Area of Weakness
It’s no secret the the 49ers are in arguably the worst position in the league. No noticeable talent, no Quarter Back, no franchise player, this is literally going to be a reset job for the Niners. That obviously means that you can justify bringing any player in to the organisation because whatever they do, it can’t be worse than the roster that they have at the moment. There are a fair few paths that the 49ers could go down whether that’s getting in a youthful defence to alleviate the pressure their offence is putting on them at the moment. One thing that Houston have proved over the past two years is that a quality defence can carry you a long way but the question is if the former Offensive co-ordinator, head coach would want to use a first round pick on the side of the ball he doesn’t control. Certainly for the 49ers, a 2 & 14 season couldn’t have come at a worse time from a draft perspective because the standard of quarterbacks this year but with a schedule that includes the Texans, Colts, Cowboys, Giants, Panthers alongside the Seahawks and Cardinals twice the 49ers will almost certainly be in the first 10 picks for the 2018 draft so there will be a huge possibility to pick up another QB next year.
Carlos Hyde, Torrey Smith and DeForest Buckner are arguably the only players that are safe in the organisation with a host of free agents on the market. The Niners could literally go anywhere with this. Draft a Quarterback, get a second Running Back to accompany Hyde, a second receiver to provide another option other than Smith, a safety or a pass rusher. You could justify going for a player in any position and yet it’s vital that this first round pick makes an impact in the next couple of years.
To make the decision even more interesting you’d have to take into account how viable the current roster is for the future success. When it comes to the ageing players, the position that comes to mind is Left Tackle and the faithful Joe Stayley who, although it doesn’t seem like it, isn’t going to last forever. The Niners secondary was also weak last year with Antoine Bethea showing his age and there’s Phil Dawson, the 42 year old Kicker who, naturally, they need to have a back up for as one big hit could end hit career.
Given the salary cap space that the Niners have available, it’s hard to see them not signing a big player on offense, which actually fits in with the talent in the draft this year. However we may see San Francisco pick players with a lot of potential and try to mould them into a starter for the 2018, especially at quarterback, despite it being a bad class. One thing is for sure, after looking at their schedule, there will be no pressure to have a winning season or get anywhere near the play offs, so whoever the Niners pick will have time to work on their game.
Options at 2
Being so early in the draft the table is really at the mercy of the 49ers. Therefore the question isn’t really who will be available but who will still be available in round two and three. It’s no secret that the Quarterback class this year is very poor and given the amount of corner backs that have declared, there may be an opportunity to strengthen the defensive side of the ball rather than shore up the offense.
This guy goes without saying and there’s a good reason why he’s as-good-as drafted by the Browns. At the combine we will see just how good he is on paper but after watching some film there seems to be only one thing he wants to do and that’s get to the Quarterback.
Although a second pass rusher may not be of the up most importance this year after drafting a Defensive Lineman in the 2016 draft but his statistics speak for himself. Eight and a half sacks in eleven games last season broken down into eight sacks and only one half sack. The Texas A&M Lineman made 33 tackles in the 2016 season and 59 tackles in 2015 at an average of 3 and 4.5 tackles per game.
His ability to fit into the 49ers system is questionable but two pass rushers are better than one. I’d site the Houston Texans as an example of how that can work with JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. The 49ers defence has been poor to say the least, especially during the back end of matches in which the 49ers were out scored on 10 occasions. An offensive line is most vulnerable when it is tiered and they only get tired if they work. That’s how the likes of Houston close out matches. Not by out scoring but by out-defending.
Jabrill is one of those players who is a jack of all trades but the question is whether he is a master of any of them. After watching some film he kind of reminds me of JJ Watt in his intensity that he plays with. When he’s on the defensive line or blitzing he goes for it 100%. Some of the hits that this guy gets on QBs and RBs are hard.
This guy is fast, strong and agile. He can tackle players that are virtually past him, pressure passers into throwing incompletion and interceptions and he’s a dab hand at running with to ball too. In 2016 Jabrill rushed for 167 yards and 3 touchdowns he returned for kick offs and punts for a combined 570 yards in 12 games. That’s 47 returning yards per game, averaging 26 yards per kick return and 14.8 per punt return.
