49ers Preview Capsule
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-14)
New faces: Coach Kyle Shanahan, QB Brian Hoyer, WR Pierre Garcon, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Aldrick Robinson, DE Elvis Dumervil, DT Earl Mitchell, RB Kyle Juszczyk, OL Laken Tomlinson, K Robbie Gould, DC Robert Saleh; rookies DL Solomon Thomas, LB Reuben Foster, QB C.J. Beathard, TE George Kittle.
Key losses: QB Colin Kaepernick, QB Blaine Gabbert, WR Torrey Smith, WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Quinton Patton, S Antoine Bethea, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Tramaine Brock, TE Vance McDonald, DL Quinton Dial, LB Gerald Hodges.
Strengths: Three straight first-round picks on defensive linemen make that foundation of team. Arik Armstead adjusting well to new role as outside rusher in third NFL season. Second-year pro DeForest Buckner shown signs of being dominant from interior. Team has high expectations for No. 3 overall pick Thomas. Also used first-round pick this season on Foster, who shined in preseason. Teams with NaVorro Bowman, who looks to regain All-Pro form after Achilles tendon injury cut last season short.
Weaknesses: Team coming off two-win season has plenty, but key could be running back. Carlos Hyde has failed to develop into back Niners hoped for when they drafted him in second round in 2014. Hyde missed nearly one-third of his games and rushed for just 1,791 yards in three seasons. Behind Hyde are undrafted rookie Matt Breida and journeyman Raheem Mostert.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Goodwin. Had just 49 catches in four seasons with Buffalo but developed immediate chemistry with Hoyer. Speedster looks to show he’s more than just deep threat and could become Hoyer’s top option in passing game.
Expectations: Niners at start of what could be long rebuild after precipitous fall in recent years from team that made three straight trips to NFC title games from 2011-13 under coach Jim Harbaugh to one that won just two games in 2016. Shanahan fourth coach in as many years, following one-year tenures by Jim Tomsula, Chip Kelly. Shanahan given six-year deal along with new GM John Lynch in sign organization might finally show patience. That could lead to growing pains this season as San Francisco tries to lay foundation for future success. Hoyer will be QB but is likely little more than bridge to longer-term solution that could come next offseason, or from promising rookie Beathard. Few proven playmakers on offense with almost all of recent high draft picks having been used on defensive players or offensive line. Main goal this season will be improving on last year’s win total and identify some building blocks for better days ahead.
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