Former NFL scout John Middlekauff, now with The Athletic, joined KNBR on Tuesday to discuss the San Francisco 49ers at length. He broke down some of the team's strengths and the expectations heading into the 2019 season.

If you read the headline, you're here for the quotes about Jimmy Garoppolo. I'll get to those in a second.

First, I want to share what Middlekauff said about the 49ers' running backs. The group might be the most potentially deep position on the roster other than the defensive front.

Jerick McKinnon didn't have an opportunity to prove his worth last year. He suffered a torn ACL about a week before the start of the regular season. Middlekauff admits to not being the biggest fan of McKinnon's but will give head coach Kyle Shanahan the benefit of the doubt there.

"[Shanahan] clearly knows offensive players, and he likes the fit," Middlekauff said during the discussion.

Middlekauff is a fan of Tevin Coleman, who was a surprise signing this offseason. The writer for The Athletic and self-proclaimed "professional podcaster" had an opportunity to observe Coleman during organized team activities.

"He stands out," Middlekauff said. "He can fly; he can catch the ball. And obviously, Matt Breida — I mean, the players they have, just the three guys, it's a pretty good 1-2-3. It's not like they have one [Ezekiel Elliott] or anything, but just McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, and Breida as a unit, that's pretty good."

San Francisco's running backs caught 83 combined passes last season, and that includes fullback Kyle Juszczyk's 30 receptions, which led the unit.

Middlekauff believes the 49ers running backs might be utilized even more in the passing game this year.

"You get now, I'd say like 100-plus catches from your running backs," Middlekauff continued. "It's kind of the going rate. That's what you look for now. In a perfect world, your star guy, like a (Christian) McCaffrey or something, catches 80 balls.

"The Niners will probably spread it out more. But I'd say between the three of them, you look for about 100 catches. They're going to be depended on in this offense, that's for sure."

Now, on to Garoppolo…

Middlekauff was bullish on the 49ers quarterback heading into last season and felt he could be a top-five player at the position. Then Garoppolo's season was cut short by a torn ACL. He has just 10 NFL starts and remains unproven.

"To me, he has a major red flag of he has played a limited amount of snaps, and he's only started 10 games," Middlekauff said. "In two of those, he hasn't been able to finish."

Middlekauff did compliment Garoppolo by comparing him to one of the best in the game and calling him a poor man's Aaron Rodgers.

"He's really athletic, really accurate on the move, he kind of freelances but he's also dangerous from the pocket," he explained.

Middlekauff loved what he saw from Garoppolo coming out of the 2017 season after the quarterback led the 49ers to five straight wins to end the year. Middlekauff remains bullish on Garoppolo but needs to see the quarterback play 16 games before anointing him as one of the game's elite signal-callers.

Should that happen, even with strong NFC competition, the 49ers could finally end their playoff drought.

"Everyone in the league that I know — you guys talk to them and read these stories — everyone is really high on Kyle (Shanahan)," Middlekauff said. "We're all high on Kyle. If Jimmy can play the 16 games, I think they should be a playoff team."

He added, "I actually think you could win this division, as crazy as it sounds. Like, it wouldn't totally blow me away if 9-and-7 won this division. It will probably take 10-and-6, but if Jimmy can stay healthy and these defensive linemen come through, I don't think 10-and-6 is out of the realm of possibility."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Middlekauff below.