In terms of how he fits in, with the 49ers looking like going for a 4-3 defence there is a lot of opportunity to get this guy in to cause havoc. If he can make an impact a lot of attention will be focused on him in the same way that Clay Matthews dominates that Green Bay D. There’s no reason why he can’t do so. He’s quick on the blitz, strong in the tackle and has a great pair of hands not to mention the affect that such a player can have on the rest of the team. If you’re too worried about one guy then you leave yourself exposed to the rest of the team.
Shock of all shocks another defender! Again, this guy can read the play well, he’s got great hands and his agility and anticipation are on point. He punishes quarterbacks for their mistakes and contests anything that goes near him. He can be very useful, not as a ball hawk but as a preventive influence when the Nines need a stop on 3rd down.
When it comes to games this guy rarely fails to make an impact. 41 tackle, 9 passes broken up and 4 interceptions for 61 yards including a touchdown may not seem a lot but we need to remember that Ole Miss didn’t have a particularly hard year this year. It could be argued that one Michigan and Wisconsin gave them a good game in which Lattimore made 5 and 9 tackles respectively.
It’s not necessarily a key player but the 49ers defence looked weary towards the end of every game. They were a beaten side purely because they needed to defend so much. But while the offence isn’t firing the defence needs to perform. The Giants showed how to defend a score of less that 20 points last season and did it very well throughout the back end of the season which is what the 49ers should aim for.
With all that said, I don’t think that there is a precedence to disregard all of the offensive prospects. Leonard Fourette is one such option. San Francisco have been missing an offensive spark or danger player since Kaepernick’s second season. From the guys that brought you Jeremy Hill comes Leonard Fourette, a fast, agile and tough runner. No comparisons to Zeke please but this guys could be interesting.
Following two 1000 yard seasons he finished on 843 from 129 attempts, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, which is the same or better than 2014 and 2014. He showed in 2014 his ability to return too, running for 625 yards off 25 attempts, including a touchdown. He’s also shown he can catch a ball too, catching the ball 15 times at an average of 9.7 yards. This guy seems like a solid player who can hit the ground running which is exactly what the Niners need.
Fourette capitalised from a quality O line and a weak opposition throughout his college career, something that the 49ers can’t provide for him. The success of Zeke is an anomaly and will not be recreated this year. The Cowboys had a fantastic O line, an amazing quarterback and a host of receivers who needed the spotlight to be shone on someone else once in awhile. The 49ers are not the Cowboys by any stretch of the imagination.
But the 49ers new coach Kyle Shanahan, who will be running the offence, use two running back last year and a host of quality receivers. Free agency may cough up the receivers but unless they are going to go for Le’Veon Bell, their best hope is drafting and hoping the easy transition for a running back proves a successful base to drop a quarterback into in 2018.
The options for the Niners are really this open. Safety, D-line, O-line, Receivers, they need them all but TE may be lower on the list. However watching this guy go at it he is another guy who seems to be a jack of a number of trades. He has a great pair of hand, can get open a lot, out ran a lot of the defences he played against and can really soak up the hits meaning that his yard after catch figures are high. His recent antics on Instagram also showed how much strength he has in his hands so he should have no problem protecting the ball either.
In the season just gone by OJ caught 45 passes for 595 yards and 3 touchdowns averaging 13.2 yards per carry. However, playing for Alabama, there is an argument to be had about whether he performs on the big stage. It’s all well and good having a 600 yard season but if 4 of those were100 yard games then questions need to be asked. But those questions are answered.
At Ole Miss he averaged 12 yards per carry, against Texas A&M he gained 69 yards, in Florida, he averaged 20.5 yards per carry and in the heart breaking loss to Clemson he had a 100 yard yard game. Showing that, not only can he move the chains and then some, he doesn’t shy away from a big match.
At the end of the day the Niners need someone who will perform and this guy seems to offer just that. We can talk all you want about star QBs and receivers who can catch the ball with one hand but in order to get to those positions teams need to move the chains and Tight Ends are more often than not the guys who are chosen to do that. Olsen, Davis and Witten are prime examples of that and coupled with a good blocking ability it may give the QB that little extra time to make a play.