Had you explained to someone in August that a team would have a statement win over the Jaguars in December, he or should would have expressed concern that you were the latest person to have your brain broken by 2017. Yet that’s exactly what the 49ers did on Christmas Eve. San Francisco is 4-0 since Jimmy Garoppolo took over as starting quarterback after beginning the season a dismal 1-10. Sure, the Niners are not doing much at this point except damage their draft position, but try telling that to 49ers fans who are experiencing hope for the first time in years. Even if the Niners lose their Week 17 game against the Rams in Los Angeles and lose a little momentum going into the offseason, it’s easy to see them as a trendy analyst pick to be a playoff team in 2018. After all, they have the most important thing of all in the NFL: a franchise quarterback. Just how good Garoppolo is going to be is anyone’s guess, but it’s already clear that he’s a player worth investing in and is at least good enough to elevate an otherwise subpar roster to respectability. As much as adding Garoppolo is key, new general manager John Lynch deserves credit for the deal he swung to get him. Most observers assumed it would have taken a first-round pick to acquire Jimmy G, but the Niners were able to get him for just a second. Even with the late-season surge, San Francisco should still be picking somewhere around the top 10 in the draft, and that’s good because there’s still a talent deficiency on the roster. Not that the Pro Bowl is a be-all, end-all indicator of ability, but it’s still telling that the only Pro Bowler on the team is the fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. By one analysis from midseason, the offensive line alone cost the Niners three wins. Marquise Goodwin has had something of a breakout year in this, his fifth season, but beyond that the weapons for Garoppolo in the passing game are somewhat sparse. Pierre Garcon is a still a serviceable possession receiver, but he’ll be 32 next year. Carlos Hyde is probably the closest thing to a star on offense beyond Garoppolo. Statistically, the defense could use just as much help. In terms of yardage, the 49ers are 26th in the league. They’ve surrendered the sixth most points. They’re ranked 29th in DVOA by Football Outsiders. What was a strength a few years ago at the height of the Jim Harbaugh era is now in disarray. That the head coach has a background in offense likely hasn’t helped to overcome the talent deficit. Though they did have a pick-six on Sunday, they still gave up 33 points to the Jaguars, hardly an offensive juggernaut. Because the Niners have so many needs and because there are so many quarterbacks coming out this year thought to be worthy of first-round grades, San Francisco seems like a strong possibility to trade down in the first and accumulate more picks. Either way, the franchise is in a strong situation to improve the rest of the roster now that the quarterback question is solved.
Is it too early to buy in on the 49ers as a 2018 playoff team?
Yardbarker | Dec 27