The San Francisco 49ers begin a stretch of three consecutive home games this week before facing the Rams in Los Angeles to close out the 2018 season. The Denver Broncos travel to Levi’s Stadium in Week 14 to face a 49ers team coming off an embarrassing loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Kyle Shanahan’s squad, now 2-10, have been officially eliminated from the playoffs (just in case you were holding out hope) and the remaining four games serve as an evaluation to determine the team’s direction in 2019.
We’re back with this week’s mailbag before the 49ers’ Week 14 matchup. You’re welcome to drop questions in here for next week’s mailbag or tweet me @Rob_Lowder.
“Do you think the 49ers view Dante Pettis as a WR1 going into next season given his recent performances with more target volume?” Markus Brown
The 49ers have been without receivers Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin over the past two weeks. In that time, rookie Dante Pettis has thrived in the 49ers’ offense. The second-round pick has been targeted 14 times, catching nine passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Shanahan likely doesn’t view Pettis as a leading receiver like he did Julio Jones during his time as the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator. However, it’s clear the 49ers have high expectations for Pettis after surrendering a third-round pick in the 2017 draft to move up for the former Washington wideout. Pettis might be the top player to watch over the last four games of the season.
“The 49ers offense seems pretty set at QB, RB, OL, & TE. However the WR position is lacking in more ways than one. Pettis looks like a starter, Goodwin is a keeper, Garçon an injury liability, & the rest are unproven. Should they draft a WR on Day 2 or hope to go the FA route?” Historical Context
Despite Pettis’ emergence, the 49ers’ receiving corps is indeed in need of some reinforcements. Garçon has battled knee and shoulder injuries throughout the season and missed four games so far. His roster spot in 2019 is far from guaranteed. 2017 undrafted free agent Kendrick Bourne has performed admirably, while second-year slot receiver Trent Taylor’s role in the offense has shrunk significantly.
There’s a lackluster crop of free agent receivers expected to hit free agency that includes Green Bay’s Randall Cobb, Jacksonville’s Donte Moncrief and New England’s Chris Hogan. The draft has some intriguing options, but the 49ers will likely be picking too early to justify picking a receiver in the first round. A Day 2 addition seems like the most logical route.
“If the 49ers end up with the first overall pick, would they really pass up on the opportunity to draft Nick Bosa — whether that’s by trading down or selecting somebody else?” Smitty
Nick Bosa is the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft among most reputable draft boards. If the 49ers do indeed go on the clock at the end of the season, the Ohio State pass rusher is the easy choice for general manager John Lynch. There isn’t another prospect that should challenge Bosa for the 49ers’ consideration. A hefty trade offer that should include multiple first-round picks is the only other option that could tempt the 49ers, who only hold five selections in the 2019 draft.
“Are the 49ers doomed to the familiar ‘next season’ cycle that plagues the Sharks and A’s?” El Carne Blanco
I wouldn’t put the 49ers in the same league as the Sharks and A’s just yet. While both teams have fallen short in recent years, they’ve achieved far more sustained success than the 49ers regime of Shanahan and Lynch in their first two seasons. San Francisco is a “next season” team, though, and will be until the healthy return of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon from torn ACLs. If the 49ers can tempt a crop of impact free agents and nail the draft, they should be able to lift themselves into being competitive in 2019.
“Should they move Moore back to safety to see what they have there? He doesn’t seem to be developing much at corner.” Dante Lentz
Cornerback Tarvarius Moore has only played 42 snaps (5%) on defense. On the other hand, the 49ers’ third-round rookie has taken 279 snaps (79%) of special teams. This will be his primary responsibility as long as the secondary is manned by veteran Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. Moore’s lack of impact on defense as a rookie has far more to do with a lack of opportunity than it does development. He’ll likely be competing with Witherspoon for a starting role during the offseason.
“Malcom Smith did not have a good game against the Seahawks. Why do you think he had as much playing time as he did with the “youth movement” in full swing?” Matt Wolfe
Outside of standout rookie Fred Warner, the 49ers’ “youth movement” no longer applies to the linebacking corps after the release of Reuben Foster. Warner and veteran Malcolm Smith, who took Foster’s spot, both played nearly 100% of the snaps against the Seahawks. Smith’s presence is a necessity moving forward without starting options behind the pair.
“If the 49ers don’t draft Nick Bosa, who is the best pick?” Yuri Silva
As I said earlier, Bosa is the only real option for the first-overall pick pending a drastic swing in draft stock. He’s widely considered the top prospect and aligns with the 49ers’ dire need of an edge rusher. If Lynch receives a trade offer worth accepting, a host of new options come to reality depending on the distance they travel down the draft board. LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, Alabama safety Deionte Thompson and Kentucky pass rusher Josh Allen are some of the more intriguing options.