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San Francisco 49ers

Six things we’d like to see from the Niners over the final two games

Jon Chik

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49ers Running Back Jeff Wilson

The 49ers provided the first gift of the holiday season on Sunday when they edged the Seahawks 26-23 in overtime after going 0-10 against their hated division rival starting with the 2013 NFC Championship. With Niner fans feeling good after what was undoubtedly the signature win of the campaign, here are six other items we’ve added to our Christmas list over the final two games of the season.

Twenty-plus targets for Dante Pettis

Pepper the rookie. After a disappointing start to the season that was due in part to a foot injury, Pettis has stepped up in recent weeks, hauling in 17 receptions for 338 yards and four scores in his last four games.

Pettis has joined the ranks of the offense’s ever-growing list of players who are a threat to take it to the house every time they touch the ball, as he’s shown explosive speed and nifty maneuvers on nearly all of his five touchdown receptions.

With the 49ers looking toward 2019, there’s no reason not to continue unleashing the Washington product and give him every opportunity to continue his late-season surge.

Tackle eligible to Joe Staley for a touchdown

Why not? With San Francisco’s playoff chances having long since evaporated, the Niners might as well open the playbook, have a little fun and attempt to reward the franchise cornerstone with his second career touchdown (he recovered a fumble for a score in 2008). Staley played tight end during his freshman year at Central Michigan, and he logged his third career reception this season, so it’s not like he won’t know what he’s doing if a pass heads his way.

DeForest Buckner being added to the Pro Bowl

No Niner was snubbed quite like DeForest Buckner when this year’s Pro Bowl rosters were announced, but that doesn’t mean the door has shut for the third-year defensive tackle when it comes to a trip to Orlando.

Buckner, who has a career high 11 sacks and 60 tackles, was left off the Pro Bowl squad in favor of Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox and Akiem Hicks, but if one of them goes to the Super Bowl or if someone is too banged up at the end of the campaign to participate in the game, then Buckner’s name could easily be called. He’s got Cox and Hicks beat across the board, and there’s no reason either of them should be on the roster over Buckner.

We certainly don’t want Buckner to get to Orlando by way of someone else suffering an injury, but players drop out of the Pro Bowl for various reasons every season, and if one of the current defensive tackles doesn’t make the trip, then Buckner should be the next man up.

Less Matt Breida

This isn’t a knock on Breida, who has turned in an exceptional season and has already achieved more in the NFL than most pro scouts ever thought he would when he went undrafted prior to the 2017 season. Sometimes, however, you have to save a player from himself, and while Breida has been gutting it out with his ankle injury all season, there isn’t much to be gained for running him back onto the gridiron for another 25 or so carries in the last two games.

Breida can play in this league; that much we know. He has nothing left to prove in 2018, so it would be prudent to limit the 190-pounder’s touches over the last two games and start the process of getting him healthy for 2019.

More Jeff Wilson

Yet another undrafted running back, Wilson has turned some heads over the past four weeks, not just for his impressive stat line (52 carries for 230 yards; 10 receptions for 82 yards), but for his hard-charging style. The North Texas product is simply a hard-nosed, north-and-south runner who always seems to fall forward at the end of his carries.

He’s lost a pair of fumbles, so more carries will give him the opportunity to prove that he can be trusted to hang onto the ball. Of course, if he continues to fumble, then at least San Francisco is aware of a serious red flag (better to find out now than at the start of next season in the fourth quarter of a tight game).

Two more wins!

Draft pick position be damned; last week’s dramatic overtime win was just too much fun, and it can’t go down as the last win of the season.

San Francisco will be tested against a pair of division champions – Chicago and Los Angeles – and those games will serve as great late-season tests (Los Angeles is one game behind the Saints and one game ahead of the Bears, so it’s likely that it won’t be meaningless game for the Rams). If San Francisco somehow knocks off the Bears and Rams without its franchise quarterback and with a plethora of other injuries, the Niners are sure to enter next season beaming with confidence and could easily be in the postseason picture at this time next year.

After all, who doesn’t want to see more of this?

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San Francisco 49ers

Colton McKivitz Scouting Report, Trent Williams and OL Depth Chart

Brian Peacock

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© Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
  • Is Trent Williams an upgrade at left tackle over the retired Joe Staley?
  • Scouting report on fifth round tackle Colton McKivitz
  • Tom Compton vs Daniel Brunskill at right guard
  • Battle for the final roster spot on the offensive line

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San Francisco 49ers

PODCAST: The Brandon Aiyuk Episode

Brian Peacock

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© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Pick 25 in the 2020 draft, WR Brandon Aiyuk out of Arizona State
  • Scouting report, strengths, weaknesses
  • How Aiyuk went from community college corner to first round reciever
  • Challenges for Aiyuk to reach his immense ceiling with the 49ers

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San Francisco 49ers

49ers Surprise During Action-Packed 2020 NFL Draft, but at what Cost?

