Is 49ers' Group of Offensive Skill Players Underrated? - NBC Bay Area
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Is 49ers' Group of Offensive Skill Players Underrated?

There's no running back, wide receiver or tight end who would rank among the NFL's elite, yet there are many who could thrive in 2018

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    Is 49ers' Group of Offensive Skill Players Underrated?
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    Former Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon (No. 21) is set to be the 49ers' No. 1 ball carrier in 2018. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    The 49ers surged offensively late last season once Jimmy Garoppolo took over at quarterback. In winning five straight games, San Francisco averaged 28.8 points per game.

    Now, going into 2018, the Niners have become a hot choice to be an emerging franchise with a Kyle Shanahan-schemed offense, Garoppolo and an offseason to add impact players on defense.

    But not everyone around the NFL has bought into the talent level on this roster.

    This week, in fact, analyst Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com ranked the 49ers just 26thin the league in a ranking of offensive weapons (running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, excluding quarterbacks offensive line and scheme). Barnwell ranks the 49ers as being the third-best collection of offensive skill-position players in the NFC West behind the Arizona Cardinals (20th) and Los Angeles Rams (sixth), but ahead of the Seattle Seahawks (28th).

    Wrote Barnwell: “The 49ers have their star quarterback and an offensive guru as coach, but they’re more about depth than impact contributors at the skill positions. The curious decision to pay Jerick McKinnon more than $10 million in 2018 to join Kyle Jusczyk in the backfield gives the Niners two versatile players, but neither has been particularly effective as a runner nor receivers during the majority of their respective careers.

    “Marquise Goodwin had his best pro season by a wide margin last season, and he will be joined by the returning Pierre Garcon and second-round pick Dante Pettis, but the most likely place for growth is with second-year target George Kittle at tight end.”

    Barnwell makes some good points, in that there is no wide receiver, running back or tight end who would rank on anyone’s list of elite players in the league. Yet the roster is filled with players who can be very effective in Shanahan’s scheme. The whole looks far greater than the parts. As Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said late in the 2017 season, the combination of Garoppolo and Shanahan is a “dangerous combination” that could get the best out of a skill-position group that – on paper – isn’t as strong as the Rams’ and Cardinals’ groups.

    The 49ers are scheduled to report for training camp July 25.