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Four questions for San Francisco after the NFL Draft

The 49ers have received plenty of praise this offseason, but there are still concerns and questions that remain

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The fun part of the offseason is over. The NFL Draft and free agency are done. We don’t have dates yet for OTAs, but many believe training camp and the preseason will start on time. The San Francisco 49ers did well coming out of the draft. The team replaced its three biggest needs, added depth, and put themselves in positions to get back to the Super Bowl. Getting back to the big game will take a lot of work, and likely some luck. Here are a few questions that remain unanswered.

Is there too much confidence in the starting safeties health?

The 49ers signed safety Jimmie Ward to a three-year deal during free agency. Ward doesn’t generate takeaways, but he brings everything else to the table. Both he and Jaquiski Tartt showed their value on the field in 2019. We still didn’t get a full season out of the starting safeties, though. Tarvarius Moore is an ideal backup, but when Marcell Harris filled in for Tartt, the defense took a step back. Why? Robert Saleh couldn’t call the same coverages. The defense didn’t have the same versatility as Harris isn’t interchangeable as Tartt is.

Was 2019 fools gold? Or should the Niners have taken the signs from each starter missing games and brought in another safety? Unless the team is confident in both Moore and Harris.

How much does Deebo have to progress with the absence of Emmanuel Sanders?

We were spoiled in 2019 by Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa. Generally speaking, rookies aren’t that affective the entire season. Usually, there is a “rookie wall” many refer to. That didn’t happen last year. With Sanders gone, the 49ers will turn to another rookie to fill his void, Brandon Aiyuk. While Kyle Shanahan can scheme guys open, the 49ers will need Samuel to continue to develop and avoid the dreaded “sophomore slump.”

Nobody is expecting Samuel to regress in 2019, but are we saying it’s too much of a slam dunk that Deebo will develop into a top wideout? His game really turned the corner during the second half of the season. I’d describe it as “the game slowed down, and that allowed Samuel to play faster.” There were still plenty of mistakes, though all coachable. Drops were an issue. Samuel, specifically in the Super Bowl, ran a few wrong routes as well. As the teams No. 1 perimeter threat, Samuel’s consistency will need to improve during his second year.

Will inexperience at right guard haunt San Francisco

I’ve been pushing the Daniel Brunskill hype train since he took the field. Whether it was at guard or tackle, Brunskill was one of the best offensive linemen the Niners had on the field. Ignore him being a UDFA and look at how he plays and what the offense asks of him. Still, Brunskill has never started a full season. If Tom Compton wins the job, he’s not exactly drenched in experience, either. Compton has been in the league since 2013 and has played “starter snaps” once, and that was in 2018.

Expect defenses to attack the 49ers up the middle and come right at whoever is starting at right guard even if it’s Ben Garland, while a veteran, guard has been his emergency position. You can’t have 10-year starters everywhere, but I could see how inexperience up the middle could be troubling, especially if center Weston Richburg isn’t healthy by the time the season starts.

Which Dee Ford will we get in 2020?

Dee Ford is a great player. There is too much evidence. The 49ers need Ford to play a full season. Javon Kinlaw has a bright future, but he’s a rookie. San Francisco has invested too much in Ford for him to have another season where he plays 22% of the snaps. Ford has played starter snaps in two of his six seasons in the NFL. The good news is, if history is accurate, Ford will stay healthy in 2020. If he doesn’t, the Niners pass rush could be in trouble. Yes, Bosa is dominant and has a chance to be the Defensive Player of the Year. With no Ford, his opportunities will be few and far between. If an offense has to choose between Bosa and Arik Armstead, who do you think they’ll double team on obvious passing downs? That’s what we saw last December. That’s why the defense, with the way they’re built, desperately needs Ford.