49ers notch C+ offseason grade to begin Chip Kelly era

John Kosko breaks down San Francisco's offseason performance, including a detailed look at free agency and the NFL draft

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney, file)

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney, file)

49ers notch C+ offseason grade to begin Chip Kelly era

The biggest move the San Francisco 49ers made this offseason was hiring Chip Kelly as their new head coach. Jim Tomsula lasted less than a year after serving as the team’s defensive line coach for seven seasons. Last offseason saw several unexpected retirements from key players (LB Patrick Willis, LB Chris Borland, DE Justin Smith, and RT Anthony Davis) after Jim Harbaugh moved on to become the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

Under Tomsula, the 49ers had the second-lowest graded offense in 2015 and the 21st best defense. The hiring of Chip Kelly looks to improve on the offense where he inherited a similar situation in Philadelphia – elevating the third-worst offense in 2012 to the third-best in 2013.

Below is a compilation of San Francisco’s 2016 offseason transactions, including free-agency moves and draft picks:

Overall grade: C+


Free agency and trades

New Arrivals: QB Thaddeus Lewis, G Zane Beadles, WR Eric Rogers

Re-signings: DI Ian Williams, TE Garrett Celek, K Phil Dawson, HB Shaun Draughn, DI Tony Jerod-Eddie, LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, LB Michael Wilhoite

Departures: WR Anquan Boldin, G Alex Boone, HB Reggie Bush, TE Brian Leonhardt, HB Jarryd Hayne

The 49ers historically don’t make splashes in free agency and this held true in 2016 despite the hiring of Chip Kelly. Kelly was notorious for his splashy and very active free agency signings, cuts, trades, etc. Without personnel control, Kelly only could voice his opinions while GM Trent Baalke made the decisions. With the biggest free agency addition being G Zane Beadles (47.9 player grade, 64th in NFL), the 49ers looked to resign their free agents and build through the draft.

Clearly the best re-signing was of DI Ian Williams, as he finished the 2015 season playing at a very high level and notching the fifth-highest grade through Weeks 12–17 of any interior defender last season. While he was initially given a five-year deal, due to ankle concerns he only signed a one-year prove-it deal. If his career arc continues and his ankles stay healthy, Williams could be in for a big season in 2016 and a big contract next offseason.

The rest of the re-signings are gap-fillers or players the team hopes to develop, such as TE Garrett Celek (704 career snaps in four seasons) and Ray-Ray Armstrong (cut midseason by Oakland).

2016 NFL Draft

  • Round 1 (pick No. 7) DeForest Buckner, DT, Oregon
  • Round 1 (pick No. 28) (from Kansas City) Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford
  • Round 3 (pick No. 68) Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State
  • Round 4 (pick No. 133) Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU
  • Round 5 (pick No. 142) (from San Diego) Ronald Blair, DT, Appalachian State
  • Round 5 (pick No. 145) John Theus, OT, Georgia
  • Round 5 (pick No. 174) Fahn Cooper, OT, Ole Miss
  • Round 6 (pick No. 207) (from Denver) Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech
  • Round 6 (pick No. 211) Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
  • Round 6 (pick No. 213) Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State
  • Round 7 (pick No. 249) (from Kansas City) Prince Charles Iworah, CB, Western Kentucky

The 49ers are looking to field an Oregon Ducks defensive line after drafting Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in the first round in back-to-back years. Buckner was the No. 2 player on PFF’s drat board, so landing him with the No. 7-overall pick is tremendous value. Buckner is disruptive against the run and rushing the passer, sporting a best-in-class +43.8 pass-rush grade and the eighth-best run defense grade at +29.1.

While trading up to grab guard Joshua Garnett was a bit of a reach, there is no denying his talent and he should be a perfect fit in Chip Kelly’s scheme. Will Redmond highlights three CBs drafted while Aaron Burbridge is the only WR selected — both were obvious needs for the team. Burbridge isn’t the most gifted WR but he does an excellent job locating the deep ball and making contested catches. QB Jeff Driskel will need a few years of development but he was the most athletic quarterback in the class.


With an obvious question mark at the most crucial position in all of pro sports, the 49ers will hope the hiring of Chip Kelly can elevate the play of either Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has shown the ability and talent to lead a team to the Super Bowl so expect him to start under center in Week 1. The additions of Buckner and fifth-round pick Ronald Blair (No. 103 on PFF’s draft board) should improve the defense. The 49ers were quiet in free agency and put together a solid draft, but this offseason and the results of 2016 will be determined by the impact Chip Kelly has on his offense.

| Analyst

John is an analyst for Pro Football Focus and former safety for the University of Kansas Jayhawks (2004–2006).

  • zinn21 zinn21

    Chip went 10-13 the last 23 games he coached at Philly. With those results it begs the conclusion and supports Maurice Jones-Drew’s contention that NFL defenses have figured out Kelly’s “gimmick offense”.. So to think that an Offense that failed the last year and a half that Chip ran it, will function successfully run by a bunch of young kids is, IMO, a major stretch.. All indications lead to changes in Kelly’s Offense. Not doing so looks like certain doom..

