Good morning folks, we’re in the home stretch of the offseason deadzone, and (knock on wood) the team has luckily made it through without legal issues or freak injuries. At long last, there’s a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel! Rookies will report for training camp on Wednesday, and practices begin Thursday. The team has scheduled 10 practices that are open to the public - meaning that we might start getting some answers to our burning questions sooner rather than later.
Of course, a great deal will likely change throughout training camp and the preseason games, so it’s important to hold off on knee-jerk reactions early on. Jimmy Garoppolo might throw a few picks, Jimmie Ward may not see first-team reps, and the initial first-team RG might not be the same guy as the week 1 starting RG. As is common during this time of year, I thought it might be fun to do some prognostications of various angles, and I’d love to hear what you guys have to say as well.
Unpopular prediction: Jonathan Cooper wins out at RG. Joshua Garnett seems to be an uncommonly divisive player - as any argument about him will eventually boil down to optimist vs. pessimist. Sure, it’s a great story that he has slimmed down to meet the requirements of the position, but we have absolutely no idea (yet) of how his technique is progressing. Assuming Cooper is available for training camp after knee surgery in January, I think his experience and athleticism will win out.
Surprise cut: LB Pita Taumoepenu. After a rookie season that saw him play exactly 0 defensive snaps, the 2017 6th rounder may find himself a casualty of the numbers game, as he competes with Dekoda Watson to back up Eli Harold as the SAM. Taumoepenu supposedly has upside, but he’s not particularly athletic, hasn’t been a consistently productive player throughout his career, and lacks all kinds of polish. Despite being young and a recent draft pick, the team might find be comfortable rolling with Watson, finding value in his special teams contributions.
Bizarro-world trade: DE Arik Armstead. I don’t think anyone would be completely blindsided if the team decided to trade Armstead, but I think this is one of those “it’s unlikely, but it would make sense” kinds of situations. While he was technically the 4th most used defensive lineman on the team last year, he only played 27% of the team’s defensive snaps, largely due to
not having a cleanly-cut role in Robert Saleh’s defense a season-ending injury in a week 6 loss against the Washington football team (h/t UnnecessaryBuffness). He’s a talented player and an absolute unit, and another team might be able to get significantly more utility out of him. Of course, there’s value in having him as a rotational piece with Solomon Thomas, but his upcoming price tag can be seen as prohibitive until he establishes himself as a 3 down player.
Surprise UDFA: CB Tarvarus McFadden. Unlike the 2017 haul, the San Francisco 49ers 2018 UDFA group is largely underwhelming, with McFadden being the closest thing to a headliner of the bunch. After a great 2016 season at Florida State, he completely nuked his draft stock in 2017 and ended up undrafted. Now, he’s got some ball skills, but he’s a fixer-upper, and boy howdy is he slow. When I say slow, I’m not kidding - Solomon Thomas has 70 pounds on him, and they ran the same 40 time. However, his competition for the last CB spot is Greg Mabin and Tyvis Powell, and there’s a chance that the team thinks his press-cover abilities can be maximized in this system.
Overhyped: FS Adrian Colbert. Don’t get me wrong, I think Colbert had a great rookie campaign and will develop into a fantastic contributor next to Jaquiski Tartt. Unfortunately, I think the hype surrounding him has developed too rapidly, which is somewhat confirmed by his PFF ranking as the 46th best safety in the league. He’s average starter material, and hopefully gets better as time goes - but for now, I think it would be wise to pump the brakes slightly on his hype wagon.
Best comeback story: RB Joe Williams. I wouldn’t say that I have sky-high expectations for the beleaguered running back, but after quitting on his college team and spending his rookie season on the IR, Williams will be fighting just to make the roster as the 3rd RB behind Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida. I’m not saying that Williams is going to wind up starting any time soon, but if he can provide a glimpse or two of whatever it is that Kyle Shanahan saw in him, perhaps he can get back on track. We might just be at the very beginning of his comeback story, but earning a few snaps during the 2018 season may just light a fire.
Breaking newz: Jimmy Garoppolo is going to throw interceptions. Sorry folks, it’s just what it is.
Mike McGlinchey signs rookie contract | Bonilla, 49ers Webzone
Training camp preview | Branch, SF Gate | Inman, Mercury
Training camp preview: Inside Linebackers | Biderman, Ninerswire
Ranking most important 49ers of 2018: #4 Richard Sherman | Almquist, KNBR
Ranking most important 49ers of 2018: #5 Reuben Foster | Almquist, KNBR
49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers breaking glass ceilings | Killion, SF Gate