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49ers 2018 Positional Breakdown: Quarterback

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49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo
© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Over the offseason, we break down each of the San Francisco 49ers’ position groups for the upcoming 2018 NFL season. In this edition, we break down a group that’s nearly set in stone — the Niners’ quarterbacks.

This is the second edition of our 49ers 2018 offseason positional breakdowns. Check out the first edition — covering the 49ers’ intense competition at running back — here.

In 2018, the San Francisco 49ers are slated to spend 40 percent more at the quarterback position than any other team in the NFL — and this was by design, given the team’s excess cap space situation at the conclusion of the 2017 NFL season. With the vast majority of the Niners’ spending going to a single player – quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo — there’s no question who will start under center for the team this season.

We also know who Garoppolo’s backup will be — QB C.J. Beathard — given the draft capital general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan spent on the second-year player. While the 49ers are nearly assured to begin the season with just two quarterbacks on the roster, one more QB will make the team’s practice squad, and that spot is up for grabs. Let’s take a look at each of the team’s quarterbacks, beginning with the San Francisco 49ers’ new franchise QB:

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Everything changed for the San Francisco 49ers’ franchise when Lynch traded for Garoppolo. The addition of the former New England Patriots quarterback shifted the 49ers’ rebuild into overdrive, instantly transforming the team from one of the NFL’s worst to a legitimate playoff contender. Garoppolo’s play and leadership during his five straight wins earned him a lucrative five-year contract that briefly made him the highest-paid player in the NFL. “The Jimmy Garoppolo Effect” was felt by the previously one-win team, as Garoppolo’s Niners led the league in yards-per-drive, points-per-drive and scoring percentage. Garoppolo is the new face of the 49ers’ franchise, and a player who will hopefully provide highlights for years to come.

QB C.J. Beathard

Beathard’s rookie season was a disappointment after Shanahan pushed Lynch to trade up in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft to select the former University of Iowa quarterback. Beathard wasn’t an obvious improvement over veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer, who was winless when Shanahan finally decided to give the rookie a chance at the 49ers’ starting QB job during a Week-6 loss to the Washington Redskins. Unfortunately for Beathard, the Niners suffered blowout losses in each of the next two games, and then the team traded for Garoppolo. Outside of his lone victory over the New York Giants, Beathard had a difficult time sustaining drives, leading his team on just three touchdown drives in his other four starts. Beathard finished the season with a quarterback rating just under 70, but the rookie also showed flashes of competent play. With a price tag under $1 million in each of the next two seasons, Beathard is the team’s short-term solution for Garoppolo’s backup spot, but the quarterback will need to show improvement over the next two years if he expects to finish his rookie contract with the team.

QB Nick Mullens

Second-year quarterback Nick Mullens spent the 2017 season on the 49ers’ practice squad, after the team signed the QB as an undrafted free agent. Before signing with the Niners, Mullens was a productive college quarterback at Southern Mississippi, but his small frame and sub-par arm strength will likely preclude him from having a long-term career in the league. However, the 49ers’ coaching staff was happy with Mullens last season, and given his knowledge of Shanahan’s system and his year of experience with the team, Mullens is the front-runner for the job, and should be the second quarterback off the bench when preseason games begin.

QB Jack Heneghan

Rookie quarterback Jack Heneghan will look to unseat Mullens for the role of 49ers practice squad quarterback. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Heneghan is a more prototypical NFL-sized quarterback than the 6-foot-1, 187-pound Mullens; however, Heneghan was less productive in his two years as Dartmouth’s starting QB. The 49ers liked what they saw from Heneghan during his local Pro Day workout, although the quarterback is certainly viewed as a long-term developmental project. Heneghan will see playing time this preseason — particularly in the 49ers’ final preseason game — where he’ll be fighting for a spot on the 49ers’ practice squad, and a potential future in the NFL.

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers - part of the Locked On Podcast Network. You may have seen Chris Wilson’s work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, ClutchPoints, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris Wilson on Twitter @cgawilson.

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