With the San Francisco 49ers’ 2018 season now complete, Niner Noise goes through each position and dishes out final grades on what turned into an injury-filled, disappointing year.
At the start of 2018, most San Francisco 49ers fans probably didn’t envision a 4-12 finish at the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft as the end result. Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad was supposed to compete for a playoff berth, especially after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. finished on such a high note to close out 2017.
Garoppolo’s Week 3 ACL injury all but thwarted any realistic chance the Niners had for a postseason push. But that doesn’t mean a number of individual positions struggled instead of having shown both the promise and prowess many expected.
Injuries played a part across the board, yes. But there were also a lot of regressions for second-year players, disappointments from high-profile draft picks and more.
Yet there was also a lot of good to be had from the red and gold. Record-setting good, in fact. And all the good doesn’t squarely fall on the shoulders of tight end George Kittle.
So, as we look back on the 49ers’ 2018 campaign and get ready for the new year, let’s grade out each of the team’s positions report-card style and see how the Niners did overall this season.
Kicking things off with special teams.
Kicker Robbie Gould was automatic, once again. He converted 33 of 34 field-goal attempts on the season — 97.1 percent, which ranked tops in the NFL this season. And he posted a 27-of-29 mark on extra points, too.
Gould alone would garner an A-grade, for sure. But taking into account the rest of this special teams unit, there’s a lot left to be desired.
Sure, kick returner Richie James‘ 97-yard kick return for a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks back in Week 15 was electrifying. But he also struggled with muffed punts, which led to him losing that job late in the season.
Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus ranked punter Bradley Pinion 15th among all qualifiers this season — not exactly stellar after being the first specialist drafted back in 2015. A free agent this offseason, it will be interesting to see if the Niners bring him back.
Coverage units also regressed from 2017, and PFF ranked the 49ers 28th overall this season.
Take away Gould’s efforts, and this unit would have been much, much worse.