The San Francisco 49ers offensive success in 2018 will revolve primarily around Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and the performance of Jimmy Garoppolo. But what about the weapons that Garoppolo will have within that scheme? ESPN’s Bill Barnwell ranked out offensive arsenals around the league, focusing entirely on running backs, fullbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends.
Barnwell’s rankings did not include the impact of the quarterback, offensive line, or scheme. He did not factor in contract value, or long-term impact. It was simply based on projected 2018 performance. Additionally, it was weighted more toward top level talent than a group with less talent but more depth depth since five players is usually the max you’ll see of skill players on the field.
With all that in mind, the 49ers ranked 26th. The teams behind them included the Colts, Seahawks, Bills, Cowboys, Dolphins, and Jets. He had this to say about the 49ers skill players.
The 49ers have their star quarterback and an offensive guru as coach, but they’re more about depth than impact contributors at the skill positions. The curious decision to pay Jerick McKinnon more than $10 million in 2018 to join Kyle Juszczyk in the backfield gives the Niners two versatile players, but neither has been particularly effective as a runner nor receiver during the majority of their respective careers. Marquise Goodwin had his best pro season by a wide margin last season, and he will be joined by the returning Pierre Garçon and second-round pick Dante Pettis, but the most likely place for growth is with second-year target George Kittle at tight end.
There’s nothing really incorrect about what he has to say. In particular, the 49ers wide receiver depth chart has some intriguing options, but not much stands out as clearly on the verge of greatness. I think it’s an underrated group, but has plenty of questions. Garçon is coming back from a neck injury and turns 32 next month. Marquise Goodwin had a big season, but can he keep it up? Trent Taylor was a solid third down presence, but we’ll see what he can do in his second season. Kendrick Bourne showed some things, but it was still fairly limited. And Dante Pettis is a rookie. There could be a lot there, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves.
I am comfortable with Kyle Shanahan’s push for Jerick McKinnon. Shanahan deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to running backs given his previous success. I am not surprised people are questioning McKinnon as a starter, and given this ranking does not factor in scheme, I get why the 49ers would show up worse in the rankings.
The tight end depth chart is another one with talent but questions. Kittle lost snaps at times late in the season to Garrett Celek, but I think that was primarily due to the former dealing with a host of injuries. If he can stay healthy this year, I would not be surprised by a breakout campaign. The other player to watch could be Cole Hikutini. He has dealt with the drops in practice, but there’s some intriguing raw talent there.
I don’t think this group will climb into the top ten of this sort of ranking by the end of the season, but I would not be surprised if we saw a modest move up into the middle of the pack. It could very well be primarily about scheme and Jimmy Garoppolo, but I think we see some decent production from these skill position players.