Open Rants by Travis Graber

Complete 49ers Rebuild
Published at 1/7/2017
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I was wrong about Chip Kelly staying and I was wrong about Tom Gamble becoming the next GM of the 49ers.  But some still view the niners’ headquarters as a burning building, so I guess I was right about that.  In his press conference, Jed York, stated that anyone is free to leave which seems to confirm the reports that many scouts are making an exodus.  San Francisco is in a complete rebuild with the search for a GM and coach just beginning and with the last regime leaving the new front office few building blocks.  This post will provide an overview of the GM/HC search and look at the roster to assess needs for the 2017 offseason.

First, here is a current list of the potential GM candidates: Nick Caserio the New England director of player personnel, Eliot Wolf the Green Bay Packers director of football operations, Brian Gutekunst the Packers director of player personnel, Louis Riddick of ESPN (9 years front office exp.), George Patton the Minnesota Vikings assistant general manager, both Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer Seattle’s co-player personal directors, and Brandon Beane assistant the Panthers assistant GM.  Of these names, I would like Nick Caserio of the Patriots to be the next GM.  Caserio is the right-hand man to Bill Belichick when it comes to the draft and free agency with Belichick endorsing him for a GM job.  Bringing in someone from a winning organization, like the Patriots, would be the best way to get this rebuild started.

In addition to working in the personnel department, Caserio has worked on the coaching side under the best coach in the NFL.  This experience will help with the coaching search.  The current candidates for HC are: Josh McDaniels the Patriots OC, Kyle Shanahan the Falcons OC, Tom Cable the Seahawks OL coach, Anthony Lynn the Bills interim coach, Doug Marrone the Jaguars interim coach, Sean McVay the Redskins OC , Vance Joseph the Dolphins DC, and Sean McDermott the Panthers DC.  Of these candidates, I would like to see Josh McDaniels become the next head coach of the 49ers.  He has worked under Belichick twice and has previous head coaching experience.  In addition, he already has a working relationship with my pick for GM and seems to be at the top of the niners’ wish list.  Bringing in Caserio and McDaniels will stabilize the franchise and help attract or retain scouts and free agents. 

Note.  Caserio is not currently scheduled to interview with the 49ers and reports are linking Louis Riddick and Josh McDaniels to the 49ers, as front-runners.

Now let’s look at the roster to highlight the players to build around.  On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers have: Deforest Buckner (DE), Arik Armstead (DE), Ronald Blair (DE/OLB), Rashard Robinson (CB), and Jimmie Ward (DB).  Navarro Bowman is signed through 2022 so he can be considered a building block too.  On offense, the 49ers have: Carlos Hyde (RB), Joshua Garnett (G), Vance McDonald (TE), and Trent Brown (T), if he makes improvements.  Joe Staley, signed through 2019, is probably not a building block.  The players set to hit free agency are: B. Gabbert, D. Harris, S. Draughn, Q. Patton, J. Kerley, J. Simpson, E. Pears, G. Dorsey, T. Jerod-Eddie, C. Lemonier, G. Hodges, M. Wilhoite, N. Bellore, and P. Dawson.  Of these players, I would like to see Kerley, Bellore, Dawson and possibly Dorsey back.  These players will provide a foundation for the front office to build around in the next few years. 

According to Bill Walsh in Starting from Scratch: Positions I would Pick First the five positions the master would fill, in order, are: quarterback, pass rusher, safety, running back, and receiver.  With the injury history of Carlos Hyde, the 49ers may want to consider RB but the rest are clear positions of need heading into the offseason.  Additionally, the 49ers have needs at CB, OL, and LB.  Before roster moves they will have $80.3M in cap space, which includes a $40M carryover.  With Kap leaving that number rises to $97.2M and cutting A. Brooks brings it to $105M.  In addition, cutting A. Bethea or E. Reid would save $5.75M or $5.676M, respectively.  I anticipate one of these players will be cut so the 49ers will have $110M in cap space to address the team needs, over the next few seasons.

Quarterback is the most important positon so let’s start there.  Even if one is drafted at No. 2 the 49ers will still have to bring in a signal caller in free agency.  Jay Cutler has been discussed on this forum showing how poor the free agent market is for quarterbacks.  The 49ers could trade for Jimmy Garoppolo if they see the qb class as weak and see Jimmy G as a long-term starter.  He would already have a handle on Josh McDaniels offense and his value would be known by the new front office. 

