While other teams will be wrapping up their seasons on Sunday and preparing for the playoffs, the San Francisco 49ers will put the finishing touches on a disastrous 2015 campaign, one of which that could leave them picking third overall in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft. The 49ers record sits at 4-11 just before they kick off against the St. Louis Rams in the season finale, not good (or bad) enough for the first overall pick—that honor will go to either the Tennessee Titans or Cleveland Browns.
San Francisco’s mark puts them in a three-way tie with San Diego and Dallas, both of which also carry records of 4-11 entering the final week of regular season play. While head coach Jim Tomsula has said him and his players are concerned about now, and not next week, building for the future is certainly something in the back of everyone’s minds.
The safest selection for San Francisco is the easiest decision: quarterback. There’s a zero percent chance of Colin Kaepernick and his $11.9 million base salary for the 2016 season sticking around, and while Blaine Gabbert has truly been a refreshing look for the embattled offense, he is not the future of the 49ers.
Luckily, for a front office which has displayed poor taste on more than one occasion in the past couple of year’s, the decision here is simple on what to do with the pick: Cal quarterback Jared Goff. The 21-year-old Goff recently announced he’d forgo his senior season to declare for the NFL draft. A Bay Area native, Goff was named 2015 First-team All-Pac-12, and authored an impressive 55-36 victory over Air Force in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl to deliver Cal its first postseason victory since 2008.
And everyone remembers what happened the last time San Francisco passed on a local commodity. For a businessman of Jed York’s stature, the decision is a no-brainer. That is, if Goff is available when the 49ers make their first selection.
Tomsula’s in-the-now attitude is shared by Titans interim head coach Mike Mularkey.
“Obviously, you’d like to walk away a winner and feel good about yourself for all the hard work,” Mularkey told the Associated Press.
As mentioned previously, his Tennessee squad shares the crown for the league’s worst record. The Browns defeated the Titans in Week 2 of the season, but that won’t matter—head-to-head records aren’t used as a tiebreaker to establish draft order. Instead, the NFL uses the strength of schedule model, so as the team playing against weaker competition isn’t rewarded for its shortcomings. The Titans play in the AFC South, where the Texans remain the sole team with as many as eight wins. Should both teams lose on Sunday —Cleveland will face a Pittsburgh squad with a slim chance remaining of making the playoffs still— the Titans would win the lottery.
Both Tennessee and Cleveland will be without the services of their Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, Marcus Mariota will miss his second straight game with a sprained knee, and Johnny Manziel is out going through league-mandated post-concussion protocol. Tennessee will face off against the Indianapolis Colts in the finale on the road, where they have not won a game since 2007. Meanwhile, Cleveland has defeated the Steelers just six times since 1999.
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report
David Barclay is a 49ers Insider for byteclay.com. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @DJamesIII