record, and Staley played well down the stretch.

“I’m so far gone from where I was in that moment early in the year that I’m just focused on next year and, hopefully, years after that,” said Staley, 33, an 11-year NFL veteran. “I feel like I can still play.

“I think this last half of the season I played some of the best football of my career. I feel very confident in what we’re doing schematically with the people surrounding us, and it shows in my own play.”

Staley would join fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who was the only 49ers player named to the Pro Bowl when the teams were announced last month.

Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII

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Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII

BOX SCORE

PHILADELPHIA -- Hey Philly, maybe it's time to forget Carson Wentz. Nick Foles might be good enough to win the Eagles their first Super Bowl.

Foles was on fire Sunday night against the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. Philly made big play after big play on both sides of the ball in a stunning 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC championship.

Next up after their most-lopsided playoff victory: the Eagles' first Super Bowl appearance since 2005, against the team that beat them then, AFC champion New England.

Foles replaced the injured Wentz in Game 13 and finished off a rise from last place to first in the NFC East. There were plenty of doubters entering the playoffs, but the former starter in Philadelphia (15-3) under another regime has been brilliant.

His best work might have come against Minnesota (14-4) and its vaunted defense that was torn apart in every manner. Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, showing poise, escapability and moxie in going 26 for 33.

In doing so - helped greatly by the Eagles' domination on defense and a spectacular weaving 50-yard interception return TD by Patrick Robinson - Foles ruined the Vikings' hopes of being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium

Instead, the Eagles will seek their first Super Bowl crown in Minnesota on Feb. 4; their last championship came in 1960.

OVER AT HALFTIME: Minnesota made it look easy at the outset, driving 75 yards on nine plays, each of which gained yardage. The payoff was a 25-yard throw from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph well behind linebacker Najee Goode as Philadelphia's defense looked confused on the play.

That didn't happen again for Philly.

Defensive end Chris Long had a huge hand in Robinson's 50-yard interception return. Long burst in from the left side and got his arm on Keenum to disrupt the throw for Adam Thielen. The ball went directly to Robinson, who sped down the left side, then made a sharp cut to the right and got a superb block from Ronald Darby to reach the end zone.

Inspired, Philly's D forced a three-and-out, the Foles led the Eagles on a 12-play, 75-yard masterpiece of a drive. LeGarrette Blount showed all his power and escapability on an 11-yard surge up the middle for a 14-7 lead.

Turnovers, something Minnesota rarely committed with an NFC-low 14 during the season, hurt again and not only ended a solid drive, but set up more Philly points. On third down from the Eagles 15, Keenum was blindsided by rookie Derek Barnett, and the ball bounced directly to Long.

It was only the second strip-sack the Vikings have been victimized by all season.

A blown coverage - another rarity for Minnesota - on third-and-10 allowed Alshon Jeffery to get wide open for a 53-yard TD, and Philadelphia tacked on Elliott's 38-yard field goal to make it 24-3 at halftime.

DANCING IN THE LINC: Fifty seconds into the final quarter, with the score 38-7, Eagles players on the sideline and waiting to kick off on the field were dancing up a storm and fans were chanting "We want Brady."

They get Tom Brady and company in two weeks.

BACK TO THE BIG GAME: Long won the Super Bowl last year with the Patriots, as did Blount. Now they return on the other side.

QUICK DRIVE: Philadelphia got the ball with 29 seconds remaining in the first half at its 20. Foles hit passes of 11 yards to Jay Ajayi, 36 to Ertz and 13 to Ajayi before Elliott's field goal to end the half.

THIRD DOWNS: Minnesota was the league's best team defending third downs and was third in converting them. Yet Philadelphia went 10 for 14.

NEXT UP: Minnesota returns home to watch two other teams play at its stadium for the Lombardi Trophy.

With the entire stadium singing "Fly Eagles Fly" during the NFC trophy ceremony, Philadelphia can look forward to facing New England in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4