At the end of the 2018 season, I wrote a blog asking, “Wouldn’t Dee Ford look good in a Niner Uni?” After their free agency signings and before the NFL draft, I am now asking, “Wouldn’t an NFC Western Division title look good on the Levi Stadium wall?”
My optimism for this “worst-to-first” scenario is attributed to the following:
- Dee Ford in a Niner Uni has become a reality. The Niners now have a legitimate Edge Rusher. One will never know, but his bonehead play in the AFC Championship game where he lined up off-sides with the Chiefs in the lead with less than a minute left in the game may have played a part in the Chiefs agreeing to trade Ford for a 2020 2nd round pick.
- Kwon Alexander, the heart and soul of the Buccaneer’s defense, became a Niner and is simply a heat seeking beast that the Niners haven’t had since Patrick Willis. Paired with Fred Warner, the Niners just may have the fastest LB’s in the league. He did tear his ACL last season after achieving All Pro status, but his rehab is reportedly going great. Additionally, the Niner medical team performed a thorough exam on Kwon to make sure that he’ll recover fully.
- Tevin Coleman is another speedy Running Back who Shanahan knows well as he coached him at Atlanta during their Super Bowl year. Tevin has great hands which is a Shanahan requirement along with his tough and speedy running skills. The Niners now have four RB’s (Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, and Tevin Coleman) who have all run the 40 in 4.1 seconds or faster.
- Jordan Matthews is the big and strong Red Zone WR that the Niners haven’t had in recent memory. Wouldn’t it be great if he could be nearly as good as John Taylor? It turns out that Jordan is Jerry Rice’s cousin and has been a lifetime Niner fan. He is 6’ 3” and 215 lbs. and has caught most of his passes in the Red Zone, a glaring weakness in the Niner offense for years. Niner fans wanted Lynch and Shanahan to trade for either Antonio Brown or O’Dell Beckham. Rightfully so, they never showed interest in Brown due to his character, age and high salary demands. The Niners did come close to trading for Beckham but were unwilling to give up their #2 draft pick in this year’s draft. I am in total agreement with Lynch and Shanahan. The Niners still have many holes to fill and their 3-5 year plan is to get younger and build mostly from within. Additionally, they are not a team built to throw the ball deep on a regular basis. They are a run-first team with a passing game designed to create miss-matches with TE’s (George Kittle) and the speedy RB’s that I’ve already mentioned above.
- Jason Verrett is a CB that Richard Sherman thinks highly of. He was a 1st round pick in 2014 but has had multiple injuries including to his shoulder, ACL and Achilles. In his only healthy year (2015), he earned All Pro status. He passed the Niners physical prior to signing and very well could be the starting CB opposite Sherman. Ahkello Witherspoon had a poor 2nd year and must come into this training camp with plenty to improve upon. Tarvarious Moore, on the other hand, came on strong at the end of last year and may be the Niners future at CB.
The Niners did look at available free agent safeties and pursued Earl Thomas. With his age, injury and salary, the Niners made the wise decision to stick with Jimmie Ward and play him at Free Safety. The Strong Safety position will be either Jaquiski Tartt or Marcell Harris who also came on strong at the end of last year.
Heading into this year’s NFL draft, the Niners have already made positive noise in Free Agency. This gives Lynch and Shanahan some options.
There are potentially 2 impact pass rushers in this year’s NFL draft, Nick Bosa (Ohio State) and Josh Allen (Tennessee). The Niners are drafting 2nd overall so will be guaranteed a shot at one of these two edge rushers. Additionally, the Arizona Cardinals may very well use their #1 pick on QB Kyler Murray. If they do, then the Niners in essence will have their #1 pick at their fingertips.
If they stay at #2 and if Arizona does pick Murray, they can pick either Nick Bosa, the consensus #1 Edge Rusher or Quinnen Williams, the consensus #1 defensive end in this year’s draft.
Since they already signed Dee Ford, another option is to trade down with potentially the Raiders (#4), the Buccaneers (#5), or the Jaguars (#7) to gain an additional draft pick in either round 1 or 2.
If they do trade down, a player that I like very much is Devin White, LB from LSU. He is another heat seeking LB. Or, they can possibly get Montez Sweat or Rashan Gary as their Edge Rusher. After all, there isn’t too much separating Bosa, Allen, Sweat and Gary. With their additional pick, they can draft a highly rated WR (N’Keal Harry, Kelvin Harmon, Deebo Samuel, Parris Campbell, Hakeem Butler, or Riley Ridley) and use their own #2 pick on a highly rated OL (Cody Ford, Garret Bradbury, Dalton Risner, Elgton Jenkins, Erik McCoy, or Kaleb McGary).
The first two rounds of this year’s draft seem to be filled with talent so whatever decisions Lynch and Shanahan make, I am firmly on board.
Worst to First is the Niner theme for 2019 !!!