The 2-6 record and the impending losses that will grace us on Sundays will be the norm until the season is over.
When the confetti drops in Super Bowl 50 in Levi’s, it becomes a celebration for the winner and the 49ers. Look at the confetti fly and know that the transformation is about to begin.
Smooth over the survivors
We need to keep up the morale of the stars we still have. We still hold plenty of pro bowl caliber talent including Torrey, Anquan, Staley, Miller, Bethea, Reid, Bowman, Dawson, and Brooks.
We also have talent that is ready to become pro-bowl talent in Carlos Hyde, Aaron Lynch, Tramaine Brock, and Garrett Celek.
Then, there are players with tremendous upside who have shown brief flashes of brilliance lilke Quinton Dial. Jarryd Hayne (practice squad), Arik Armstead, Kenneth Acker, Quinton Patton, Jaquaski Tartt, and Bruce Ellington.
The key is to maintain rapport and morale with the top and midlevel talents to avoid another mass exodus of players.
This is still a solid core of players to build around. If the 2nd tier thrives and excels, then you have 13 of the starting 24 (11 offense, 11 defense, kicker, and punter) that can make plays. Then, you get player progression, free agency, and the draft to make up the rest.
Player Progression will be the key to returning to prominence.
The 49ers have those 3rd tier players who are in need of some seasoning to become a force and the good news is that their year isn’t over and they could get the seasoning they need to breakout next year.
Arik Armstead as a defensive end has already gotten his first two sacks in limited snaps and his presence has aided Aaron Lynch on some downs to get pressure on the quarterback. Kenneth Acker has interceptions and played well against Steve Smith. His 3 interceptions are tied for 5th with Tramaine Brock, but do note that his interceptions were not while defending a player and two were thrown directly to him without needing to adjust. Acker also has 5 pass deflections which is tied for 67th. However, Acker was burned by speedsters like Antonio Brown. He has some room to grow and his progress will be paramount.
Quinton Dial has 29 tackles (ranked 15th) and 1 sack this year (tied for 71st out of 140) and has been playing well and we look for that to continue over the season.
Quinton Patton has been doing what he should be doing, but his quarterback could not find him 14 receptions and is averaging 11.7 per reception. That amounts to a little less than 2 receptions per game. Imagine if he had a quarterback who can run progressions or take chances on one-on- and an offensive line who could give receivers time to get open. He was missed on a route that would have spelled Patton’s 2nd touchdown this year last Sunday in St. Louis.
Garret Celek has shown to be a contributor and at times have led the team in receptions. He has one of the few touchdowns scored this season.
Jarryd Hayne has shown some brilliance, but has soured in the regular season. However, the talent is still there. He just needs more experience and seasoning to become a threat. He can become a special teams nightmare for opposing teams and a good change of pace back on downs that give Carlos Hyde a breather. He’s shown he can run with 11 men running after him and he has shown that he can run behind the line of scrimmage as well.
Free Agency will be key.
The biggest offseason question: will top notch players still view the 49ers as a premier landing spot. The thing is they won’t. The turmoil here looks toxic and they aren’t viewed as championship contenders anymore. This is absurd because there is still plenty of talent to go around on this team. However, players may not want to play for Coach Tomsula.
The good news is that money talks and the 49ers have 13 million of it to spend which is 4th in the league. This money can increase if the 49ers end up cutting ties with Colin Kaepernick in the offseason who is worth up to 16mil in salary.
There are two situations that make this team a premier destination out of nowhere. If Coach Tomsula is fired and they hire a big name coach or a coach that will attract the upcoming free agency class like people who used to play for that coach, then they will be able to get any player since money will not be an obstacle.
Positions of need would include Quarterback, Offensive Lineman, Tight End, Cornerback, Nose Tackle, Outside Linebacker, and Middle Linebacker.
Quarterback has zero opportunity in free agency.
Tight End may not be a position of need, but if Benjamin Watson (NewOrl) becomes available, this is a guy you need to entertain.
Offensive Lineman will have some talent come out. Until free agency happens, we won’t know if these guys will be available or will re-sign with current team. However, we can peek and see who might be on the table. Russell Okung (SEA), Lyle Sendlein (AZ), and Donald Penn (OAK) are the ones to look for. However, knowing Baalke, he will attempt to get some guy that has “upside” and not necessarily start ready. We are looking at a GM that likes to play Billy Beane moneyball without the results.
Cornerbacks have guys like Greg Toler (IND) , Leon Hall (CIN), and Prince Amukamara (NYG) who may become available. These are top notch guys that would be coveted.
Inside Linebacker has no upcoming talent. This will need to be a draft need.
Outside Linebacker is where the value is with potential free agents filled with headliners like Von Miller, Tamba Hali, Bruce Irvin, Nick Perry, Lamar Woodley, and even Aldon Smith. Spend money here since we are not sure how long we can play Ahmad Brooks.
The draft is where we get the rest.
This is now our ticket with the possibility of 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th pick in every round. We will have 7 picks in the first five rounds. Then, we will four picks in the sixth round.
Immediately in the first and second round, we must go after a quarterback or lineman. Preferably a lineman. However, there only appears to be 2 lineman that are top five worthy. Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss is projected to go 1st overall. The close second is Ronnie Stanley from Notre Dame who is projected to go 4th overall.
If those two are still on the board when we pick, it becomes a no brainer. However, if they are off the board, then the quarterback debate begins, or you trade down a few spots and draft Jack Conklin from Michigan State or you get the top cornerback if you didn’t manage to sign any of the free agent studs.
The quarterback conversation involves Connor Cook, Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, OT Taylor Decker, OT Jack Conklin or cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.
Any of those picks will be an immediate upgrade unless Kaepernick can find his mojo.
In the second round, there are a number of guys that can be had for the 49ers like OT Germain Ifedi in Texas A&M, or LB Leonard Floyd from Georgia,
n the late second to third round, OG Spencer Drango from Baylor, OT Jason Spriggs Indiana, DL Sheldon Rankins in Louisville,DL Sheldon Day Notre Dame, TE OJ Howard (draft value this late), and C Max Tuerk USC
In the fourth round, you could look at QB Cody Kessler USC or QB Kevin Hogan if they haven’t drafted a QB yet.
NOTE: The following reason is a terrible reason to draft Jared Goff with our first round pick as an analyst.
However, as a fan, you may want to err on the side of history and there is a quarterback that we passed on that still bites us today that dreamed of being a 49er and played for the local California Golden Bears. Do we want to repeat history to find out that Goff was amazing once again?
Personally, Paxton Lynch has been stunning and Connor Cook is interesting pick if he somehow drops to the second round..
If we could have the best offseason in years after the worst in history, we could be back in contention.
As I mentioned above, we currently have 13 of 24 capable starters. If we manage to find starters in at least 2 or 3 of out first 7 draft picks that are in the 5th round or higher, we now are 15/16 capable starters. Sign a cornerback or a lineman and we are now in the 16-17 range. As long as the remaining 6 or 7 are serviceable and not Jordan Devey serviceable, that will be a team that can contend.
Keep an eye out for the draft/free agency. Keep an eye for –Most of all, keep the faith.