49ers Mailbag: Offense nears NFL record

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49ers Mailbag: Offense nears NFL record

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers' defense is one game away from setting an NFL record for fewest rushing touchdowns allowed in a season.But the San Francisco offense is also on the verge of carving out a spot in the NFL record book, too.The 49ers have not committed a turnover in the past 18 quarters. They have committed only 10 turnovers this season. If they make it through Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams without giving the ball away, the 49ers will tie the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season.The New England Patriots set the mark last year with 10. The 1982 Kansas City Chiefs committed 12 turnovers.And that leads us into our first question from the 49ers Mailbag . . .

Do you think the offense will open up during the playoffs? (Mike Brown Sr.)
If that occurs, something will have gone terribly wrong for the 49ers, and their playoff stay will be a short one.After 15 games, it's very apparent what works for the 49ers. And a wide-open, spread-'em-out, throw-the-ball-around-the-field approach is not the formula.Quarterback Alex Smith is not going to be throwing for 350 yards a game in the playoffs. But what he can do is to continue to do what he has done this season. He's been one of the best in league history at avoiding turnovers.Smith has thrown five interceptions and lost just two fumbles on the season. The 49ers lead the NFL with a plus-26 turnover margin.Do you ever envision the defense switching to a 4-3 to utilize the strengths of Aldon Smith and get him on the field more? (Shawn Joseph)
No, because I think the 49ers believe that Aldon Smith is eventually going to be better-suited to standing up as an outside linebacker. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has a long history in the 3-4 defense, so he's not going to change overnight.And where the 49ers really succeeded this season was allowing Smith to ease into the transition. The coaches had him concentrate as a rookie on rushing the passer as a defensive end. During practices and some game situations, he worked on his techniques as an outside linebacker, too. He played 10 snaps of outside linebacker last week against Seattle when Ahmad Brooks was out with an elbow injury.Look for Smith to start next season as outside linebacker. Brooks is a free agent, so his return is not guaranteed. But if Brooks is back, there's a strong chance Smith would take over for Parys Haralson as the every-down guy.Any word on Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson deals for next season? (David Caracas)
Nothing is going to happen until after the season. Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson are likely to hit the open market. Both are going to be looking for the kind of free-agent love that they did not get a year ago.Hey, let's face it, Rogers and Goldson were very disappointed with what occurred in free agency. Rogers signed a one-year contract after looking for a lucrative multi-year deal. Goldson was said to be looking for "Eric Weddle money." Their stock is high right now.Both Rogers and Goldson want to remain with the 49ers. But the 49ers are trying to follow the mold of the New England Patriots -- a franchise that does not regularly compete with the over-spenders in the league. Rogers and Goldson might have to make sacrifices to return to the 49ers.I think there's a better chance Goldson re-signs. If Rogers leaves, the 49ers feel pretty good about Tarell Brown and Chris Cullliver as the starters with Tramaine Brock as the No. 3. Then, they can add a Carlos Rogers-esque veteran who slips through the cracks while also investing a draft pick in a corner, too.

Tom Rathman to be inducted into 49ers Hall of Fame

Tom Rathman to be inducted into 49ers Hall of Fame

Former 49ers fullback Tom Rathman, who was not retained this season on Kyle Shanahan’s coaching staff, will be coming back to the organization in a permanent fashion.

Rathman, 54, who spent a total of 23 seasons as a player and coach, will be inducted into the 49ers Hall of Fame, CEO Jed York announced on Tuesday.

“Tom Rathman embodies everything this organization wants in its players, coaches and staff,” York said in a statement. “Throughout his more than two decades with our team, Tom set a tone for the 49ers both on and off the field. As a player, he was selfless, hard-working and dedicated to bringing his best every single day. Tom coached very much the same way.

"It was his mission to help every man he coached realize his full potential, as both a player and a man. Tom is family and we are so thrilled to induct him into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame, where he will take his place among the all-time greats in our team’s history.”

Rathman discussed having a role on the 49ers’ coaching staff after the hiring of Shanahan. But Shanahan had already promised the position of running backs coach to Bobby Turner.

