On Saturday, news surfaced that the San Francisco 49ers are expected to fire head coach Chip Kelly, general manager Trent Baalke, and make “sweeping changes” to the organization as a whole. Whether or not that means more than Kelly (and his staff) plus Baalke (and his guys), we’ll have to wait and see, but surely a lot of the players will have to be replaced too.
Ahead of their game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, I asked David Fucillo of Niners Nation who he thought would be sticking around and who is about to play their final game with San Francisco.
Q: Looking at the 49ers roster, I start to wonder what's even going to be left once they trim the fat. I mean, trade and cap casualty candidates include: Colin Kaepernick, Torrey Smith, Joe Staley (purely in trade rumors), while many more will just leave via free agency. The only reason I didn't list players like Ahmad Brooks and Antoine Bethea is that San Francisco needs to spend money somewhere as they're already going to be $40 million-plus under the cap and will struggle to attract top tier free agents to a start-from-scratch scenario. If you had to list your core players on the 49ers to protect and build around, who would they be? Where do recent first round picks Arik Armstead and Josh Garnett fit into that picture?
A: It's hard to describe many players on this roster as "core" players. The recent drafts have been very up and down, so the depth of game-changing talent is limited. But if I were to list out some young players to build around, they would include:
DT Arik Armstead
DT DeForest Buckner
CB Jimmie Ward
CB Rashard Robinson
ILB NaVorro Bowman (obviously depending on his injury recover)
S Eric Reid
RB Carlos Hyde
OT Joe Staley
OT Trenton Brown
OG Joshua Garnett
C Daniel Kilgore
Staley is an aging veteran, but he remains a very solid left tackle. If the 49ers are going to try and find a QB of the future sometime soon, there is no reason to trade away a strong left tackle. If he demands a trade that obviously changes the calculus, but if he does not express such displeasure, I think he holds more value on the left side than traded for picks.
The young defensive talent has not yet proven to be entirely game-changing, but there is enough upside in Armstead, Buckner, Ward, and Robinson to be key cogs in a defensive re-build. Armstead's second year was essentially a lost year because of a shoulder injury. He was looking good in training camp, but the shoulder injury happened shortly before the first preseason game. Next season is a big one for him.
As for Garnett, he's shown the strength that was a big plus for him, but of course, there is inconsistency. Ideally the 49ers will have their RG and RT of the future in Garnett and Brown. The upside to this down season has been getting plenty of playing time for both of them.
Q: The 49ers have beaten the Rams this season and nobody else. What does LA do so poorly that they couldn't beat San Francisco in two tries?
A: I honestly don't know. Dating back to Week 14 last season, the 49ers only three wins are against the Rams. This season, I see little rhyme or reason behind each win. In Week 1, Carlos Hyde had 88 yards and two touchdowns while Blaine Gabbert only had 170 yards and a touchdown. In Week 16, Carlos Hyde had 38 yards on 13 carries before tearing his MCL, while Colin Kaepernick had 266 yards and two touchdowns (along with a rushing touchdown). In both games, the 49ers contained Todd Gurley, holding him to a total of 114 yards, averaging 2.85 yards per carry. Case Keenum threw for 130 yards and two interceptions in Week 1. Jared Goff had 90 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in Week 16.
Simply put, the Rams stink this season, and somehow they were the one team the 49ers could figure out. Your guess is as good as mine as to why they're the one team the 49ers could figure out.