Niners auditioning for 2018 season
‘ We look for people who fit the culture, who fit the schemes we’re building’
SANTA CLARA » Six games remain in the 49ers’ season, so time remains for players to make an impression before roster turnover strikes next year.
That means all players, not just the few holdovers who’ve yet to be ditched under the new regime. Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, buoyed by their first win after an 0-9 start, are upbeat about the upcoming final stretch.
“We’re pleased with a lot of what we did this offseason and the guys that hung around from the previous regime,” Lynch said this week. “Some people thought that, ‘Anybody that was here, you’re gone.’ That’s not it.
“We just look for people who fit the culture we wanted, who fit the schemes we’re building and the guys we want to build around.”
Here is a bye-week look at how each position shapes up for 2018 in three separate categories:
BEST BETS » Jimmy Garoppolo, C. J. Beathard NOT SURE/DOUBTFUL » N/A ANALYSIS » By winning his last start in impressive and cohesive fashion, Beathard will further delay Garoppolo’s debut. Garoppolo does not need to audition for 2018, as the brass is convinced he can be their franchise quarterback for years to come, even if a franchise tag is needed to retain him in 2018 if no multi-year deal is reached. Beathard will make his fifth straight start Sunday against the Seahawks.
BEST BETS » Matt Breida. NOT SURE » Carlos Hyde, Joe Williams (IR), Raheem Mostert DOUBTFUL » N/A ANALYSIS » Hyde is set up for a nice pay day if he avoids serious injury the final six games, but who’s paying? The 49ers have yet to strike an extension, and he could find a better suitor or playoff-ready teamin free agency. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Hyde: “He is such a well-versed, dynamic player that there’s no style he can’t execute.” Breida has shown spark as a rookie backup but must improve on his league-low average of 1.15 yards-after-contact, per ESPN’s stats. Williams, a fourth-round pick, is spending his rookie year on IR and must show more urgency in 2018. Mostert has had mixed production on special teams.
BEST BETS » Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor. NOT SURE » Aldrick Robinson, Kendrick Bourne, Victor Bolden DOUBTFUL » Aaron Bur- bridge (IR), Louis Murphy ANALYSIS » Garçon is a goto, possession receiver and should recover from an Oct. 29 neck fracture. The 49ers need a more dominant threat, but No. 1s are tough to find. As evident as Goodwin’s deep-route ability is, it took 10 games for his first touchdown. They need more than three catches per game from the slot, where Taylor has been OK as a rookie.
BEST BETS » George Kittle, Garrett Celek. NOT SURE » Cole Hikutini (IR) DOUBTFUL » Logan Paulsen ANALYSIS » Kittle’s drops are a concern inwhat’s been an injury- plagued year. Celek has been the steady pro that won him a roster spot. Hikutini needs to bulk up. A second-day draft pick could be needed here.
BEST BETS » Joe Staley, Trent Brown. NOT SURE » Joshua Garnett (IR), Daniel Kilgore, Brandon Fusco, Erik Magnuson, Darrell Williams Jr. DOUBTFUL » Zane Beadles, Garry Gilliam (IR), Laken Tomlinson ANALYSIS » Sunday’s win was the line’s best showing in years. It also showed how much passion Staley still has in his 11th year. Brown merits an extension and eventually can succeed Staley at left tackle. Kilgore is a pending free agent who should be re-signed, as his knowledge of the complex system should help Garoppolo (or Beathard). Fusco has been durable and occasionally solid. Tomlinson’s 2018 salary: $1.6 million.
BEST BETS » DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead (IR), Earl Mitchell, Ronald Blair NOT SURE » Leger Douzable, D.J. Jones, Sheldon Day, Cassius Marsh
DOUBTFUL » Aaron Lynch, Tank Carradine, Chris Jones (IR) ANALYSIS » Buckner is this unit’s MVP, and Thomas will be better in Year 2. Armstead has one year left on his rookie contract but is a “fit” and “has a bright future with us,” said Lynch, seemingly willing to exercise a fifth-year option. Carradine likely will come off IR and audition the final six games.
BESTBETS » Reuben Foster, Brock Coyle, Malcolm-Smith (IR), Dekoda Watson NOT SURE » Elvis Dumervil, Eli Harold, Pita Taumoepenu DOUBTFUL » Ray-Ray Armstrong, Mark Nzeocha, Elijah Lee, Jimmie Gilbert (IR), Donavin Newsom (IR) ANALYSIS: » The ideal plan is for Foster to play the “Mike” linebacker and Smith to return at weakside linebacker in 2018, though Coyle is faring well of late. Dumervil leads the team with 4.5 sacks, and if he wants to keep playing, he carries a $ 4.25 cap charge for 2018. Armstrong got phased out defensively the past couple games. Harold has had minimal production (four sacks, 42 games) and is under contract through next season.
BEST BETS » Ahkello Witherspoon, K’Waun Williams NOT SURE » Dontae Johnson DOUBTFUL » Greg Mabin, Leon Hall, Prince Chrales Iworah ( IR), Asa Jackson (IR) ANALYSIS » The 49ers desperately need play- makers and more aggressive cornerbacks. Witherspoon can use this second half of his rookie season to secure a long-time starting role. Williams got an in-season extension. Johnson has a three- year interception drought with free agency coming.
BEST BETS » Jimmie Ward ( IR), Jaquiski Tartt ( IR), Adrian Colbert NOT SURE » Eric Reid, Chanceller James (IR) DOUBTFUL » Antone Exum, Don Jones, Dexter McCoil NALYSIS » : The new regime insists Ward will be a great free safety, but it’s hard to keep speculating with his unreliable health and their greater need at cornerback. Tartt and Colbert look like solid, hard-hitting studs. Reid brings physicality, maturity and smarts, but odds are the 49ers let him test a potentially soft market (see: social-activism blowback).
BEST BETS » Robbie Gould ( kicker), Bradley Pinion (punter), Kyle Nelson (long snapper) ANALYSIS » This unit has stayed sharp upon Gould’s arrival, and all are signed through 2018, so perhaps an extension is in order.
Jimmy Garoppolo has yet to make his 49ers debut, but the team is convinced he is their franchise quarterback.