49ers

Kyle Shanahan shares his philosophy on drafting running backs

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AP

Kyle Shanahan shares his philosophy on drafting running backs

SANTA CLARA – Coach Kyle Shanahan – and his father before him – has experienced success with running backs who were not high draft picks.

A year ago, some thought the 49ers might use their top pick on Leonard Fournette. But Fournette was not among the Top 3 players on the team’s draft board. The 49ers selected defensive lineman Solomon Thomas with the No. 3 overall pick after trading back one spot with the Chicago Bears.

The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Fournette with the No. 4 selection. Fournette is likely to return to action Sunday against the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium after missing a game with a quadriceps injury.

“It’s been proven that you can get guys (running backs) later,” Shanahan said on Wednesday. “But that by no means makes it that I’m going to say we’re never going to draft a running back high.”

Fournette leads the Jaguars (10-4) with 923 yards rushing and eight touchdowns as a rookie. He has also caught 29 passes for 213 years.

“When you find a special one (running back) and you think that makes sense for your team, you should never hesitate to do that,” Shanahan said.

“A big time running back, whether it’s Fournette; whether it’s Adrian Peterson, who was a top-10 pick; whether it was Terrell Davis in the sixth round; whether it’s David Johnson, I think was a third-rounder; Le’Veon Bell, I think was a second-rounder. All those guys are worth top-five picks, but they were all found in different places.”

Davis, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, was the key offensive weapon for the Denver Broncos teams that won Super Bowls in the late-1990s under Mike Shanahan.

“If Terrell came back out, I promise you he’s not going in the sixth round,” Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s probably going as a top-five pick. That’s one of the reasons they won Super Bowls. So you just got to find who you think that guy is, and there’s a lot of ways to do it.”

The 49ers could have a similar decision this year. Starting running back Carlos Hyde is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. The 49ers could be looking to add a back with more play-making ability. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is considered a possible Top 5 draft pick. The 49ers are currently in line to draft No. 4 overall.

The team this year drafted running back Joe Williams in the fourth round. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a foot injury, but the club is optimistic about his potential as a play-maker for next season.

49ers' Arik Armstead faces make-or-break stretch after bye week

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AP

49ers' Arik Armstead faces make-or-break stretch after bye week

Editor’s note: The 49ers break for the bye week with a 2-8 record. This is part of a series that recaps the first 10 games with an eye to the future.

In this installment, we look at the player whose future with the 49ers could be determined by his play in the final six games.

The 49ers are in search of closers.

Protecting a three-point lead with just under three minutes remaining in regulation Monday night, the 49ers put the four defensive linemen considered their best pass rushers onto the field to snuff out quarterback Eli Manning and the New York Giants.

Defensive end Arik Armstead did not play a snap for the remainder of the game. He had a spot on the sideline as a spectator, along with Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft.

“I would have liked to see them in there more on the last drive,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “They didn't get in there enough.”

Thomas is going nowhere after two seasons. But the 49ers have to make a decision with Armstead, who is completing his fourth NFL season.

Armstead was the No. 17 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In April, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option for the 2019 season on Armstead. As a defensive end selected from picks 11 to 32, that option is $9.046 million.

But the money does not become fully guaranteed until the start of the 2019 league year in March. Up to that point, the money is guaranteed for injury only. So the 49ers will have a window of more than two months after this season to decide whether Armstead is worth keeping around as the team’s highest-paid defensive player for next season.

[CHAN: Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner lead 49ers' defense through Week 10]

Does Armstead fit the 49ers’ defensive scheme? Does he provide the club with an element that general manager John Lynch cannot get at a less-expensive cost in free agency?

Armstead already has played more games (10) than he did in each of the past two seasons, when he was relegated to just eight and six in 2016 and 2017 because of shoulder and hand injuries.

Armstead has nine sacks in his 40-game NFL career. On Monday, he was used primarily on run downs.

He is tied with Cassius Marsh for second on the 49ers (behind DeForest Buckner) with 26 total quarterback pressures – consisting of three sacks, six hits and 17 hurries on 220 pass-rush snaps this season.

Armstead has yet to find his niche in the 49ers’ scheme on those all-important nickel pass-rush situations. Against the Giants, Sheldon Day and Ronald Blair were the players selected to join Buckner as interior pass rushers during crunch time.

He will get opportunities in the final six games, but Armstead might have to prove to the 49ers he's worthy of that hefty price tag for next season to still have a spot on the team.

49ers' Joe Staley loves Frank Gore just as much as Jim Harbaugh does

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AP

49ers' Joe Staley loves Frank Gore just as much as Jim Harbaugh does

Close your eyes, erase the nightmares of torn ACLs for Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon, and remember the good old days. 

Jim Harbaugh was leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Frank Gore was carrying the rock like he will until the year 2034. And Joe Staley was leading the way with blocks for Gore. 

That trio certainly misses those days, just like you do. 

[CHAN: Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner lead 49ers' defense through Week 10]

On Tuesday, Harbaugh, now the head coach of the University of Michigan, congratulated Gore, now with the Miami Dolphins. Gore now has rushed for at least 500 yards in 14 consecutive seasons.

"I would also like to congratulate Frank Gore," Harbaugh said to the media, unprompted. "The record he set this past Sunday -- and Frank is my favorite player of all time that I've ever coached. Fourteen years of each year rushing for over 500 yards, passing Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith is incredible. ... All respect to that accomplishment by Frank." 

Gore, who has rushed for 528 yards this season at 35 years old, took notice to the kind words from his old coach. 

Staley spent eight seasons blocking for Gore, and the veteran misses his old friend. Time to remember the good times again. 

And now we get to the Spider-Man meme version of this story. 

Can it be 2012 again?