The San Francisco 49ers closed the regular season as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, closing the year on a five-game winning streak with Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback. As such, the team has very high hopes for 2018 and expect to compete for a playoff spot, but don't have the current roster or personnel to do so. Here are the four things that need to happen this offseason for the Niners to be playing in the postseason next year:
1) Re-sign Jimmy Garoppolo
This one isn't too hard. The Niners have needed a quarterback, gave up a second-round pick for Garoppolo, and haven't lost with him under center. San Francisco acquired him with the intention of locking him up long-term. It should only be a matter of time until that happens - even if they have to franchise tag him first. Either way, this is priority numbers one, two, and three for them.
2) Improve the offensive line
With the quarterback situation now addressed, you could easily argue that offensive line becomes San Francisco's biggest weakness or area that needs to improve. Keeping Garoppolo upright and comfortable in the pocket is one of the 49ers' biggest keys to success in 2018, and they weren't great at it last year. According to Football Outsiders, San Francisco's offensive line ranked in the bottom half of the league and gave up a sack on nearly seven percent of dropbacks. Joe Staley isn't getting any younger and the rest of the unit posted below average grades, according to ProFootballFocus. Turn this unit into a strength and good things will happen.
3) Find some offensive weapons
Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor have proven to be quality wideouts that should be major factors in San Francisco's offense next season, but let's not kid ourselves - the 49ers are still without true top options at both running back and wide receiver. At this point in his career, Carlos Hyde has proven he's not a bell-cow back, and in a deep running back class, expect them to try to add another back early in the draft.
And, if you want this offense to reach its full potential, you have to give Garoppolo more weapons and a go-to guy. There should be good value at wide receiver in the second and third rounds in the draft, but there are also a number of quality receivers (Jarvis Landry, Terrelle Pryor, Allen Robinson) to will be available in free agency. Adding one top-end receiver will help this offense immensely.
4) Identify and get a true No. 1 cornerback
Dontae Johnson has proven he is not a starting-caliber player in the secondary (he may not even be on SF's roster next season), and given the team's lack of depth at the position, they need to find players they can rely on in the back end of the defense - starting with a lockdown No. 1 cornerback. They may choose to address that need via free agency, but with the No. 9 overall pick in the draft, that's the more likely (and cheaper) route to find a game-changer. We have them taking Iowa's Joshua Jackson with that selection to fill that role.Back to the San Francisco 49ers Newsfeed