After 10 weeks at the helm of the 49ers, the “Shanalynch” (as some fans have started to refer to the duo) Project has begun to take shape. Significant parts of the puzzle have begun to fall into place as they have established their front office and coaching staff, giving an idea of the schemes the 49ers might utilise. A move to two of the most successful schemes in the NFL in the last few seasons, Shanahan’s offense and the Bradley/Carroll-style defense, brings with it an overwhelming opportunity for immediate improvement. Furthermore early offseason press conferences have brought an emphasis on accountability across the organisation as well as violence and speed on defense – philosophies which should excite fans and players alike.
Moreover, there has been a reassuring departure from the Baalke years as the 49ers were considerably more active in free agency. Equally reassuringly, the duo avoided the urge to spend the significant cap space afforded to them on splashy signings, instead signing players who had experience in the schemes that the 49ers would be utilising or were believed to have certain traits that fit the schemes. Such moves, though unlikely to generate massive excitement amongst fans, are widely considered part of successful team-building 101.
The acquisition of Kyle Juszczyk on a contract that made him the highest paid fullback was the most highly criticised of the new signings. For me this signing actually represents a smart piece of business, signing a player who could operate as a running back (pass-catching and otherwise), tight end and fullback for serious money for a fullback but low and average money for the other positions. The multiple nature of the NFL is oft-discussed, and Juszczyk represents the new front office embracing that in a way that should benefit the 49ers from a performance as well as a financial perspective. Such a move was a forward thinking one that should give 49ers fans hope at the prospects of the Lynch-led front office.
The upcoming NFL draft will be fascinating for 49ers fans to follow. The 49ers have a number of needs, though for me certain players who they could take make far less sense than others.
Solomon Thomas, widely linked to the 49ers through the pre-draft process, would make little sense in my opinion. With DeForest Buckner capable of starring at 3-tech alongside Arik Armstead, who has the capacity to play at a high level at the strong-side (big) end, backed up by Ronald Blair, Quinton Dial, Chris Jones and Tank Carradine, the need for Thomas is one of the smallest on the roster. Given the similar standing Thomas may well hold compared to the other top names on the 49ers’ board, need could prove a major tiebreaker.
Similarly, the link to Jamal Adams suggested by Bucky Brooks would seem unlikely – unless the 49ers see him as a free safety. At strong safety, the duo of Eric Reid and Jaquiski Tartt (more so than Reid in my opinion), offer considerable upside in the Kam Chancellor role.
It has been mentioned that the 49ers are highest on Myles Garrett, Reuben Foster and Leonard Fournette. Of the three, Garrett and Foster make the most sense. Garrett could prove to be a stud in the LEO pass rushing role. whilst Foster could be an exceptional WILL linebacker – the position potentially occupied by my least favourite free agent pickup, Malcolm Smith. If the 49ers successfully trade back, Foster could well be their prime target. Malik Hooker would also be an intriguing pick up.
Without a doubt, Shanalynch have a lot to ponder in the next week or so as they prepare for and execute their draft strategy. Nevertheless, the first ten weeks have been filled with hope from the fans and apparent competency from the new front office and coaching staff. A positive looking draft could see some fans’ hopes reach levels far outstripping those they have had in the past couple of seasons.