The 49ers suffered a disappointing 11th loss of the season in Week 16 to the playoff-bound, NFC North champion Chicago Bears. It was an admirable effort for Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers, losing 14-9 as the game came down to a failed drive in the final minute for San Francisco. The 49ers now face their last game of the 2018 season on the road against the Los Angeles Rams team before Shanahan and general manager John Lynch turn their focus to the 2019 offseason.
We’re back with this week’s mailbag before the 49ers’ final game of the season. You’re welcome to drop questions in here for next week’s mailbag or tweet me @Rob_Lowder.
“What are your thoughts on the likelihood of a draft day trade with Jaguars - swap firsts, with 49ers adding Jalen Ramsey? Niners add a pass rusher in FA and draft Devin White. Add a WR 1 via trade. Draft OL depth. ” Tom Yorke
That sounds like quite the plan, Tom. Let’s work through it:
Step 1: Swap second overall in the 2019 NFL Draft for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ pick No. 9 in exchange for Jalen Ramsey.
Thoughts: Ramsey would be a perfect fit and understudy of sorts to Richard Sherman. I’m not sure the pick swap would be enough to pry him away from Jacksonville, though. Ramsey has another season and his fifth-year option left on his rookie contract.
Step 2: Sign a free agent pass rusher
Thoughts: Of course. An impact pass rusher should be atop the offseason priority list for the 49ers. Detroit Lions’ Ezekiel Ansah, Seattle Seahawks’ Frank Clark, Houston Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney, New England Patriots Trey Flowers, Kansas City Chiefs’ Dee Ford and Dallas Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence are the top options. Just don’t be disappointed when most remain with their current team.
Step 3: Draft LSU linebacker Devin White with the No. 9 pick
Thoughts: White used to be a running back and now he’s college football’s top linebacker. He’d be a worthwhile addition for the 49ers looking to fill the void left by Reuben Foster. I wouldn’t rule out an edge rusher with this pick, either, even if the 49ers add one in free agency.
Step 4: Add a WR1 via trade
Thoughts: Is there a No. 1 receiver in the NFL that’s available? If there was, would the 49ers have the capital to trade for one? It would take an abundance of draft picks and/or quality players to pry a WR1 away from any team, and the 49ers don’t have enough of either to consider parting with.
Step 5: Draft OL Depth
Thoughts: The 49ers may be doing more than drafting for depth in 2019. Joe Staley has already announced his intent to return in 2019, but the 49ers’ veteran left tackle is undoubtedly in the twilight of his career. The team needs to start planning for his departure sooner rather than later. Offensive line will be a position to watch on Day 2 of the draft for the 49ers.
“Marquise Goodwin had a stellar season last year and played like a WR 1A. I know he had setbacks both physically and mentally, but are Shanny’s comments today about him not being on the field as much any indication that he’s not in the long term plans?” Zack Van Dyck
Goodwin’s 2018 season has been a disappointment. After 56 receptions for 962 yards in 2017 in what seemed like a breakout campaign, Goodwin has only caught 23 passes for 395 yards and four touchdowns this season. He’s only played in eight games, missing time due to various injuries and a personal issue that cost him two games. Goodwin’s NFL career has been marred by inconsistent production and injury struggles. A large chunk of his offseason extension was paid this season, and his four-year contract allows for an easy departure from this point forward. If Goodwin wants to remain in the 49ers’ plans moving forward, he’ll have to earn it on the field, especially with the emergence of rookie Dante Pettis.
“Looking at the 2018 EDGE first rounders, Chubb and Davenport ended up with almost the same PFF grade. But Chubb was considered much more elite on draft day. Do you think Nick Bosa vs Josh Allen could end up the same way?” Chris Ashton
Bradley Chubb was selected fourth-overall by the Denver Broncos and Marcus Davenport was the 14th pick by the New Orleans Saints. Their PFF grades may be similar, 68.1 and 67.7 respectively, but their production on the field isn’t even close. Chubb has racked up 56 tackles, 12 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Davenport’s 19 tackles, four sacks and five tackles for loss doesn’t stack up. On the other hand, Chubb has played 78% of snaps (803) compared to Davenport’s 38% (364). It’s unclear if Nick Bosa and Josh Allen will have similar career paths as the top two pass rush options in the 2019 NFL Draft. Bosa is the favorite to go first-overall while Allen has a good chance of going within the Top 5 if his stock continues to rise.
