First, the 49ers have had more draft picks than any NFL team in recent years.
Second, the 49ers have as many holes on their roster as any team in the NFL this year.
Those two sentences should not add up. With 69 picks since general manager Trent Baalke started running the draft in 2010, San Francisco should be the team that always seems to have a promising young pass rusher in the pipeline, that has an endless supply of young running backs in case the starter gets hurt.
Instead, the 49ers have needs at those positions along with wide receiver and quarterback and … the list goes on and on. The 49ers rank 27th in average yards allowed on defense and 32nd (last) in average yards gained on offense. That’s close to where both units finished last year, suggesting that coaching is not the No. 1 issue.
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The 49ers are so bereft of talent – maybe the Browns have less? Maybe the Bears? – it’s hard to figure out their greatest weaknesses. Here’s an attempt:
Wide receiver: No 49ers wide receiver has made a Pro Bowl or All-Pro roster since Terrell Owens in 2003. Of the six receivers on the active roster, only two were drafted by the 49ers: former fourth rounder Quinton Patton and Aaron Burbridge, a sixth-round pick this year. Three of the current wideouts, including leading receiver Jeremy Kerley, were acquired post-training camp – unwanted by the teams with which they went through the offseason.
Quarterback: At some point early in the offseason, the 49ers decided quarterback Blaine Gabbert would be less of a project than any passer they could take early in the draft. Gabbert, however, was on the bench by Week 6 while two rookie starters – Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz and Dallas’ Dak Prescott – were leading their teams to winning records. This may be telling: The 49ers did not pay close attention to either prospect in the run-up to the draft. They gave the most focus to Jared Goff, who has yet to start a game for the Rams, and to Connor Cook, the Raiders’ No. 3 quarterback who didn’t look all that promising in the preseason.
Inside linebacker: A team that recently featured an inside linebacker tandem of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman on Sunday started Nick Bellore and Michael Wilhoite, both of whom entered the league as undrafted free agents. In fact, the 49ers did not draft any of the inside linebackers on their 53-man roster. (Bowman, drafted in 2010, is on injured reserve.)
Outside linebacker: Aaron Lynch played 39 snaps last Sunday against the Bills. You may have missed that because he failed to accumulate any statistics – nary a tackle or quarterback hit or batted pass. After serving a four-game suspension to start the season, he’s looking for his first sack. So is Eli Harold, who has played extensively in all six games. As a unit, the 49ers’ outside linebackers have two sacks, both by 32-year-old Ahmad Brooks.
Running back: When Carlos Hyde was injured last year, the 49ers were forced to turn to a group of unheralded backups that included Mike Davis, Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris. Hyde won’t play this Sunday against Tampa Bay because of a shoulder injury. The group likely to fill in: Davis, Draughn and Harris.
The 49ers, in danger of setting an NFL record for most rushing yards allowed since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, also could use a nose tackle. Joe Staley is reaching an age, 32, at which a team might start thinking about its future at offensive tackle. And the tight-end group is nothing special. One of Baalke’s most recent picks at the position, Blake Bell, was inactive last game because undrafted Je’Ron Hamm is better on special teams.
The one area in which the 49ers are robust: cornerbacks. The 49ers have drafted eight in the past four years, 11 of them in the past seven. Too bad only up to three are on the field at once.
Most draft picks in NFL since 2010