San Francisco 49ers (Last Year: 13-3)
2020 NFL Season Preview:
WR Travis Benjamin, TE Jordan Reed, OT Trent Williams, G Mike Person, G Tom Compton, DE Dion Jordan.
Early Draft Picks:
DT Javon Kinlaw, WR Brandon Aiyuk. 49ers Rookie Forecast
RB Matt Breida, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Marquise Goodwin, TE Levine Toilolo, OT Joe Staley, G Mike Person, DT DeForest Buckner, DT Sheldon Day.
2020 San Francisco 49ers Offense:
If there's a weakness to San Francisco's roster, it's Jimmy Garoppolo. The young quarterback has flashed signs of great potential, but he struggles at times as well, particularly when he holds on to the ball too long in the pocket. Garoppolo sometimes struggles to process information, which has hurt him in some games, one of which was Super Bowl LIV. Had the 49ers been able to score in the fourth quarter, they probably would've prevailed.
The 49ers are locked into Garoppolo because of his contract, so they'll need to continue to surround him with great talent. They traded for Emmanuel Sanders during this past season, which was a nice, short-term solution. Sanders left, however, so the 49ers needed another reliable receiver for the long haul. That would be first-round rookie Brandon Aiyuk, whom the 49ers traded up for despite lacking any sort of draft capital outside of the opening frame. Aiyuk has play-making ability, and San Francisco had him graded evenly with CeeDee Lamb.
Aiyuk will join the receiving corps comprised of Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. The latter didn't get to play last year because of an injury, so his presence will be a nice boost. Samuel, meanwhile, seems to be emerging as a top-level receiver in the NFL. He was terrific as a rookie down the stretch, both as a wideout and a talent out of the backfield, so his production should continue to increase. Of course, there's also George Kittle, who will continue to be one of the top two tight ends in the NFL, along with Travis Kelce.
The 49ers also have some talent in the backfield. Matt Breida is gone, but that'll just give Raheem Mostert more opportunities. Mostert was a monster at the end of the season. He rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC Championship victory over the Packers. Mostert should continue to have nice performances, but if not, San Francisco can also lean on Tevin Coleman.
Mostert and Coleman will be running behind an offensive line featuring a brand new tackle in the wake of Joe Staley's retirement. Losing a player as great as Staley would normally hurt, but the 49ers were able to acquire Trent Williams from the Redskins. Williams is one of the top tackles in the league when 100 percent, though he may not be at maximum capacity in 2020 because he was out of football last year. Williams will be one of the bookends with third-year Mike McGlinchey starting on the other side. McGlinchey has enjoyed an excellent start to his career, and he can only improve.
The 49ers figure to be strong in the interior of the offensive line as well. There's some concern that center Weston Richburg won't be prepared for the start of the season because of injury, but Ben Garland proved to be a capable backup last year. Whether it's Richburg or Garland, the center will be flanked by Laken Tomlinson and one of Tom Compton or Mike Person. Compton is a liability, so perhaps Daniel Brunskill, who played very well at tackle last year, can slide inside to guard.
2020 San Francisco 49ers Defense:
The 49ers were so dominant defensively last year that they were able to overcome Jimmy Garoppolo's occasional struggles to carry a lead into the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. The front line was the best unit on San Francisco's defense, which can't be a surprise because of how many first-round picks general manager John Lynch spent on the group.
Nick Bosa was one of the recent first-rounders. Despite being a rookie, Bosa was dominant this past season, including his manhandling of Eric Fisher in the Super Bowl. Bosa registered nine sacks, a number that is bound to soar next year. Bosa will team up with Dee Ford to harass quarterbacks frequently once again in 2020.
The 49ers have two other first-round defensive linemen on their roster. It was DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead last year, but San Francisco dealt the former to the Colts for the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft because of financial considerations. The 49ers replaced him with yet another first-rounder, Javon Kinlaw. With Kinlaw on the roster, and Armstead re-signed, opposing quarterbacks won't stand a chance.
San Francisco also re-signed another key player of its defense, Jimmie Ward, which was a bit of a surprise. The stellar safety always had talent, but had trouble staying on the field early in his career. With some financial restrictions, it seemed as though San Francisco would have to let Ward go, but he'll return to once again be a part of a solid safety tandem with Jaquiski Tartt.
