Why Khalil Mack, not Le'Veon Bell, made more sense for 49ers to chase

Why Khalil Mack, not Le'Veon Bell, made more sense for 49ers to chase

Forty-Niner fans expect to hear general manager John Lynch come out some time next week and say those magic words, “We went in aggressively.”
Only the name in reference wouldn’t be Khalil Mack but Le’Veon Bell.

Lynch likes to go in aggressively when it comes to roster assembly. But having failed to get Mack -- probably because even Jon Gruden wouldn't have been crazy enough to move his best player to the team the fan base hates more than any other -- Lynch also has tempered expectations on the next-level pass rusher.
“(W)e also talked about, ‘Don’t try to solve every issue this year,’ ” Lynch said Thursday. “It’s on my desk right here: 'Sustainable Success.’ ”
That sentence is sort of a hint as to why Bell might not be on Lynch’s mind quite as much as Mack was.

The 49ers enter a new season relatively bereft of running backs because of Jerick McKinnon’s season-ending ACL tear, and in the superficial world of “well, just go get another one,” Bell’s name would leap out. He's still at the top of his game physically, his position in Pittsburgh is precarious because of his protracted holdout, and he would come to a San Francisco team that wouldn’t feel the need to showcase him 25-plus times per game.
But Bell’s name doesn’t come up -- or at least it hasn’t. The problem of his franchise tag, which would have to be played out, is one thing. The cost of acquiring him (high draft picks) is a luxury the 49ers seem reluctant to spend, and there is no guarantee that Bell would want to stay anyway, nor that the miles already on him would make him as appealing.
In short, the 49ers’ putative interest in him and “sustainable success” seem to be an ill fit.
Bell is the kind of player you chase if you believe you’re a running back away from winning right now, and damn the future. Unlike Mack, he very well could be a rental. It isn’t that he can’t fill the McKinnon hole, it’s for how long. That unknown would seem to give Lynch pause.
Plus going all-in on Bell almost certainly would mean exhausting much of the 49ers' remaining salary cap space and draft capital without helping the defense that's already believed to be the team’s prominent weakness. You can almost hear Lynch rubbing his forehead in exasperation.
Ultimately, the 49ers probably will be fine with not being aggressive enough on Le’Veon Bell . . . that is, unless/until Alfred Morris goes down, too -- and that’s not out of the realm of likelihood because football.
So until success arrives in Santa Clara, John Lynch is going to be picky about sustainability. It's simply the nature of the beast he's riding today.

This Sunday, be sure to watch 49ers Pregame Live at 9 a.m. and 49ers Postgame Live immediately after the game on NBC Sports Bay Area and live streaming on the NBC Sports app. Greg Papa, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Matt Maiocco and Laura Britt will have everything you need to know from the 49ers’ season opener.

49ers UDFAs Salvon Ahmed, JaMycal Hasty making most of odd offseason

49ers UDFAs Salvon Ahmed, JaMycal Hasty making most of odd offseason

Salvon Ahmed and JaMycal Hasty were always going to face an uphill battle to make the 49ers' roster, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made the hill a little steeper.

Under normal circumstances, the 49ers' undrafted free agents would have a chance to make a good first impression on the field at rookie minicamp. That's how Matt Breida won his roster spot in 2017. But instead, Hasty and Ahmed spend four hours on Zoom meetings with their position group and coaches, trying to learn everything about the 49ers' offense. The first two hours are spent with the entire group, while the final two hours are just Ahmed, Hasty and undrafted fullback Josh Hokit with assistant coach Bobby Turner.

While it's been unusual, the rookies think it's been a productive start to their NFL careers.

“You don’t have to worry about practices, you don’t have to worry about anything but that one, four-hour window to meet,” Hasty told The Athletic's Matt Barrows. “So there are a lot of things you can cover. There’s a ton of information to learn and pick up on. I mean, the rookies help each other out, the vets bring us along. It’s been a great experience, man.”

The 49ers have built a strong culture and that plays a big role in helping new blood catch up to the rest of the group.

“I think it’s showing what it’d be like even if we were there,” Ahmed told The Athletic. “And I think the culture is strong enough to show through our Zoom meetings. I think how we’re acting now is definitely how everyone would act if we were at the facility.”

The 49ers are likely to carry five running backs in total between the active roster and practice squad. Pencil in Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman for two of those spots. Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson, Ahmed and Hasty will have to battle for the final three spots, with McKinnon and Wilson likely having a leg up.

The final roster spot likely will come down to a position battle between Ahmed and Hasty.

Ahmed, 5-foot-11, 197-pounds, never became the game-breaking back he was projected to be when he committed to Washington out of high school. He has quick feet and can be explosive, but he needs to work on his vision and decisiveness to stick in the NFL.

As for Hasty, the Baylor product was misused during his time in Waco, Texas. He's an elite athlete who profiles as a third-down back who can uncover out of the backfield and make plays in the passing game. He's a tough, hard-nosed back who has the explosiveness to fit well in the 49ers' zone-rushing scheme. He's an electric, change-of-pace back who has the potential to morph into a dynamic weapon for coach Kyle Shanahan.

[RELATED: Nine 49ers facing make-or-break season in 2020]

The 49ers might be able to hold a full-squad minicamp in June if Governor Gavin Newsom allows it. That will be the first time Ahmed and Hasty will take the field as 49ers. They must make the most of every opportunity in order to make the roster.

They've already been doing that in the Zoom classroom. The field world comes next.

NFL Network's Adam Rank goes all-in on 49ers after bad 2019 prediction

NFL Network's Adam Rank goes all-in on 49ers after bad 2019 prediction

Not many would have expected the success the 49ers gave us last season. Well, one guy in particular really didn't expect it.

NFL Network analyst Adam Rank might be the main person to eat his words following his preseason prediction that the 49ers would go 3-13 went viral. But he has redeemed himself. 

Kyle Shanahan's team obviously was more successful than that, going 13-3 in the regular season and leading by 10 points in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV before collapsing against the Kansas City Chiefs. Rank heard it all from 49ers fans, even admitting he was an idiot for saying such a thing

Rank wrote Tuesday on NFL.com that not only are the 49ers becoming one of the league’s “model organizations,” but also that walking away from Miami without a ring didn’t mean they were out of the fight -- not even a little bit.

The 49ers have everything going for them in 2020 for another deep run. They'll bring back tight end George Kittle, who looks to be the highest-paid at the position in NFL history. Jimmy Garoppolo has a Super Bowl appearance as a starter under his belt. Nick Bosa looks to have another successful season and we get to see the freakishly athletic ability of rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

That’s just what’s happening on the field.

Rank praised the front office, led by general manager John Lynch, for part of that success as well. 

Rank knows that any team could face a post-championship hangover that not even the strongest of Gatorade could cure. Their expectations are high, but this team is the real deal -- and naturally, they’ll have a target on their backs. But Rank is done doubting -- but said he understands if people don’t believe him.

[RELATED: Richard Sherman wants 49ers detractors to keep doubting them]

“I know me praising the 49ers will make the fans uneasy,” Rank told NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday. “Like whenever Ric Flair would cozy up to Sting. And as much as you'd like me to discredit them again, we don't have to resort to such tricks because this is a very good team. Though I don't blame you if you don't trust me.”

He said it, he’s a believer. Now, let’s give the guy a break.