Niners au­di­tion­ing for 2018 sea­son

‘ We look for peo­ple who fit the cul­ture, who fit the schemes we’re build­ing’

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS - By Cam In­man cin­man@ba­yare­anews­group.com

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:

Quar­ter­back

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.

Run­ning back

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.

Wide re­ceiver

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.

Tight end

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.

Of­fen­sive line

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.

De­fen­sive line

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.

Line­backer

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.

Cor­ner­back

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.

Safety

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).

Spe­cial­ists

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.

JOSIE LEPE — STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Jimmy Garop­polo has yet to make his 49ers de­but, but the team is con­vinced he is their fran­chise quar­ter­back.

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