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.

NFL draft: Who should 49ers target or avoid if they trade back from No. 2?

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USATSI

NFL draft: Who should 49ers target or avoid if they trade back from No. 2?

So what happens if the Arizona Cardinals select Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa with the No. 1 overall pick?

Until the Cardinals actually announce their decision – as most have believed for a while – that Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray is their man, there remains a bit of intrigue. The 49ers must wait patiently at No. 2.

If Bosa goes No. 1, the 49ers would likely listen to offers to trade out of No. 2. That’s where things could get very interesting. And it opens up a lot more possibilities for the 49ers to consider with their first- and second-round draft picks.

Here are a couple of players the 49ers could consider if they trade back from No. 2 – either with their first or second-round selection -- and a couple of highly rated players they should not be tempted to select:

Boom?

In a trade-back scenario, the 49ers could still get their edge rusher.

Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns has size, athleticism and room to get better. Just a shade below the first wave of edge rushers, Burns might end up topping them all. He played three seasons in college and finished with 10 sacks in 12 games last season before declaring for the draft.

At 6-foot-5, 249 pounds and with 4.53 speed, Burns would be used immediately as a nickel pass-rush specialist. That is fine. That is what the 49ers need, and eventually that role can expand.

Bust?

Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary should have been a dominant player in college. He was not. He has measurables off the charts, but not the production that should go along with it.

His skills and athleticism are freakish. But after three seasons of college football, he recorded a total – a total – of just 9.5 sacks. And, now, we’re supposed to believe that he is going to get 9.5 sacks a season while going up against better competition?

Gary has started his own sports agency. It seems like the best plan of attack would be to get established as a really good NFL player before devoting so much attention to marketing.

Boom?

Their new wide receivers coach was not there to work with him at the Senior Bowl, but South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel already showed what he can do in the 49ers’ offense.

Samuel has a trait that coach Kyle Shanahan likes in his wide receivers – the ability to get open. He is a very good route-runner, and he is tough. At 5-foot-11, 214 pounds, he might not have the size of some of the other receivers the 49ers might consider in the second round, but he has the ability to separate quickly.

Samuel would give the 49ers a nice tool in the red zone, where the club has struggled mightily the past two seasons.

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Bust?

The 49ers probably will not have the opportunity to pass on Ole Miss D.K. Metcalf in the second round, and that will be just fine for them.

Metcalf has otherworldly measurables. But Metcalf was far-and-away the second-best receiver on his college team. The 49ers should prefer A.J. Brown to Metcalf, who turned off more than a few people with the 49ers during their contentious meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Metcalf is 6-3, 228 pounds. He ran a 4.33 at the combine. Yet, he put up pedestrian numbers in college – approximately half the production of Brown. Some team will take him in the middle of the first round, and that team will probably end up being disappointed.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon rave over 49ers' player performance staff

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AP

Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon rave over 49ers' player performance staff

The 49ers revamped their medical and training staff over the offseason, and thus far it’s getting positive reviews from both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon. 

After 17 players spent time on injured reserve in 2018 and 24 the season prior, the 49ers felt they needed to make a few changes.

The result was Ben Peterson becoming the new head of player health and performance while Dustin Keller was tapped as the head athletic trainer. 

The pressure is on coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch as they head into their third season having collected only 10 wins. Their success is linked to the return of Garoppolo and McKinnon, and the player performance staff obviously plays a key role in making sure both players get back to 100 percent.

The hope is that the two sides would work more efficiently together, ultimately becoming one department.

Garoppolo has been impressed by their efficiency thus far.

“Bringing in Dustin and Ben, I think they’ve done a good job of just, it’s a smooth process,” Garoppolo said. “No time wasted, one thing after another. Especially this time of the year. 

“We’re so condensed with time that every minute counts and those guys, they’ve really done a good job. I think guys are buying into it.”  

McKinnon was even more effusive when asked about the new staff. He indicated that what Shanahan and Lynch were trying to accomplish has already started working.  

“They’ve done a great job of just being on the same page,” McKinnon said. “And with everything, not just players getting hurt or whatever. They have a plan and I think everybody is going to be excited what they see from them.” 

Both McKinnon and Garoppolo seem to be itching to get back onto the field even though they understand they need to be careful.

McKinnon was asked if he noticed a difference in his progress with the new staff in place. He confirmed that even in the short amount of time he has been working with them, he has indeed noticed a change.

“Definitely,” McKinnon said. “I’ve been getting a lot stronger. I wish I could tell you all, but I can’t. I definitely feel comfortable, I definitely feel confident, and they got me throwing up a lot of weight so I like that too.

“It’s been about them not judging how much volume I have on my knee, what I do every day.” 

[RELATED: Jimmy G wouldn't let 49ers down with eyes on him in rehab]

McKinnon’s new controlled freedom also comes at a stage in his rehabilitation where he is noting a bit of progress. It sounds as though he has similar views on his training program as the new staff. 

“Yeah now,” McKinnon said. “Before I felt like I was on a leash. But every step along the way, you get to do new stuff and get more freedom -- be out there cutting, ladder drills and stuff like that. It’s nice to finally be able to do more.”