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3 biggest surprises from Kyle Shanahan’s first 49ers depth chart for 2022

NFL, 2022 NFL Season, San Francisco 49ers, Kyle Shanahan, Jimmy Garropolo, Tyler Kroft, Drake Jackson

The San Francisco 49ers are facing a lot of questions this preseason, but Kyle Shanahan has provided some answers after releasing their first depth chart.

The 49ers didn’t seem to make any gains in the offseason due to a lack of major salary cap space and the absence of a first-round pick for the first time since 1996.

Three dependable starters were lost to free agency. These were Laken Tomlinson, nose tackle D.J. Jones, and cornerback K’Waun Williams. The team also doesn’t really have established starters lined up to take their place. The top assistant under head coach Kyle Shanahan, offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, is also out. He just took over as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. In addition, four offensive position coaches from a reputable staff were changed.

Having said that, the 49ers did fill a need by awarding former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward their lone high-paying deal in free agency.

They have anointed Trey Lance as their main QB. Jimmy Garoppolo is still listed on the roster, but Shanahan has committed to trading him before their first official snap of the season. Last year, the 49ers heavily invested in Lance because they hoped that he would someday succeed Jimmy G. and really become a star for them at QB.

Lance’s time has come. He is anticipated to lead a group that made it to the NFC Championship Game and still has a squad capable of contending. What kind of group will Lance lead, and were there any surprises with Shanahan’s initial 49ers depth chart? Let’s see.

3 biggest surprises from Kyle Shanahan’s first depth chart in San Francisco

3) Tyler Kroft as primary TE backup

Star TE George Kittle was ranked No. 16 out of the top 101 players by Pro Football Focus after last season due to his superior receiving and blocking ability. In addition to Kittle, the 49ers also acquired Tyler Kroft and Troy Fumagalli this summer in an effort to strengthen their tight end corps. Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner are also still around.

Many expected Dwelley to be Kittle’s primary backup this season. Based on the initial depth chart, however, that job has fallen on Tyler Kroft’s shoulders. Kroft joined the squad as a fresh face in March of this year and agreed to a one-year contract with the 49ers. With 81 games played since 2015, he is the team’s most seasoned tight end.

The Cincinnati Bengals selected him 85th overall way back in 2015. He has 101 catches for 1,024 yards and 13 touchdowns over his seven-year NFL career. Kroft concluded the previous season with the Jets with 16 receptions for 173 yards and one score. He surely has the resume to justify his primary backup status, and we’ll see if his play on the field holds up.

2) Rookie Drake Jackson starts

The team lost three guys who significantly contributed to the San Francisco‘s defensive success last season. D.J. Jones went to the Denver Broncos, Arden Key ended up with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Kentavius Street is now with the New Orleans Saints. The three totaled 105 stops overall, 21 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks at the end of the previous campaign.

Still, the 49ers are high on their 61st overall pick this year — Drake Jackson of Southern California. Jackson is a defensive specialist who can help bolster the edge. He can also fill the vacuum created by the losses of Jones, Key, and Street.

In three college seasons (2019–21), he played in 28 games (26 starts). Jackson recorded 103 tackles, 25.0 tackles for loss, four passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He also received Second-Team All-Pac-12 recognition in 2019 and 2021. That’s an impressive resume for someone carrying heavy expectations. Despite the team being high on him, though, experts did not really expect him to start right off the bat.

1) Jimmy Garoppolo is still here

This is now Trey Lance’s time. Jimmy Garoppolo, meanwhile, will likely be headed elsewhere before the regular season even begins.

Garoppolo spent most of last season mentoring and guiding Lance. With San Francisco, Garoppolo had a 31-14 record as a starter. He also led the Niners to two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance. His career winning percentage of .702 as a starting quarterback is the fourth-highest among active NFL.

Additionally, Garoppolo joined an exclusive group of six quarterbacks who won at least 20 of their first 25 starts during the Super Bowl era. As a member of the 49ers, he has recorded 10 games with 300 or more passing yards. That ranks fourth in team history. Garoppolo trails just Steve Young in passer rating (98.3) and completion percentage (67.7) among 49ers quarterbacks with 500 passes attempted (101.4).

So why are the 49ers getting rid of him again? They’re essentially putting all their eggs in the Trey Lance basket. Where that leads them, only time will tell.

And where Jimmy G ends up … only time will tell, too.