The team that once won five Super Bowls and produced Hall of Fame players comes off a 2-14 season looking for a new identity. Likely no other team will feature more changes in offensive skill players than the 49ers. New head coach Mike Shanahan ushers in a new offensive scheme that last saw the Atlanta Falcons tear up the NFL with Top 5 stats for both rushing and passing. Unfortunately, he now inherits an offense considered as one of the least talented in the league.
Quarterback – Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are currently the only quarterbacks on the roster even though neither was on the team in 2016. Barkley totals only eight career starts while Hoyer has more experience from his six previous NFL employers. He still has never started for a full 16 game season and comes off only six starts last year in Chicago.
The 49ers are in the market for a rookie quarterback and could end up using their 1.02 draft pick hoping to fill that position. General Manager John Lynch already expressed optimism about the talent level of this year’s class that many have tabbed as a weaker year. North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson lead a pack that also includes Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. It will be a genuine surprise if the 49ers skip out on all four top quarterbacks. Lynch singled out Watson in particular for coming from a winning program – unlike the 49ers recent culture.
Running Back – This is the single skill position that the 49ers will stand pat. Carlos Hyde remains the starter despite his inability to remain healthy for an entire season. Hyde finished with a 4.5 yard per carry average last year but still missed three full games. The 49ers also brought in Kyle Juszcyzk from the Ravens to help pave the way and made him the highest paid fullback in the process. That can only help Hyde though it won’t matter if he continues to be an injury problem.
Wideouts – An upgrade was desperately needed here for a unit that ranked No. 32 in the league with only 2616 combined yards from all receivers – tight ends included. Last year Jeremy Kerley was the only wide receiver with more than 40 catches and his 64 receptions only netted 667 yards. Both Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton are gone. Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin have joined the team. Garcon signed the biggest NFL free agent contract for wide receivers when he accepted a five-year, $47.5 million agreement to become the obvious primary target.
Goodwin brings in blazing speed but at only 5-9, 179 lbs. he’s not likely to provide a high volume of catches and only topped out at 29 receptions in Buffalo last year. The NFL draft will provide more receivers for the 49ers though the fantasy outlook will take a hit with a rookie quarterback at some point.
Tight End – Vernon Davis is long gone and the position held little production the last few years. This could be another area of focus in the draft but Shanahan offenses have mostly used the position for blocking. That’s a plus for the wide receivers and for the rushing game.
The 49ers’ offense will look much different this year – a very good thing. A rebuilding year usually means lower production but in this case it could still be fantasy relevant and even better than what happened in 2016.