How 49ers’ ‘positionless’ offense will affect the 2019 roster?

San Francisco 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
San Francisco 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /
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The San Francisco 49ers under Kyle Shanahan are creating a “positionless” offense where every player is versatile and can line up anywhere on the field. Niner Noise tries to predict how that’ll affect the roster.

If you have been in the Bay Area rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, you have seen the Golden State Warriors revolutionize the NBA with “positionless” basketball, where a taller player (typically a power forward) can be a point guard and a smaller player can be a center.

Well, Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan must have seen something across the Bay he liked.

The moves the 49ers took, all influenced by coach Shanahan, point towards the creation of a “positionless offense,” probably in an effort to combat offensive ineptitude last year. San Francisco’s offense last year was slightly below average, per the stats, ranking 21st in total points and 16th in total yards.

For a team with only four wins and used its backup and third-string quarterbacks for the majority of the season, that seems respectable. But given the sheer ability Shanahan has, it leaves most fans wanting for more firepower.

So the 49ers decided to embrace the “mad scientist” in him by giving him weapons on top of weapons.

Running back Tevin Coleman initially seemed like Jerick McKinnon insurance. Yet after McKinnon stayed on the roster with his high salary, Coleman’s role seems a little murkier. In the NFL Draft, the 49ers selected both Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, a sizable investment into the wide receiver room. The Niners also signed veteran wideout Jordan Matthews to a low-risk deal, but yet again, they added more talent to the roster. Finally, the 49ers selected Kaden Smith and signed Levine Toilolo to add to the tight end room.

All these moves, coupled with the strengths on the 49ers roster, create a whole new issue for the front office: who to keep.

That’s where the whole “positionless” offense comes into play.

Typically, a NFL team will keep three running backs, maybe a fullback, six wide receivers and three tight ends. That comes out to around 13 roster spots; it can vary, but for the purpose of this discussion, we’ll keep it locked at 13. Now, the 49ers have four running backs, a fullback, eight wide receivers and four tight ends. This comes around to 17 players.

Now, under a normal offense, this wouldn’t be an issue. But with the type of players Shanahan signed, he now has the roster flexibility to make some interesting choices. So first, let’s go through and figure out exactly which players can slot in at which positions before seeing how the offense, as a whole, will shape up.