Ward and Tartt will pair with some excellent cornerbacks to once again form a great secondary. Richard Sherman was outstanding last year despite suffering several injuries prior to 2019. Sherman is now 32, but he should still have an outstanding year or two remaining in the tank. Sherman will play along with Ahkello Witherspoon and K'Waun Williams at the position. Williams is a terrific slot corner, but there's definite room for improvement with Witherspoon. The 49ers, however, didn't acquire anyone to really challenge him.
One other player who needs to improve is Kwon Alexander, who didn't live up to the big contract he signed recently. Alexander missed half of 2019 with an injury, which was part of the problem. Alexander has an extensive injury history, so the 49ers can't rely on him to remain on the field. However, San Francisco has a pair of young linebackers, Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, who performed well in the wake of Alexander's absence.
2020 San Francisco 49ers Schedule and Intangibles:
The 49ers had maintained a dominant home-field advantage from 2009 to 2013, owning a 32-10-1 record in that span. They struggled as hosts after that, but regained their terrific home advantage in 2019, as they recorded an 8-2 record.
San Francisco was mixed on special teams last year. They outgained the opposition on punts, but the opposite was true when it came to kickoffs. This was the case as well in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Robbie Gould drilled 33-of-34 tries in 2018 and 39-of-41 the year before. However, Gould struggled in 2019, converting on just 23-of-31 attempts.
Mitch Wishnowsky, chosen in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, finished 14th in net average last year.
The 49ers won't be underdogs in too many games. They may not be favored at New England, and they could be dogs at Seattle, New Orleans and Dallas, but that's about it.
2020 San Francisco 49ers Rookies:
Go here for the 49ers Rookie Forecast
, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2020 San Francisco 49ers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2020 San Francisco 49ers Analysis:
Upstart teams - San Francisco improved from 4-12 to 13-3 last year - tend to regress. The 49ers, however, seem like an exception. Their defense was outstanding last season and should continue to dominate. The offensive line will remain stout as long as Trent Williams doesn't disappoint. The offensive supporting cast is solid. Jimmy Garoppolo is the one question mark, but he quarterbacked the team to the Super Bowl despite not playing well at times, so an improvement could put the team over the top.
11-5 (2nd in NFC West)
2019 Projection: 10-6. 2019 Actual Result: 13-3.
2018 Projection: 10-6. 2018 Actual Result: 4-12.
2017 Projection: 4-12. 2017 Actual Result: 6-10.
2016 Projection: 3-13. 2016 Actual Result: 2-14.
NFL Draft Team Grade: B- Grade
Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The 49ers have two first-round selections, but don't pick again until No. 156. They don't have any major needs outside of receiver and center, so they should trade down multiple times in order to acquire some depth.
2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: It was surprising that the 49ers didn't trade down with either of their first-round picks, aside from shifting down one spot from No. 13 to 14. Instead, they actually moved up from No. 31, which was even more shocking. This was unnecessary, as there were plenty of talented receivers available at that juncture. San Francisco could have secured Brandon Aiyuk or someone similar with the 31st pick, or better yet, in the 35-45 range.
Luckily, the 49ers did very well with their other first-round choice. They were able to acquire a resource and still select Javon Kinlaw. Their original plan was to take Henry Ruggs, but with the Alabama receiver off the board, they actually made the smarter decision by obtaining a replacement for DeForest Buckner.
I wasn't crazy about the 49ers' final three picks, though Colton McKivitz provided some nice value in the fifth round. Overall, I think the 49ers should have acquired more resources by moving down, but the end result wasn't too bad.
See NFL Draft Grades for every single 49ers pick.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
14. Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina - B+ Grade
The 49ers were desperate to trade down after Henry Ruggs was chosen at No. 12. They moved down once, and they tried to do so again, but ran out of time. I figured they might "settle" for the better receivers, CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy, but they opted instead for Javon Kinlaw. I worry a bit about Kinlaw's injury history, which is why this isn't earning an "A" grade. However, Kinlaw is very talented, and he could end up being a great replacement for DeForest Buckner.
25. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State - C- Grade
Brandon Aiyuk is a fine player to pick at this juncture, and he obviously fills a need with Emmanuel Sanders gone. However, I don't like the trade up for him, especially when considering how few resources the 49ers have outside of the first round. There's a decent chance Aiyuk would've been available for the 49ers at No. 31, and if not, they could've snatched one of the many other talented receivers available.
153. Colton McKivitz, OT, West Virginia - B- Grade
Here's more tackle help in the wake of Joe Staley's retirement. Colton McKivitz, however, is a right tackle only. He's pretty stiff and seems like he doesn't have much upside, but he could end up being a solid backup.