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49ers 2020 Draft, Javon Kinlaw
© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers filled three immediate needs during the 2020 NFL Draft, but were first-round draft picks DT Javon Kinlaw and WR Brandon Aiyuk — and new starting LT Trent Williams — worth the cost?

This is the first in a three-part series analyzing the San Francisco 49ers’ 2020 “draft masterclass.” The Niners’ draft has been ranked by analysts as one of the NFL’s best, although it takes years before a draft class can be properly assessed. So instead of merely grading these college talents before their first NFL snaps, we’ll take a look at the 49ers’ picks — and more importantly — the 49ers’ process.

San Francisco’s general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were full of surprises during the 2020 NFL Draft, beginning in the first round. Every 2020 mock draft was immediately ripped to shreds as the vast majority of fans and analysts expected the Niners to trade away one of their prized first-round picks for additional draft capital. Instead, the 49ers traded both of their Day 1 picks but ended the evening with just two players, and no selections for the second day of the draft.

Lynch and Shanahan started their “draft tradefest” in a dream scenario: on the clock with the consensus top-2 wide receivers in the draft — Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb — on the board, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the phone. The Bucs wanted to move up a single spot to the No. 13 selection — the pick the receiver-needy 49ers obtained via their trade of star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner — which would leave at least one of the two top receiver prospects on the board for San Francisco.

The two teams executed the trade, which scored the Niners a fouth-rounder in exchange for one of the 49ers’ seventh-round picks. Minutes later, San Francisco was back on the clock, and both receivers were still on the board. But instead of taking advantage of the situation they lucked themselves into, the Lynch and Shanahan did what they seem to do every year — follow their collective gut or the opinion of a trusted contact outside the organization — and drafted Buckner’s hopeful replacement, South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw:

 

49ers Draft Pick No. 14: DT Javon Kinlaw

On Tuesday, Lynch spoke about the decision on FOX Sports’ The Herd with Collin Cowherd:

“We were incredibly comfortable with Will Muschamp because he gave us such an accurate depiction of Deebo Samuel last year. I didn’t know Will. I met him once. But we called on Deebo and he hit all his strengths, but he also hit his, not really weaknesses, but just realities of who the person is. And he depicted Deebo so well, a year later I said, ‘Kyle, we’ve got to pick up the phone and call Will about Kinlaw because he was so darn honest.” -John Lynch

Despite Muschamp’s biased opinion of his former player, there’s a lot to like about the raw Kinlaw:

Standing at 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds, he is shorter and stouter than his predecessor. And surprisingly, given his massive size, the DT has proven to be a better defender against the pass than the run. In 2019, Kinlaw received a 90.7 pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF), despite logging just six sacks during the season, and 10 only sacks over his three-year college career:

49ers DT Javon Kinlaw – College Defensive Statistics
Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2017 South Carolina SEC SO DL 7 12 5 17 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 2 1
*2018 South Carolina SEC JR DL 10 15 15 30 9.0 4.0 0 0 0 5 0 2
2019 South Carolina SEC SR DL 12 15 20 35 6.0 6.0 0 0 0 2 2 0
Career South Carolina 42 40 82 17.0 10.0 0 0 0 8 4 3

 

Since there are no easy games in the NFL, the 49ers hope they drafted the overpowering and productive version of Kinlaw and not the version who disappeared when South Carolina faced weaker opponents.

My initial assessment of the Kinlaw selection is I like the player, but I’m not a fan of the 49ers spending the draft pick they acquired in exchange for Buckner on a less-talented but cheaper version of the stud defensive lineman. San Francisco should have entered this year’s draft with one primary goal: improving their 2020 roster enough to win one more game than they did in 2019 — and “trading” Buckner for Kinlaw makes the Niners worse, albeit richer, in the short term.

Perhaps this pick would have been a bit sweeter if Lynch didn’t promptly waste the fourth-round selection he just obtained from Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, the 49ers’ fourth-year GM — in the role normally played by his partner-in-crime Shanahan — fell in love with a prospect and wasted valuable draft capital to unnecessarily trade up for the one player he desperately needed to draft.

We’ll break down the San Francisco 49ers’ second first-round selection — and how the Niners got there — next.

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