    • Tim

      The last 23 games? I mean thats a nice selection isn ‘t it? Maybe because it cherry picks the losses out of a 10-7 season in which his roster was gutted?

      Harbaugh went 8-8 in his last season, including 1-5 in his last six games.. Never mind half the team was on IR…. The NFL must have figured him out.

      • Frank

        Totally agree. They didn’t lose because the didn’t score points, they lost because of the awful defense IMO…love when people try so hard to cherry pick stats to prove their point lol.

        • zinn21 zinn21

          Isn’t the problem with Chip’s Offense is that it forces the Defense on the field for two games worth of additional snaps per season? 23 game represents almost a season and a half..

          • MosesZD

            lol. It’s SIX PLAYS A GAME. There is only 6 seconds (on average) of actual play. The rest is standing there getting ready for the play.

            If these boys wear out because they have to run an extra 36 seconds, they should be cut.

            Also, FWIW, only ONE Eagle was in the Top-20 for Defensive Snaps last year. There were TWO 49ers. Some clubs had THREE.

            Just because you can repeat an ignorant meme doesn’t mean you, or whomever created it, know what they’re talking about.

          • zinn21 zinn21

            From an ESPN article date 1-6-2016.. Regarding 2015 season..>>The Eagles defense was on the field for 1,148 plays, the most in the NFL. Seattle’s defense was on the field for an NFL-low 947 plays. That’s a difference of 201 plays. Seattle’s defense was on the field for an average of 59 plays per game, so that amounts to an extra 3.4 games’ worth of plays for the Eagles.<<

          • Frank

            I believe philly had less 3 snaps more than SF last year…anyway it’s all about rotation on defense.

      • zinn21 zinn21

        That’s not cherry picking. They lost the 13 out of the last 23 games he coached. Since mid 2014 season forward he was 10-13…

        • MosesZD

          Yes. It is cherry picking. It’s also a couple of other logical fallacies. Not going to get to far into it.

          Last 8 games of 2014 they scored: 45, 20, 43, 33, 14, 20, 24, 34 points. 29.125 PPG. That’s good enough for 5th (they finished 3rd) in PPG. If that’s ‘figured out’ I’ll take it.

          And, of course, we understand what happened in 2015 — DeMarco Murray and the collapse of the running game (3.9 YPC) as Murray averaged about 3.6 YPC. Had Kelly bitten the bullet and benched Murray (for Matthews) earlier, chances are he’d have saved his job because without an effective rushing attack, the vastly over-rated Bradford just couldn’t do much.

          • zinn21 zinn21

            No it’s not.

          • Tim

            Yeah it is… it was pretty lame.

    • Frank

      Yet they have been no lower then the 12th ranked overall offense since he became HC and his best QB was Bradford (yuck). There is no indications the suggest that the NFL “figured” him out…last I saw they were still scoring points but had been gutted of talent and had a horrible DC who was also awful in SF….in all honesty this is the best group of qbs chip has worked with since coming in to the NFL.

      • zinn21 zinn21

        Going 10-13 since mid 2014 forward does not suggest NFL defenses have figured him out? And this done with his hand picked selection of players in 2015? What are you smoking?

        • MosesZD

          No it doesn’t In 1982 the 49ers were 3-6 when their 1981 defense collapsed. The offense was the same one that had won the Superbowl in 1981.

          Chuck Studley was fired. George Seifter (6-18 as the HC of Cornell) took over and the ship righted.

    • MosesZD

      That was because Chip Kelly the GM sabotaged Chip Kelly the coach. Had he not gone with DeMarco Murray and Sam Bradford, chances are he’d still be coaching in Philly.

      Murray suffered the classic “Curse of 370″ (running backs who carry 370 (or more times) during a season will, 19x out of 20x, be far, far worse (an average of 32% worse) the year after.

      And Bradford. He’s made $70 million on ‘potential’ even though he was no better than Gabbert last year.

  • 49ers fan24

    The 49ers will be a better team but it probably won’t show up in the stats this year.

    Tough schedule and lot of weakness in the padding game means a top 3 pick in next year’s draft.

  • MosesZD

    You guys are still stuck on Kaepernick. Give me a break. Look at how he passes in the pocket. He’s terrible. In 2013 his QB rating from the pocket was 80.9. And that was a GOOD year for him.

    All he can do is run-around like a chicken with his head cut off until a WR, after five or six seconds, gets 4 yards open. Then he rifles the ball (inaccurately). That isn’t going to work in Kelly’s offense which is a quick-decision making, up-tempo, QB accuracy offense. All of which Kaepernick has spent years demonstrating he can not do…

    And you people have the stats to confirm it. Yet you write this drivel. Please.