The San Francisco 49ers had a season of two halves last term, ending 2017 on a high note after a terrible start to the campaign.
Kyle Shanahan’s first season as head coach looked to be heading towards the club picking first or second overall in the 2018 Draft.
However, at mid-season the 49ers pulled off an incredible trade to secure the services of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots.
General manager John Lynch parted with just a second-round pick to acquire Garoppolo, who turned the fortunes of the club around immediately.
The 26-year-old was given time to learn the playbook before an injury to CJ Beathard pressed him into action against the Seattle Seahawks.
He threw a touchdown pass to get off the mark, although the game ended in defeat. However, from then on the 49ers knew nothing other than victory as Garoppolo won all five of his remaining games, including a hammering of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Garoppolo is now the future of the franchise, having been handed a lucrative five-year deal. There is blossoming talent on both sides of the ball. It gives hope that San Francisco can return to be Super Bowl challengers after four years in the wilderness after the departure of Jim Harbaugh.
The difference between the previous quarterbacks and Garoppolo was night and day. Garoppolo used his poise and accuracy to drive his team to five wins on the bounce to end the term. Expectations are sky high now of Tom Brady’s protégé. He will now represent the team that his former mentor supported as a boy and dreamed of a playing of as a youngster. The 26-year-old has won all of his seven starts, including two in place of Brady at the Patriots.
He appears to have the winning mentality needed to thrive in the NFL. Garoppolo has strong leadership qualities and could be the next great quarterback in the league. Bill Belichick did not want to part with him, highlighting his potential with Shanahan. The head coach got the best out of Matt Ryan in the 2016 season, which played a huge role in him landing with the 49ers. If he is able to get the same level out of Garoppolo then the 49ers should have no issues returning to the playoffs.
The statistics for Garoppolo were not overwhelming, throwing seven touchdowns to five interceptions. That should improve with further time in the offense. He developed an impressive rapport with wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, whose pace over the top will be vital once again for the club.
Pierre Garcon had an injury-hit campaign, but his return will give Garoppolo a powerful weapon downfield. George Kittle and Garrett Celek will provide solid options from the tight end position. A concern will be the lack of a power back following the departure of Carlos Hyde. Jerick McKinnon was signed from the Minnesota Vikings, but is more a receiving back. Joe Williams and Matt Breida may offer a threat, although their quality is unknown at this point.
The offensive line has been strengthened with the selection of Mike McGlinchey in the first round of the 2018 Draft. He along with the rest of his colleagues on the line have to support Garoppolo to offer him the time to work his magic once again.
The 49ers have slowly been building a solid defensive unit to match the dominant group that was seen in their run to the Super Bowl in the 2012 campaign. It starts on the defensive line where the club have poured serious investment in draft capital to select Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas.
All three players have not reached the peak of their potential, but their progress will be crucial to the rise of the team. Thomas was selected with the third-overall pick in the 2017 Draft. He had a solid rookie term, but more will be expected of him. Buckner and Armstead have not been quite as forceful on the line. There will be a level of disappointment if they are not able to kick on and become the players that were so dominant at the college level.
Reuben Foster had an eventful rookie season, missing time due to injury before taking his place on the field. Foster did endure a legal problem that threatened to curtail his NFL career, but the issues was proven to be a falsehood. However, there are still concerns with his off-the-field behaviour, with the linebacker due to the miss the first two matches of the 2018 term for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The linebacking unit is thin and the 49ers need their talented player at his best in the coming campaign.
Last season it would have been unthinkable to see Richard Sherman in a San Francisco uniform. However, the 30-year-old joined Shanahan’s men following his release by the Seattle Seahawks. Sherman tormented the 49ers during his days in Seattle – none more so than his decisive pick in the 2013 NFC Championship Game.
He will lead a young secondary, although the cornerback is coming off an Achilles’ injury. Sherman displayed signs of decline last term and is approaching the age where cornerbacks tend to lose their elite skills. Ahkello Witherspoon and Jaquiski Tartt have to take steps forward in their development to aid Sherman.
The 49ers are in a battle with the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC West crown. The Rams have made a lot of improvements to their side that won the division last term and will be making a make-or-break move for the Super Bowl. Shanahan’s men are not quite at that level, lacking the offensive firepower to match their rivals.
However, Garoppolo is a far better quarterback than Jared Goff. If the 26-year-old can raise the level of his game to an elite level, the 49ers could win the division at odds of +344 with Bookmaker. Anything beyond that is probably out of the question, for now. They could come into to win over nine matches at +115 with TopBet and to reach the playoffs at +145 on the talent of Garoppolo alone.
Due to the dearth of options at running back, Garoppolo will be required to throw a lot over the course of the campaign. Therefore take him at odds of +1573 with Bookmaker to lead the NFL in passing yards. His lack of weapons could make the prospect difficult though. Given that the 26-year-old has not played a full season in the league, he may not throw for over 4,500 yards. Take him on the under on 4,399 passing yards at +100 with BetOnline, but over 24 touchdowns at -105 .
McKinnon will have the largest role of his career in the NFL. In Minnesota he was a backup to Adrian Peterson then Dalvin Cook. He’s not a player that can rack up a lot of yards through the tackles therefore take the under on 859 rushing yards at -115 and under eight touchdowns at -115 with BetOnline.
San Francisco 49ers To Reach The Playoffs
San Francisco 49ers To Win Nine Matches Or Over
San Francisco 49ers To Win NFC West
Jimmy Garoppolo To Lead The NFL In Passing Yards
Jimmy Garoppolo To Pass For Under 4,399 Yards
Jimmy Garoppolo To Throw 24 Touchdowns Or Over
Jerick McKinnon To Rush Under 859 Yards
Jerick McKinnon To Score Under Eight Touchdowns
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