San Francisco 49ers Preview Capsule
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (5-11)
New faces: Coach Chip Kelly, OL Anthony Davis, WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Rod Streater, LG Zane Beadles, rookies DE DeForest Buckner, OL Joshua Garnett, CB Rashard Robinson.
Key losses: Coach Jim Tomsula, WR Anquan Boldin, G Alex Boone, DL Ian Williams, RB Reggie Bush, RG Jordan Devey, returner/RB Jarryd Hayne.
Strengths: Led by recent first-round picks Arik Armstead and Buckner on line and LB NaVorro Bowman, Niners should be strong defensively in front-seven. Offense has few bright spots outside RB Carlos Hyde, but return of former Pro Bowler Davis from one-year retirement should help bolster line. Davis expected to play right guard with Trent Brown entrenched in his old right tackle spot.
Weaknesses: Roster full of holes, perhaps none more glaring than QB. Colin Kaepernick had rapid fall after dynamic start to career and lost starting job last season to Blaine Gabbert, who has won just eight of 35 career starts and has career 55.8 completion percentage. Those two competed all summer before Gabbert won job. Kaepernick missed time with tired shoulder, struggled after return. There’s not much help for QBs. Torrey Smith was only proven receiver on roster before late trades added Kerley, Streater after injuries to Bruce Ellington, Eric Rogers.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Hyde, Smith, TE Vance McDonald.
Expectations: After three straight trips to NFC championship game and one Super Bowl appearance under Jim Harbaugh from 2011-13, 49ers have fallen to bottom of NFC. Harbaugh was run out of town following 8-8 season in 2014 and team got worse under Tomsula. Now Kelly will try to turn Niners around in second head coaching job. After winning 10 games in each of first two seasons with Eagles, Kelly was fired after going 6-9 last year. He brings up-tempo style so successful in college to 49ers team that lacks playmakers on offense, and will likely need time to build San Francisco back into contender.
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