The 49ers’ 2018 season has been a disappointment so far, in large part due to season-ending injuries suffered by franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and lead running back Jerick McKinnon. The team’s two-win season through nine weeks has provided fans with both positive and negative realizations that will impact the team moving forward. After a 34-3 beatdown of the Raiders on Thursday, coach Kyle Shanahan’s team now prepares for their second consecutive prime time matchup on Monday night against the New York Giants at Levi’s Stadium.
Here’s our stock report as the 49ers are now just over halfway through the 2018 season.
Stock up: TE George Kittle
There isn’t a player on the 49ers’ roster that’s broken out more than second-year tight end George Kittle. The fifth-round pick out of Iowa is now among the NFL’s elite and a staple of Shanahan’s offense. Kittle’s 41 receptions for 692 yards and three touchdowns through nine games leads the team, putting him on pace to be the first tight end to eclipse 1,200 receiving yards since 2013, courtesy of 49ers’ reporter Joe Fann.
Stock down: LB Reuben Foster
Outside of Jimmy Garoppolo’s ACL, is there a bigger disappointment this season than Reuben Foster? The 49ers’ second-year linebacker, after a turbulent offseason, returned as a shell of his rookie self in 2018. Seemingly destined to be the 49ers’ next elite linebacker, Foster plummeted to one of the worst in the NFL as far as Pro Football Focus is concerned. His injured right shoulder, that many teams were concerned wouldn’t hold up prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, is clearly hindering Foster’s play despite not needing surgery following a mid-season MRI.
Stock up: QB Nick Mullens
Nick Mullens seized his moment on Thursday when a hand injury forced C.J. Beathard out of the starting lineup. The former practice squad quarterback executed to near-perfection against the Raiders, completing 16 of 22 passes (72%) for 262 yards, three touchdowns, no turnovers and a quarterback rating of 151.9. It is one of the greatest debut performances ever by an NFL quarterback. He’ll make his second consecutive prime time start against the Giants on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium.
Stock down: QB C.J. Beathard
The 49ers’ third-round pick in 2017 has again returned to backup duties despite the absence of Garoppolo. Beathard was unable to retain the role of starting quarterback after a Week 8 hand injury forced Mullens into a successful prime time debut against the Raiders. Beathard lost five straight this season and is 1-9 as the 49ers’ starter in his two years with the team. Despite some scattered success, Beathard’s time under center has been forgettable, with his ability to absorb punishment his most impressive trait.
Stock up: OT Mike McGlinchey
The 49ers raised eyebrows in the offseason when they drafted Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey with the No. 9 overall pick, and then traded talented tackle Trent Brown to the New England Patriots. McGlinchey has not only replaced Brown at right tackle, he’s proven himself an upgrade. While he may not posses Brown’s chops as a pass protector, the improvement the 49ers have seen in the run game thanks in large part to McGlinchey has been impressive. He’s Pro Football Focus’ top-graded rookie offensive lineman so far in 2018.
Stock down: S Adrian Colbert
Adrian Colbert made a stellar first impression at free safety late last season, which inflated expectations for the 49ers’ seventh-round pick in 2018. The Miami cornerback-turned-safety came crashing back down to earth this season, routinely falling victim to deep passes and missed assignments. Before going on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain, Colbert was among PFF’s worst-graded safeties, ranking 87th. He shouldn’t be seen as a starting option moving forward at a crucial position in the 49ers’ defense that routinely utilizes a single-high safety.
Stock up: DL Ronald Blair
The 49ers’ defensive line is chalked full of first-round talent in Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas. They also employ solid rotational pieces like Sheldon Day, Cassius Marsh and Dakota Watson. Despite a crowded front, 2016 fifth-round pick Ronald Blair has managed to emerge as one of those most effective among the group. Over the past four weeks, Blair ranks 13th out of 103 edge rushers, per PFF’s pass rush productivity stat, totaling four sacks, three hits quarterback hits and five hurries in that span.
Stock down: WR Trent Taylor
Trent Taylor’s rookie season was encouraging. The shifty fifth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech reeled in 43 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. He was among the most targeted receivers on third down, especially on slant-routes, leading the NFL in quarterback rating when thrown his way. Taylor’s only caught 18 passes for 138 yards and a score so far in 2018. It’s worth noting that the 49ers’ fifth-round pick in 2017 underwent back surgery during the offseason, which could play a role in his lack of success this season. Taylor was inactive Thursday against the Raiders in spite of not appearing on the injury report.
Stock up: Coach Kyle Shanahan
Shanahan’s stock isn’t soaring, by any means, but there’s something to be said about the control the 49ers’ head coach has shown over the course of two frustrating seasons. This has never been more obvious than on the field Thursday when the 49ers trounced the Raiders, both one-win teams. Shanahan’s crew was dialed in while Gruden’s Raiders were lucky to have scored three points, showing an alarming lack of effort and competence. Shanahan’s ability to keep the team focused earned praise from the likes of Richard Sherman, and while the on-field product may be difficult to watch, he’s done an admirable job considering the depleted roster.
Stock down: Coordinator Robert Saleh
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s stock has taken a hit throughout the season for reasons that may be beyond his control. The 49ers’ defense showed an alarming inability to tackle at the start of the season, which seems to have improved as of late. They also showed a tendency to routinely miss assignments, struggle late in games and rarely forced turnovers. This doesn’t all fall on Saleh, but the majority of the buck on defense stops with him. Hopefully Saleh’s group can build off a very successful showing against the Raiders.