“It was all positive,” said Rathman told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “I have no hard feelings. It’s just the nature of the business. Everybody just has to understand that. In pro football, coaches get fired and new guys come in and they bring their guys. I totally understand it. I don’t have a problem with it. Being in the business for 28 years, playing and coaching, you understand what it is. You can never take anything for granted.”

Rathman played for the 49ers from 1986 to ’93. He was a starter on two Super Bowl-winning teams and seven NFC West champions. Used mostly as a lead-blocker for Roger Craig, Rathman’s best season came in 1989, when he caught 73 passes for 616 yards.

After his playing career concluded with the Los Angeles Rams in 1994, Rathman entered into a career in coaching. He coached under Steve Mariucci from 1997 to 2002. He returned to coach with the 49ers in 2009, serving on the coaching staffs of head coaches Mike Singletary, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.

“I’ve always considered myself a 49er and I always will consider myself a 49er," Rathman said in a statement. "I’ll take that brand with me wherever I go because that’s who I am. It feels great to be with the guys who are already in the 49ers Hall of Fame. Dating back to Joe Perry, it’s an honor to be associated with the likes of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark.

"That’s a lot of history right there. To be able to say that you’re in a fraternity with those guys so to speak, the 49ers Hall of Fame fraternity, says volumes. It’s pretty special.”

49ers draft board consists of nearly 200 prospects

49ers draft board consists of nearly 200 prospects

The 49ers new draft grading system is inspired by the New England Patriots, but their draft menu consists of a lot more options.

“We’ve got just under 200 players on our draft board, that we see as draftable players on our board,” 49ers general manager John Lynch told reporters Monday at team headquarters in Santa Clara.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time in here and it was needed this year because I had a lot of catch-up to do. I can tell you that just (Sunday) night I finally got to the point, I always knew as a player like, ‘OK. I’m ready.’ That moment was (Sunday) for me where I said, ‘OK. I’m ready. I’m ready to go on this thing.’ That’s a good feeling.”

The 49ers have 10 draft picks scheduled for the three-day draft, including the No. 2 overall selection. With 73 players under contract, the 49ers figure to add approximately 17 rookies through the draft and as free agents. The NFL's seven-round draft will result in 253 players being selected.

Lynch was hired out of the FOX broadcast booth a week before the Super Bowl. The following week, Lynch assembled all of the team’s scouts for meetings in Santa Clara.

“When we first brought scouts in right after the Super Bowl we were kind of working off the old grading system,” Lynch said. “But what helped was the grading system that they use in Denver, which kind of derived from one that was developed in New England.”

One of Lynch’s first hires was former Broncos college scouting director Adam Peters as 49ers vice president of player personnel. New coach Kyle Shanahan was also familiar with the system because, like Peters, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff worked in the Patriots’ scouting department.

“In these last three weeks of draft meetings we moved over to that grading scale,” Lynch said.

“I’ve always been someone who thinks you should listen to multiple opinions and we’ve been very collaborative. I believe in strong opinions. Someone once told me, ‘Strong opinions, weakly held.’ So are you open to different thoughts and someone makes you think? But ultimately someone’s got to make decisions.”

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio recently told Boston-area reporters that New England's draft board consists of only 50 to 75 players who fit as draft picks for their team. The Patriots have seven scheduled draft picks but none in the first two rounds.

"I would say it varies year to year, but I would say our draft board is smaller than most," Caserio said. "We are trying to find players that we feel comfortable with on all levels that we would actually draft -- not that are going to get drafted.

"It's players that we would draft, that we would actually feel comfortable with in our program in some capacity."

49ERS 2017 DRAFT PICKS
1. First round: No. 2 overall
2. Second round: No. 34 overall
3. Third round: No. 66 overall
4. Fourth round: No. 109 overall
5. Fourth round: No. 143 overall (compensatory)
6. Fifth round: No. 146 overall
7. Fifth round: No. 161 (pick acquired from Washington in 2015 trade for TE Derek Carrier)
8. Sixth round: No. 198 overall (from Baltimore in trade with C Jeremy Zuttah for No. 186)
9. Sixth round: No. 202 overall (pick acquired from Denver in 2015 trade for TE Vernon Davis)
10. Seventh round: No. 219 overall (pick acquired from Cleveland in 2015 trade for Andy Lee)