No. 3: Downfield Passing
OK, this might be getting a bit nit-picky here. But there’s a good reason to suspect the 49ers offense will have difficulty with long passes over the course of the season.
This is, of course, in direct reference to Jimmy Garoppolo’s arm strength. And while little of it may matter within head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which stresses getting open and maximizing yards after the catch, it’s still bears addressing.
Garoppolo isn’t a deep-ball passer. Case in point, Garoppolo’s 2017 Niners predecessors (Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard) had middle-of-the-field, 20-plus-yard passer ratings of 95.8 and 141.4, respectively, per Pro Football Focus.
In comparison, Garoppolo’s number here was 47.9.
PFF’s Mike Renner elaborated a bit more:
"Of his 12 deepest passes thrown, he completed only one. And through five games, he only notched three completions targeted farther than 20 yards down the field. That extrapolates out to only 10 deep completions over the course of a full season – an unsustainably low rate we’ve never seen for a productive quarterback over 16 games."
Both Beathard and Hoyer had better deep-ball accuracy ratings (just above 40 percent for each) than Garoppolo, whose 31.3 percent accuracy rate ranked towards the bottom of players PFF evaluated in this category.
In contrast, the No. 1 most accurate deep-ball passer last year was now-Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (56.5 percent).
Again, none of it may matter in Shanahan’s offense. Plenty of quarterbacks have made a living off short and intermediate throws.
Just don’t expect the 49ers offense to take big shots down the field this season.