“Should the Niners stand pat at two and grab Josh Allen (assuming Bosa is taken at one) or trade down if offered a king’s ransom? A QB needy team might jump for Haskins now that Herbert is staying in school.” Joseph Wraith
If Allen’s stock takes him as high as second overall, and the 49ers are offered a significant trade package, it’s going to be a tough decision for Lynch. The defense is in dire need of a pass rusher, even if they add one in free agency. On the other hand, the 49ers only hold five picks in the 2019 draft. Adding a handful of additional selections to move down may be seen as worthwhile investment in a draft that’s chalked full of quality pass rushers. Florida State’s Brian Burns, Florida’s Jachai Polite and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell are options if the 49ers move down the draft board.
“In Coach Shanny’s O-scheme, does it require a big, strong WR1 (a la Julio Jones type) OR a 1A/1B WR combo (Pettis/who)?” 49erMark
Shanahan tends to favor receivers that couple speed with nuanced route-running that fit well within the timing of his complex offense. He’ll also be the first to tell you that there’s never a downside to having a big, strong leading receiver, especially in the red zone where the 49ers have struggled. Atlanta Falcons’ star wideout Julio Jones (6-3, 220) reeled in 83 receptions for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns in 2016 with Shanahan as his offensive coordinator. He added another 19 catches for 334 yards and three touchdowns during the team’s Super Bowl run.
“With the reality that McKinnon may not have that explosiveness due to the torn ACL what’s the possibility the Niners release him from contract and pursue another big name vet like Tevin Coleman or LeVeon Bell?” Rod Simmons
Never say never, but there’s very little chance the 49ers would consider parting ways with Jerick McKinnon. Shanahan admittedly had to scrap a large portion of his playbook when the 49ers’ lead running back suffered a torn ACL prior to the season. This leads us to believe Shanahan envisions a large role for McKinnon moving forward. The 49ers will be eager to get McKinnon back and couple him with Breida, who despite a nagging ankle injury, displayed tremendous potential in 2018. Even Raheem Mostert looked good before his broken forearm. It seems doubtful the 49ers would pursue either Le’Veon Bell or Tevin Coleman and the significant contract it would require to sign either.
“What position do you think is the most likely target in Round 2?” Sean Patrick Scott
It’s tough to say with any certainty, but wide receiver and offensive line seem likely on Day 2. The 2019 draft class is front-loaded with premier defensive talent, with most of the offensive talent falling outside of the Top 10 on most draft boards. This should push some first-round talent on offense into the second round for the 49ers. Ole Miss receivers D.K Metcalf and A.J. Brown, along with Georgia’s Riley Ridley standout as early Day 2 picks capable of making an immediate impact.
“Will Jed York fix the sun issue on the east side? Otherwise will never have a Levi home field advantage?” Jon Justus
Jed York and the 49ers hired a firm in the offseason to research any additions that could be made to ease the heat on the exposed East side of Levi’s Stadium. It was determined that there was nothing that can be done to hide the fans from San Jose’s summer temperatures. In 2018, the team played five of their eight homes games in the second half of the season when the weather is much more bearable.
As for home field advantage, the Levi’s crowd has seemed more animated in 2018 than it has in the past. The stadium won’t truly possess a home field advantage until the team starts winning and 49ers fans start attending. The attendance of Bears fans seemed to rival San Francisco’s in their Week 16 matchup at Levi’s Stadium.
“Early free agent crush?” Callum West
I try to keep my free agency interests limited to players that I feel are likely to hit the open market. So many at the top of the list will be retained by their current team via a new contract or the franchise tag. I could say Texans’ linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, but I highly doubt he’s going anywhere. So for now, I’m sticking with Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. He’s a perfect fit at a position of needs for the 49ers and would be joining his friend and former teammate in Richard Sherman. There doesn’t seem to be any love lost between he and his current team, and getting to play the Seahawks twice a year may be tough to turn down for Thomas.
“The Seahawks have to be one of the more intriguing teams heading into the playoffs. They’ve got a ton of momentum. Carroll was just rewarded with a big extension. My question is, if the Seahawks were an STD, what STD would they be?” Jason Piccioni
For a team that was presumed to be one of the NFL’s worst in the offseason, I can only think of one quote from a late, great comedian that appropriately represents the Seahawks’ resiliency in relation to an STD:
“I’m kind of like herpes. I just keep coming back.” -George Carlin