49ers

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.

Snap count: 49ers' rookie running backs watch the veterans

Snap count: 49ers' rookie running backs watch the veterans

SANTA CLARA – Rookie running backs Joe Williams and Matt Breida have made strong bids for roster spots. But on Saturday night, the 49ers wanted to see what the veterans could do.

Williams entered the game late and played only four snaps of offense. He carried once for 1 yard. Another designed run play was aborted when a Denver Broncos defensive lineman got into the backfield so quickly he forced a fumble before the handoff could occur.

Breida, an undrafted rookie from Georgia Southern, did not see any snaps on offense in the 49ers’ 33-14 loss to the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said the plan all along was for Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs to see a lot of action after neither played in the exhibition opener.

“We’re trying to give them a chance to compete,” Shanahan said. “We see it in practice each day, but in games you want to see what guys do breaking through those arm tackles and see how they perform.

“We have a tough competition at back. If you rotate them every series, you don’t really give anyone a chance to show what they are. We try to do it that way. I’ve really tried to do it that way my entire career. You try to select which games you’re going to try to give guys a number of carries, so you have enough when it’s all said and done after four to try to make a decision.”

The 49ers’ run game was non-existent against the Broncos. Starter Carlos Hyde gained 26 yards on eight attempts. Bibbs managed 6 yards on four carries, while Hightower was thrown for minus-1 yard on three rushes.

In the exhibition opener last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, Williams gained 60 yards on seven carries, while Breida rushed for 40 yards on 11 tries. Raheem Mostert, the 49ers' leading rusher (15 carries, 89 yards) in the exhibition opener, was limited to just four plays on special teams.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ playing time on offense, defense and special teams:

OFFENSE
Quarterback – *Brian Hoyer 24, C.J. Beathard 20, Matt Barkley 4
Running back – *Carlos Hyde 20, Tim Hightower 14, Kapri Bibbs 10, *Kyle Juszczyk 6, Tyler McCloskey 5, Joe Williams 4
Wide receiver – Louis Murphy 23, *Marquise Goodwin 18, Kendrick Bourne 15, Jeremy Kerley 13, Aldrick Robinson 13, Victor Bolden 12, Trent Taylor 11, *Pierre Garçon 10, DeAndre Carter 5
Tight end – George Kittle 22, Garrett Celek 12, Logan Paulsen 10, *Vance McDonald 9, Blake Bell 5, Cole Hikutini 3
Offensive line – Erik Magnuson 25, *Trent Brown 24, *Zane Beadles 23, *Daniel Kilgore 23, *Brandon Fusco 23, *Joe Staley 23, JP Flynn 21, Tim Barnes 21, Garry Gilliam 21, John Theus 20, Darrell Williams 4, Norman Price 4, Andrew Lauderdale 4, Andrew Gardner 4

DEFENSE
Defensive line – D.J. Jones 38, Leger Douzable 36, Pita Taumoepenu 31, *Chris Jones 30, Quinton Dial 23, *Arik Armstead 23, *Earl Mitchell 19, Solomon Thomas 16, *Tank Carradine 15, Noble Nwachukwu 15, Elvis Dumervil 8
Linebacker – Dekoda Watson 33, Brock Coyle 30, Ray-Ray Armstrong 30, Ahmad Brooks 30, *Eli Harold 23, *Reuben Foster 23, *NaVorro Bowman 23, Shayne Skov 22, Alex Calitro 21
Cornerback – Asa Jackson 40, Ahkello Witherspoon 39, Keith Reaser 30, Will Davis 22, *Dontae Johnson 20, *Rashard Robinson 20, K’Waun Williams 11
Safety – *Lorenzo Jerome 37, Jaquiski Tartt 33, *Eric Reid 23, Don Jones 22, Vinnie Sunseri 19, Adrian Colbert 19
* -- Starter

SPECIAL TEAMS
D.Jones 18, Bell 17, Taumoepenu 17, DeAndre Smelter 16, Jerome 16, Celek 11, Watson 11, Coyle 10, Sunseri 10, Armstrong 10, Skov 9, C.Jones 9, Tartt 9, Bradley Pinion 8, Calitro 8, Colbert 8, Paulsen 8, Jackson 8, Kyle Nelson 7, Bolden 7, Bibbs 6, Witherspoon 6, Reaser 5, Dial 5, Davis 5, Raheem Mostert 4, Harold 4, Carter 4, Johnson 4, D.Williams 4, D.J. Jones 4, Robbie Gould 3, Robinson 3, J.Williams 3, Flynn 3, Douzable 3, Carradine 3, Nwachukwu 2, Price 2, Taylor 2, Kerley 2, Barnes 2, Theus 2, Magnuson 2, McCloskey 2, Armstrong 2, Foster 2, Reid 2, Bowman 2, Mitchell 2, Nick Rose 1, Matt Breida 1, Tim Patrick 1, Thomas 1, Bourne 1, Lauderdale 1, Brooks 1

DID NOT PLAY
QB Nick Mullens, WR Aaron Burbridge, DB Will Redmond, DB Jimmie Ward, DB Prince Charles Iworah, LB Sean Porter, LB Aaron Lynch, G Joshua Garnett, DL Ronald Blair, DL DeForest Buckner

Potential big play slips from Hoyer's grasp during preseason loss to Broncos

Potential big play slips from Hoyer's grasp during preseason loss to Broncos

SANTA CLARA – Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw the ball well enough to impress the Denver Broncos’ defensive backs during the 49ers’ two joint practices.

While he hit most of his passes on Saturday night, it was one that slipped away that summarized the 49ers’ 33-14 loss to the Broncos in the second exhibition game for both teams.

Hoyer had plenty of time to throw and saw a potential big play unfolding as he started to throw to wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. But the ball popped out of Hoyer’s right hand as he began to throw.

“I was getting ready to rip it to Kerley,” Hoyer said. “He had a double-move route, and I thought he was going to win. I went to throw it. And I was going to throw it hard, and literally, I think my arm even went forward and I was looking around, ‘What happened to the ball?' "

The ball ended up loose on the ground, where Broncos defensive lineman Shelby Harris recovered.

“My quarterbacks coach asked me, ‘When’s the last time that happened to you?’ Hoyer said. “Maybe a few years ago in practice, that happened one time. I never had that happen in a game. It’s the worst feeling. You go to throw the ball and you’re looking, and all of a sudden, you look around and you have no idea where it is.”

Hoyer and the 49ers passing game was sharp during two practice sessions with the Broncos during the week, prompting All-Pro defensive backs Aqib Talib and Chris Harris to praise the Hoyer, as well as coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.

Hoyer completed 8 of 11 pass attempts for 89 yards under the lights of Levi's Stadium. He threw an interception when 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin juggled the ball and Denver defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris wrestled the ball away from him as they tumbled to the ground.

“There weren’t any reads on his 11 attempts that I was upset with,” Shanahan said of Hoyer.

“(On) his pick, Marquise has to catch that ball. He threw it to him. That keeps the drive alive. He just didn’t catch it clean and the DB made a good play. I wish Brian could’ve played longer to get a chance to get into some sort of rhythm.”

In the game, the 49ers committed 11 penalties for 86 yards and turned the ball over five times. Denver scored 27 points off those turnovers.

“I don’t think any of us should be pleased right now,” Hoyer said. “When you put the defense in that situation, regardless of whether it’s a regular-season game or a preseason game, you should feel displeased with the performance.”