190. Charlie Woerner, TE, Georgia - D Grade
Charlie Woerner had just nine catches in 2019, so I imagine the 49ers are looking at him as a special-teamer and a deep backup. This is someone they could've obtained as a UDFA.
217. Jauan Jennings, WR, Tennessee - C+ Grade
The 49ers traded away Marquise Goodwin, so it makes sense that they'd target a receiver late in the draft. Jauan Jennings is another prospect with speed concerns, but he has nice size (6-3, 215) at least. I don't think he'll make the 53-man roster, but crazier things have happened.
The 49ers used their dominant defense and running game to reach the Super Bowl. John Lynch has done an amazing job of assembling talent, so this success was not a fluke, so San Francisco shouldn't be considered a one-hit wonder.
49ers sign WR Travis Benjamin
49ers sign G Tom Compton
49ers cut G Mike Person
Colts acquire DE/DT DeForest Buckner from 49ers
- Cornerback: The 49ers had inconsistent play across from Richard Sherman, so they'll need a new starter there. Also, it must be noted that Sherman is turning 32 this offseason.
- Guard: San Francisco has a stellar offensive line, but the team could stand to find an upgrade at one of the guard spots. Signed Tom Compton
- Defensive Tackle: Arik Armstead is one of three key free agents the 49ers should re-sign. Keeping Armstead is important for the 49ers to maintain a dominant defensive line. (Update: DeForest Buckner was traded.) Re-signed Arik Armstead
- Safety: Jimmie Ward is another key free agent who will need to be re-signed or replaced. Re-signed Jimmie Ward
- Wide Receiver: Emmanuel Sanders clicked with Jimmy Garoppolo, but he's an impending free agent who will need to be re-signed. Signed Travis Benjamin
Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
2020 NFL Free Agent Signings:
- Tom Compton, G/OT, Jets. Age: 31. -- Signed with 49ers
San Francisco 49ers Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Jimmie Ward, S, 49ers. Age: 29.
Re-signed with 49ers (3 years, $28.5 million)
Jimmie Ward missed the first few weeks of the 2019 season with a hand injury, but he was terrific after he returned. He was spectacular in both coverage and run support. He deserves a massive contract.
Arik Armstead, DE/DT, 49ers. Age: 26.
Re-signed with 49ers (5 years, $85 million)
Arik Armstead didn't live up to his first-round billing for four years, but he was excellent this past season. He's a late bloomer, but there's also a chance that Armstead was simply playing for a new contract.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, 49ers. Age: 33.
Signed with Saints (2 years, $16 million)
Emmanuel Sanders was traded to the 49ers prior to the deadline, and yet he clicked instantly with Jimmy Garoppolo. He made San Francisco's offense so much more explosive. The only downside is that he'll turn 33 in March.
Matt Breida, RB, 49ers. Age: 25.
Tendered by 49ers (2nd)
Matt Breida is a talented runner who would deserve a heavier workload if he could stay healthy. He seems to always get banged up, unfortunately.
Mike Person, G, 49ers. Age: 32.
Mike Person is a solid guard who is at his best in pass protection. He's coming off a down year, which includes a poor showing in the Super Bowl, but he was dealing with injuries, so he could rebound.
Ronald Blair, DE, 49ers. Age: 27.
Re-signed with 49ers (1 year)
Ronald Blair was just a rotational edge rusher this past season, but he has talent and should be able to compete for a starting job somewhere.
Ben Garland, C/G, 49ers. Age: 32.
Re-signed with 49ers (1 year, $2.25 million)
Ben Garland did a solid job replacing Weston Richburg when the 49ers' starting center suffered an injury during the middle of the season.
- Kendrick Bourne (RFA), WR, 49ers. Age: 25. -- Tendered by 49ers (2nd round)
- Sheldon Day, DT, 49ers. Age: 26. -- Signed with Colts
- Levine Toilolo, TE, 49ers. Age: 29. -- Signed with Giants
- Anthony Zettel, DE/DT, 49ers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Vikings
- Damontre Moore, DE, 49ers. Age: 27.
- Garrett Celek, TE, 49ers. Age: 32.
- Elijah Lee (RFA), OLB, 49ers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Lions
- Shon Coleman, OT, 49ers. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with 49ers (1 year)
- Dontae Johnson, CB, 49ers. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with 49ers
- Jason Verrett, CB, 49ers. Age: 29. -- Re-signed with 49ers
NFL Free Agent Tracker:
QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors
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