The 49ers will draft No. 2 overall for a reason. They earned the pick, with a dismal 2-14 performance. The team’s talent simply wasn’t on par with most of the teams they faced in 2016.
But new general manager John Lynch says the 49ers may not be as bad as most people think.
“I don’t look up at the film we’ve been watching and see a 2-14 team,” Lynch said this week in an interview on KNBR, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “I see some pieces that are hard to build, you know? A great example of that, I think, you look at our offensive line and defensive line. I’m actually excited about those groups. And those groups are where, I believe, football games are won and lost. It starts there.”
Certainly, there is some talent. Left tackle Joe Staley remains a foundation piece, running back Carlos Hyde has been very good when healthy and defensive linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner are the team’s No. 1 picks the past two years.
But there are certain position groups that look weak, such as quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and cornerback. The 49ers will need to upgrade at those spots this offseason through free agency and the draft if they want to make strides in 2017 under first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan, and Lynch acknowledges that.
“Do we have some places – probably the ultimate position, quarterback – where we need to improve? Absolutely,” he said. “And we’re committed to doing that. But there’s some pieces there that have me excited, have Kyle excited. So there’s a long list of things, but we’re working hard at all of them.”
Players who have worked with Shanahan previously, in stops at Atlanta, Washington and Houston, have vouched for Shanahan’s ability to get the most out of what he has. That will be put to the test now in his first year as a head coach. But former wide receiver Donte Stallworth, who was with Shanahan in Washington, believes Shanahan will get the 49ers roster to perform better than it did in 2016.
“Kyle is able to get the most out of his players,” Stallworth told KNBR in a separate interview. “However they draft this year and however they move around this offseason with free agents … Kyle will definitely have a chance to be successful there over the course of the next few years.”