Brandon Williams, the Ravens NT, is expected to make around $11M/year according to SportTrak, which may price him out of reach.  I would expect Dontari Poe to command more but the niners have other options at NT.  If they do not retain Glen Dorsey and do not like Dial at nose they can look at: Arby Jones, Sylvester Williams, or Bennie Logan to fill that role.  On the offense line, the niners can bring in a right tackle and move Trent Brown to RG.  Free agent tackles include: Andre Smith, Mike Remmers, Byron Bell and Riley Reiff.  If the new coaching staff does not like Brown at guard, they can look to pick up Kevin Zeitler or Luke Joeckel.

Even though the 49ers have a ton of cap space, I expect them to be frugal in the first free agency and seek to build through the draft with an estimated 11 picks this Spring.  The 2017 draft class is deep at safety, pass rusher, and corner.  If Myles Garrett goes No. 1, I would like the 49ers to trade down a handful of spots.   I have a few reasons for wanting them to do this.  To start, there are a lot of busts when a quarterback is the first qb taken but not the No. 1 overall pick, you can look at Eric Branch’s article detailing the number of misses.  Next, the 2011 draft, for example, shows many teams reaching for a qb and failing.  Third, Louis Riddick has said many players fail due to poor coaching but also consider the poor situations some qbs come into.  See Alex Smith.  I do not believe there is a qb worth taking at No. 2 and the 49ers would risk running him into the ground if they do take one.  My final reason for trading back is the research detailed in The Loser’s Curse: Decision-Making & Market Efficiency in the National Football League Draft by Cade Massey and Richard Thaler.  To summarize, this paper looks at the history of NFL drafts and shows teams, especially those with early picks, are better off trading back. 

Considering the amount of needs and the information contained in the Loser’s Curse, I think the 49ers should trade back. Using the NFL Draft Value Chart (and assuming a pick in next year’s draft is equal in value to a pick one round later in this year’s draft), the 49ers could trade back to No. 6 and get a first round pick next year and second round pick this year.  Once you factor in the No. 2 pick being the first qb off the board, the pick becomes even more valuable.  The RG3 trade and the two trades last year can be used to estimate the value of the No. 2 pick. Trading back to No. 6 still allows the team to take a shot at a qb but also gives them extra ammunition to trade for Jimmy G.

Let’s assume the 49ers trade the No. 2 pick to the Jets in exchange for the No. 6, No. 38, and No. 102 this year and a first and third round pick next year.  Now they trade the No. 38 and an additional late round pick, the following year, to the Patriots in exchange for Jimmy Garappolo.  Based on that information, I would draft the following players.

Rd 1 (6): J. Adams S LSU

Rd 2: C. Harris EDGE Mizzu

RD 3: D. Stringfellow WR Ole Miss

RD 4: P. Elfein C/G Ohio State

Rd 4 (from Jets in first round trade): S. Taylor LB Houston

Rd 4 (Compensatory): Trade up a few spots for M. Dupree WR LSU

Rd. 5: E. Hood RB North Carolina

Rd. 5 (from Redskins): Trade for next year Rd. 4

Rd. 6: used in trade for M. Dupree

Rd. 6 (from Broncos): D. Rivers EDGE Youngstown State

Rd. 7: Trade for next year Rd. 6

Rd. 7 (from Browns): C. Smith WR Ohio State

If the 49ers follow this plan they will have two picks in the first, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh (actual trade with Chiefs) rounds in the 2018 draft, in addition to the following roster.

GM: Louis Riddick/ Nick Caserio

HC: Josh McDaniels

LDE: A. Armstead/ R. Blair

NT: S. Williams

RDE: D. Buckner

LOLB: A. Lynch

ILB: N. Bowman

ILB: S. Taylor, R. Armstrong                                        (E. Reid?)

ROLB: C. Harris/ R. Blair

LCB: R. Robinson

RCB: J. Ward/T. Brock

NCB: T. Brock/J. Ward/W. Redmond/C. Davis

FS: E. Reid/J. Ward

SS: J. Adams

QB: J. Garappolo

RB. C. Hyde, E. Hood

TE. V. McDonald

WR: D. Stringfellow, M. Dupree

WR: T. Smith, C. Smith

WR: J. Kerley, B. Ellington

LT: J. Staley

LG: J. Garnett

C: D. Kilgore, P. Eflein

RG: T. Brown, Z. Beadles, P. Eflein

RT: R. Rieff

The 49ers can evaluate Jimmy G. during the season and if they want to move on from him, they have two first round picks in a much better draft for quarterbacks.  Assuming Garappolo does not work or the niners are unable to trade for him the team is in a much better position for new qb to takeover.   If Garappolo works out, they can continue to build the defense and skill positions.


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