The San Francisco 49ers have slowly transitioned into evaluating more young players, with Marcell Harris, Jeff Wilson, Jullian Taylor, Richie James, and others getting opportunities. Injuries have played a big role, but we are starting to see some healthy scratches of veterans.
The 49ers will welcome Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon back to the roster. The team will have a lot of cap space and significant draft picks to add more impact players, but there are plenty of other players who will be looked to as building blocks. With that in mind, I tweeted this out earlier today.
Random thoughts: Who are the five most important #49ers players not including Jimmy Garoppolo?— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) December 4, 2018
There is no specific framework on this, but I am talking about looking ahead to 2019. You could look at a host of players as key cogs. DeForest Buckner could be the key piece they build the defense around, although Fred Warner as the man in the middle is another big piece. Richard Sherman is the team’s best cornerback right now, but where do you factor age in with him?
On offense, I would not include Matt Breida or Jerick McKinnon on my list. They could prove big parts, but the way Kyle Shanahan’s system operates, I’m not sure running backs are necessarily the most important. The offensive line is critical, and given what Alex Mack meant in Cleveland and Atlanta, you could make an argument Weston Richburg belongs on the list. This is not a list of who will be the best players, but rather, who is most important, so Richburg’s inclusion wouldn’t be entirely off base.
When I first tweeted the prompt, I listed DeForest Buckner, Mike McGlinchey, Joe Staley, Fred Warner, and George Kittle. Who would be your top five players?