How 49ers' additions during draft fit into the big picture

How 49ers' additions during draft fit into the big picture

During the course of the three-day NFL Draft, 49ers general manager John Lynch made six trades to finish the weekend with 10 draft picks and one veteran player.

There is a specific plan for each of those players, Lynch said.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Parcells sent 49ers CEO Jed York a text and asked him to pass along some words of advice for the first-time general manager.

“He talked about making sure if you’re going to draft someone that everybody from personnel to coaching staff has a clear vision for what this player’s going to be for us,” Lynch said of the text from Parcells. “And we’ve tried to, with each player, challenge coaches to say, ‘How are you going to play this guy?’

“And if there’s any (vagueness) or it’s not crystal clear how they anticipate playing him, then we’ve either challenged them, ‘You better get there or I can’t feel comfortable taking him,’ and move on.”

Here is a look at the 11 players acquired and how they fit into what the 49ers are trying to build:

First round, No. 3: DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford
Thomas has the versatility to play – or at least be given a chance – at every position along the 49ers’ four-man line with the exception of nose tackle. The defensive end position on the strong side is his natural position. He is also a nice fit at the defensive tackle spot next to the team’s pass-rusher position on the weak side. Thomas could also get a look at that pass-rusher position, where Arik Armstead will get a look when he gets healthy from shoulder surgery.

First round, No. 31: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
The 49ers signed veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith to a five-year, $26.5 million contract with $11.5 million fully guaranteed on the first day of free agency. But the 49ers traded up to grab Foster at the end of the first round with the thought of playing him in the same position. Foster will immediately learn the “Will” linebacker position. “That’s where he’ll lineup, but he’s going to be sideline to sideline,” Lynch said. Eventually, Foster could replace Bowman at middle linebacker. In Foster, the 49ers envision a player who can also make contributions on special teams, in pass coverage and as a pass-rusher.

Third round, No. 66: CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson lined up at the cornerback positions during the voluntary veteran minicamp last week. Witherspoon is a talented player who is relatively new to the game. He admitted his tackling needs a lot of work. If he can play with a physicality and an attitude, he could win a starting job as a rookie over some of the other unproven cornerbacks on the roster.

Third round, No. 104: QB C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Coach Kyle Shanahan hand-picked Beathard to develop for future seasons. There is no pressure. Beathard comes to the 49ers as the clear No. 3 quarterback behind starter Brian Hoyer and backup Matt Barkley. “He’s extremely intelligent,” Shanahan said. “Football means the world to him. He really works at it. He’s accurate and he can process and play the game very fast in the pocket, I think that gives you a chance to play in this league. By no means does that mean that he’s ready to do that, but I think that’s a great guy that you have a chance with.”

Trade with Denver: RB Kapri Bibbs
Lynch served as a TV analyst for the Broncos exhibition games, and he liked what he saw from Bibbs, who spent three seasons in Denver. Bibbs finally earned a role last season with 29 carries for 129 yards in 12 games. He figures to compete for action on third downs, where Shanahan can isolate him in favorable matchups to catch passes out of the backfield.

Fourth round, No. 121: RB Joe Williams, Utah
Carlos Hyde is entering the final year of his contract, and he is going to have to show a lot to warrant a second contract with the organization. Williams (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) could take over as the team’s top running back. The 49ers initially removed Williams from consideration because he walked away from his college team early in the season. But Shanahan watched him on film and loved what he saw. After digging deeper into his background, the 49ers felt confident enough to invest a fourth-round pick in him.

Fifth round, No. 146: TE George Kittle, Iowa
Kittle is a good blocker who has a lot of upside as a pass-catcher. He is just four pounds lighter than O.J. Howard and ran an official time in the 40-yard dash at the combine that clocked just .01 seconds slower than the first tight end selected. The 49ers spent the weekend shopping veteran Vance McDonald in a trade. His time appears to be running out. It does not help him that Shanahan selected a tight end that exhibits the traits he wants from that position.

Fifth round, No. 177: WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Taylor caught 136 passes and led the nation with 1,803 receiving yards as a slot receiver. His addition places oft-injured Bruce Ellington’s future with the team on shaky ground. Taylor is more quick than fast, and that is OK for how the 49ers envision using him. “This was a guy that we were excited with in his ability to separate in the slot, which is such a key component in today’s football,” Lynch said. Jeremy Kerley begins the offseason program as the 49ers' top slot receiver.

