Let’s be real about one thing — the San Francisco 49ers (3-6) don’t appear to be making a playoff push anytime soon, so now is the time to assess what the team has moving forward. A team that lost six of their last eight games including three divisional match-ups, it’s time to turn the page, as they try to bounce back in 2016.
A task easier said than done, as the team has plenty of dire needs across the board, there are some positives to take from this roster.
Starting with the offensive side of the ball they appear to have found their workhorse in second-year RB Carlos Hyde. A player who excels in a one cut-back system, Hyde was among the league leaders in rushing before a stress fracture ended that storybook season.
In seven games played this season, Hyde has rushed for 470 yards and three touchdowns. A true bruiser between the tackles, you can’t help but appreciate Hyde’s potential, as he will be the focal point of the team’s offense in 2016.
However, it all starts up front and that’s where the 49ers need to improve. The team already has LT Joe Staley as the protector of the blind-side, but aside from that plenty of questions marks across the line.
I highly doubt the team brings back LG Alex Boone next year, as a long-term deal would have been struck by now, to prevent him from entering free-agency this off-season. Instead look for the team to sign RG Andrew Tiller, who continues to show plenty of promise as a starting guard in the NFL.
A cheaper alternative than what Boone will command on the open-market, look for Tiller to be the play here down in the trenches as GM Trent Baalke does not like to overpay for guards — hence G Mike Iupati.
But what about the right tackle position? The team’s Achilles heel on the offensive side of the ball continues to be RT Erik Pears, as that experiment has failed miserably. Look for the team to either draft a tackle or sign another one via free-agency, as anyone would be an upgrade over Pears.
Three options to consider include drafting either RT Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame) or Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss), or spending right tackle money on Cleveland Browns RT Mitchell Schwartz.
Schwartz is durable, reliable, and dependable. A very intelligent player with the football savvy to match, it’s no wonder that Schwartz would be a plug-and-play player if he were to come to San Francisco.
But now it also appears that RT Anthony Davis will be returning to the gridiron as he alluded to that possibility via his twitter account. Whomever that player will be, it’s apparent the 49ers need more help at right tackle as rookie RT Trenton Brown is no shoe-in starter.
But what about the skill positions, mainly wide-receiver? The team has deep-threat WR Torrey Smith but they need more help at the position. Look for the 49ers to roll the dice on redshirt rookie WR DeAndre Smelter.
At 6-2, 226, Smelter has a huge catching radius who can beat one-on-one coverage between the numbers. Whether running a quick hitch or a deep-post, Smelter has the lateral quickness to make the first defender miss allowing him to pick up crucial yards-after-the-catch.
Look for Smelter to get his chance to shine in 2016, as he will be given the green light and a full go when the season starts.
With the 49ers trying to fight tooth and nail to muster their first winning streak of the 2015, it won’t come easy as they face the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks.