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ESPN re-grade of 49ers 2017 offseason still falls a little short

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The 49ers get a big boost, but I still don’t think it’s enough.

New York Giants v San Francisco 49ers

The start of the 2018 offseason means we can put 2017 fully in the rear view mirror. We are now at the point where hindsight is getting closer to 20/20, which means it is time for re-analysis of everything that went down a year go. And so, ESPN’s Mike Sando is taking a look back at offseason grades from June 2017, and offering a re-grade.

A year ago, Sando spoke with 15 NFL executives, coaches, and personnel evaluators to come up with his grades. They gave the San Francisco 49ers a C for their work. In assessing the 49ers work last year, they saw a bit of a roller coaster of an offseason. They mentioned getting the hot head coaching candidate, but hiring John Lynch out of left field. Naturally, the Kyle Juszczyk and Malcolm Smith signings did not get a lot of praise given the money involved. Additionally, the Reuben Foster draft pick was viewed as a question mark due to his shoulder issue.

In re-grading the 49ers 2017 offseason, Mike Sando bumped them from a C to a B+. Given that Sando and company factored in Shanahan and Lynch in their first grade, they obviously count again on this second grade. The Jimmy Garoppolo trade does not count as part of last year’s offseason, but I’d say the trade can be factored into evaluating the addition of Lynch. Sure, the 49ers were likely the beneficiary of some fortuitous timing, but Lynch and Shanahan had Belichick’s respect enough to have him call them.

The 49ers free agent signings had some misses, with the Jeremy Zuttah trade and the Jeremy Kerley extension missing. Additionally, Malcolm Smith’s training camp chest injury meant we never got to see what value the 49ers would get for a high value expenditure.

Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Kyle Juszczyk, and Robbie Gould all panned out well. The biggest miss in some ways might be the Brian Hoyer signing — but even that is up for debate. He worked well with C.J. Beathard, and it all eventually resulted in Jimmy Garoppolo’s arrival. Our grading of him has not been overly kind, but it was not the worst signing in the world.

On the draft front, as Mike Sando noted, the 49ers draft class logged the most combined offensive and defensive snaps, and ranked second to the New Orleans Saints for second most valuable draft class based on Pro Football Reference’s approximate value metric. The 49ers have a big question surrounding Reuben Foster, and Solomon Thomas will need to take a step forward in 2018, but they got a lot out of this year’s class.

But in many ways, grading last year’s offseason comes down to Lynch and Shanahan. We can point to the player acquisitions, but I don’t know that a B+ sufficiently encapsulates what Lynch and Shanahan did in changing the team’s culture. The 49ers were a rotting franchise most of the past three years, and in one season, we saw a massive change to how the football operations operate. That’s not something to be measured, but I don’t think the importance of that can be overestimated in any grading.