Sixth round, No. 198: DT D.J. Jones, Mississippi
The 49ers’ run defense was horrible last year, and it all started at nose tackle. The team signed veteran Earl Mitchell as the presumptive starter. The 49ers are still trying to find the best fit for Quinton Dial, who could work his way into that position, as well. Jones gives the 49ers more brute strength on the inside. Said Lynch, “He’s a stout nose, who also has three-technique versatility, but yet I think really dynamic."

Sixth round, No. 202: DE/OLB Pita Taumeopenu, Utah
The 49ers have a few players they plan to audition at the pass-rush spot known as the “Leo.” Most of those players are big-bodied and are not prototypes for that position. Taumeopenu provides the 49ers with a dynamic pass-rusher who recorded nine sacks last season. “We felt like we’ve got so many big guys, we just want a speed rusher off the edge,” Lynch said. “He gave us a guy that, again, a guy that we grew to become very fond of throughout the process.”

Seventh round, No. 229: DB Adrian Colbert, Miami
Colbert is a hard-hitter who could make the team as a rookie based entirely off his play on special teams. The 49ers will place him at cornerback during the rookie minicamp. Depending on how he looks playing that position in Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme, the 49ers could move him to free safety to get work behind Jimmie Ward.

Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season


Frank Gore returns home for his 14th NFL season

Frank Gore is returning home to, in all likelihood, finish his professional football career.

Gore, 34, signed a one-year contract to enter his 14th NFL season with his hometown Miami Dolphins, the team announced Friday.

Gore grew up in Coconut Grove, Florida, and attended Coral Gables High School before playing collegiately at the University of Miami.

He played the first 10 NFL seasons with the 49ers and is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Gore ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,026 rushing yards – just 75 yards behind No. 4 Curtis Martin.

After rushing for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns with the 49ers, the club declined to offer him a multi-year contract following the 2014 season. Gore played the past three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Gore remains one of the most popular players in 49ers history. When asked recently if he would be willing to “retire” as a member of the 49ers after his final game, Gore reacted enthusiastically about the possibility.

1, Emmitt Smith 18,355
2, Walter Payton 16,726
3, Barry Sanders 15,269
4, Curtis Martin 14,101
5, Frank Gore 14,026

49ers increase competition for starting guard positions


49ers increase competition for starting guard positions

The 49ers are the fifth team to give Jonathan Cooper a chance after he arrived in the NFL as the No. 7 overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2013 draft.

Cooper, 28, caught the attention of the 49ers with his career-high 13 starts last season with the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers signed him to a one-year, $4.95 million contract this week.

“We signed him to compete for one of the guard spots as a starter,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday at Stanford's pro day. “He played very well in our minds for Dallas last year and kind of resurrected his career. He’s battled injuries, but we really like the way he played, and we think he’s a very good fit for what we do. So we were pleased to add him.”

The 49ers plan to take it slowly this offseason with Cooper, who underwent surgery after tearing the medial-collateral ligament in his left knee during the final game of the season. The 49ers report for the offseason program in mid-April.

The 49ers are certain to have at least two new starters on the offensive line. Former New York Giants center Weston Richburg was signed to replace Daniel Kilgore, who was subsequently traded to the Miami Dolphins. Brandon Fusco, who started 16 games at right guard, signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an unrestricted free agent.

Laken Tomlinson has a chance to hold onto a starting job. Acquired shortly before the start of the regular season in a trade from the Detroit Lions, Tomlinson quickly moved into the starting lineup at left guard and started the final 15 games. Tomlinson was a first-round draft pick of the Lions in 2015.

“Laken played very well the longer he was there,” Lynch said. “I think people forget with Laken, he came here in Week 1. He was kind of force-fed. We didn’t have many options. But we saw a guy get better throughout the season. He’ll get his opportunity.”

Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2016, spent last season on injured reserve due to an a knee injury sustained in training camp. The 49ers challenged Garnett to get in better physical condition. He has been cleared for football activity.

“Joshua Garnett has been working extremely hard, so he’ll be in that mix,” Lynch said. “He did a great job embracing the time he has last year to improve as a player. He remade his body and we're looking forward to see him get after it in the offseason.

“I think he’s excited about it. He’s feeling sexy, as he says.”

Erik Magnuson, 24, won a spot on the 49ers’ roster after signing as an undrafted rookie from Michigan. Magnuson could enter into the competition at guard. He displayed unique versatility in his first season, starting two games at right tackle before sustaining a season-ending foot injury. He can also serve as a backup center.

And, perhaps, the 49ers are not finished adding to the competition. The team owns the No. 9 overall selection, and Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson could be on the radar in the unlikely event he is not selected within the top eight picks.

When asked if the 49ers could also add another player to the mix with a draft pick, Lynch answered, “We’ll see. We’re always looking to get better there.”