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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

PFF projects two biggest offseason needs for 49ers

Nov 12, 2021 at 6:56 AM--

Pro Football Focus' Brad Spielberger went around the NFL and projected the top offseason needs for all 32 teams. The San Francisco 49ers sit at 3-5, and for the fourth time in Kyle Shanahan's five seasons as head coach, fans could be looking toward the offseason before Thanksgiving.

The 49ers' 2021 campaign has revealed a lot. The most glaring revelation is that the Niners aren't the juggernaut most predicted. Glaring holes have been exposed in the first eight games of the season, and Spielberger addresses some of them with his biggest needs for the Bay Area squad.

The first is cornerback. It's a position that worried fans heading into the season, but one in which general manager John Lynch repeatedly expressed confidence. One of the biggest frustrations was poor planning when it came to depth. The 49ers built around a veteran player who has struggled to stay on the field over his career. And the team didn't have an adequate contingency plan in place.

"The 49ers took a gamble on uber-talented cornerback Jason Verrett, but unfortunately, the injury bug struck once again in Week 1," wrote Spielberger. "From 2016 to '19, Verrett appeared in just six games due to various injuries but was able to play 97% of defensive snaps in 13 games in 2020. Serving as their top cornerback by a good margin, Verrett's loss was a big one, and he is one of several 49ers cornerbacks set to hit free agency."

San Francisco drafted two cornerbacks this year. Neither has received significant playing time this season. Poor planning left the team with Josh Norman and Dre Kirkpatrick as the 49ers' answers to their depth problem.

The second position of need is guard. And it's not that San Francisco needs to add one. It's that it needs to keep one that it already has on the roster.

"At guard, Laken Tomlinson has flown under the radar a bit on the left side playing next to perhaps the best offensive lineman in the NFL in left tackle Trent Williams, but his 82.0 run-blocking grade since 2020 ranks eighth at the position," wrote Spielberger. "Tomlinson has taken a big step forward in pass protection this season as well, allowing zero sacks and just two quarterback hits through Week 9 while earning a career-high 80.4 grade. San Francisco might be wise to keep Tomlinson around."

San Francisco acquired Tomlinson via a trade in 2017, sending a fifth-round pick in 2019 to the Detroit Lions for the offensive lineman. The move has proven to be a good one. Tomlinson is scheduled to become a free agent after this season.

The 49ers drafted Aaron Banks in the second round. He has been active for just one game this season, but the team hopes Banks can push for the starting guard spot opposite Tomlinson at some point.

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