How 49ers' additions during draft fit into the big picture

How 49ers' additions during draft fit into the big picture

During the course of the three-day NFL Draft, 49ers general manager John Lynch made six trades to finish the weekend with 10 draft picks and one veteran player.

There is a specific plan for each of those players, Lynch said.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Parcells sent 49ers CEO Jed York a text and asked him to pass along some words of advice for the first-time general manager.

“He talked about making sure if you’re going to draft someone that everybody from personnel to coaching staff has a clear vision for what this player’s going to be for us,” Lynch said of the text from Parcells. “And we’ve tried to, with each player, challenge coaches to say, ‘How are you going to play this guy?’

“And if there’s any (vagueness) or it’s not crystal clear how they anticipate playing him, then we’ve either challenged them, ‘You better get there or I can’t feel comfortable taking him,’ and move on.”

Here is a look at the 11 players acquired and how they fit into what the 49ers are trying to build:

First round, No. 3: DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford
Thomas has the versatility to play – or at least be given a chance – at every position along the 49ers’ four-man line with the exception of nose tackle. The defensive end position on the strong side is his natural position. He is also a nice fit at the defensive tackle spot next to the team’s pass-rusher position on the weak side. Thomas could also get a look at that pass-rusher position, where Arik Armstead will get a look when he gets healthy from shoulder surgery.

First round, No. 31: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
The 49ers signed veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith to a five-year, $26.5 million contract with $11.5 million fully guaranteed on the first day of free agency. But the 49ers traded up to grab Foster at the end of the first round with the thought of playing him in the same position. Foster will immediately learn the “Will” linebacker position. “That’s where he’ll lineup, but he’s going to be sideline to sideline,” Lynch said. Eventually, Foster could replace Bowman at middle linebacker. In Foster, the 49ers envision a player who can also make contributions on special teams, in pass coverage and as a pass-rusher.

Third round, No. 66: CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson lined up at the cornerback positions during the voluntary veteran minicamp last week. Witherspoon is a talented player who is relatively new to the game. He admitted his tackling needs a lot of work. If he can play with a physicality and an attitude, he could win a starting job as a rookie over some of the other unproven cornerbacks on the roster.

Third round, No. 104: QB C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Coach Kyle Shanahan hand-picked Beathard to develop for future seasons. There is no pressure. Beathard comes to the 49ers as the clear No. 3 quarterback behind starter Brian Hoyer and backup Matt Barkley. “He’s extremely intelligent,” Shanahan said. “Football means the world to him. He really works at it. He’s accurate and he can process and play the game very fast in the pocket, I think that gives you a chance to play in this league. By no means does that mean that he’s ready to do that, but I think that’s a great guy that you have a chance with.”

Trade with Denver: RB Kapri Bibbs
Lynch served as a TV analyst for the Broncos exhibition games, and he liked what he saw from Bibbs, who spent three seasons in Denver. Bibbs finally earned a role last season with 29 carries for 129 yards in 12 games. He figures to compete for action on third downs, where Shanahan can isolate him in favorable matchups to catch passes out of the backfield.

Fourth round, No. 121: RB Joe Williams, Utah
Carlos Hyde is entering the final year of his contract, and he is going to have to show a lot to warrant a second contract with the organization. Williams (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) could take over as the team’s top running back. The 49ers initially removed Williams from consideration because he walked away from his college team early in the season. But Shanahan watched him on film and loved what he saw. After digging deeper into his background, the 49ers felt confident enough to invest a fourth-round pick in him.

Fifth round, No. 146: TE George Kittle, Iowa
Kittle is a good blocker who has a lot of upside as a pass-catcher. He is just four pounds lighter than O.J. Howard and ran an official time in the 40-yard dash at the combine that clocked just .01 seconds slower than the first tight end selected. The 49ers spent the weekend shopping veteran Vance McDonald in a trade. His time appears to be running out. It does not help him that Shanahan selected a tight end that exhibits the traits he wants from that position.

Fifth round, No. 177: WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Taylor caught 136 passes and led the nation with 1,803 receiving yards as a slot receiver. His addition places oft-injured Bruce Ellington’s future with the team on shaky ground. Taylor is more quick than fast, and that is OK for how the 49ers envision using him. “This was a guy that we were excited with in his ability to separate in the slot, which is such a key component in today’s football,” Lynch said. Jeremy Kerley begins the offseason program as the 49ers' top slot receiver.

Sixth round, No. 198: DT D.J. Jones, Mississippi
The 49ers’ run defense was horrible last year, and it all started at nose tackle. The team signed veteran Earl Mitchell as the presumptive starter. The 49ers are still trying to find the best fit for Quinton Dial, who could work his way into that position, as well. Jones gives the 49ers more brute strength on the inside. Said Lynch, “He’s a stout nose, who also has three-technique versatility, but yet I think really dynamic."

Sixth round, No. 202: DE/OLB Pita Taumeopenu, Utah
The 49ers have a few players they plan to audition at the pass-rush spot known as the “Leo.” Most of those players are big-bodied and are not prototypes for that position. Taumeopenu provides the 49ers with a dynamic pass-rusher who recorded nine sacks last season. “We felt like we’ve got so many big guys, we just want a speed rusher off the edge,” Lynch said. “He gave us a guy that, again, a guy that we grew to become very fond of throughout the process.”

Seventh round, No. 229: DB Adrian Colbert, Miami
Colbert is a hard-hitter who could make the team as a rookie based entirely off his play on special teams. The 49ers will place him at cornerback during the rookie minicamp. Depending on how he looks playing that position in Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme, the 49ers could move him to free safety to get work behind Jimmie Ward.

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”