2021 NFL Offseason: San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers (Last Year: 6-10)

2021 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Nate Sudfeld, RB Wayne Gallman, WR Mohamed Sanu, C Alex Mack, DE Arden Key, DT Maurice Hurst, OLB Samson Ebukam, LB Nate Gerry, S Tony Jefferson, S Tavon Wilson.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Trey Lance, G Aaron Banks, RB Trey Sermon, CB Ambry Thomas. 49ers Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Jerick McKinnon, WR Kendrick Bourne, TE Jordan Reed, C Ben Garland, DE Kerry Hyder, DE Solomon Thomas, CB Richard Sherman, CB Ahkello Witherspoon.

2021 San Francisco 49ers Offense:
Whether it’s trading stocks or managing a football team, it’s important to identify a sunk cost. The 49ers did just that with Jimmy Garoppolo after giving him a $137 million contract a few years ago. Garoppolo quarterbacked the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, but ultimately was a liability who couldn’t score any points in the fourth quarter to put away the Chiefs. Garoppolo has otherwise struggled to stay healthy, which includes his absent 2020 campaign.

John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan decided that enough was enough with Garoppolo, opting to select Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick. Lance is much like Josh Allen in that he’s very physically gifted, but raw coming out of school. It might take him a year or two to become a viable NFL starter, but because he was the third-overall selection, the 49ers may decide to put him under center sooner rather than later. It should surprise no one if Lance starts the 2021 opener if he has a strong training camp and preseason.

Lance will find that he has a nice supporting cast at his disposal. His top weapon, of course, will be George Kittle, who is one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Kittle missed eight games in 2020, so he’ll be looking to rebound from a disappointing campaign. The same can be said of Deebo Samuel, who was available for just seven contests. Meanwhile, 2020 first-rounder Brandon Aiyuk showed some major potential as a rookie. He’ll improve with experience.

The 49ers also have an intriguing, young talent in the backfield. Lynch spent a third-round pick on Trey Sermon, a gifted back who could challenge for the starting job. He’ll have to beat out Raheem Mostert, who has thrived in Shanahan’s scheme. Sermon is more talented than Mostert, so if he similarly takes to Shanahan’s system, the San Francisco ground attack will be even more potent.

The offensive line, meanwhile, was given an injection of talent via the veteran route in the wake of the Alex Mack signing. Center was a problem area for the 49ers last year, and Mack will fix that. Mack turns 36 in November, but he’s still a rock-solid center. He’ll be flanked by Laken Tomlinson and Tom Compton. The latter also missed extensive time; he was sidelined for nine games in 2020.

There was some concern that the 49ers wouldn’t be able to re-sign Trent Williams this offseason, but the 49ers managed to do so. They overpaid Williams based on his age and injury history, but if he remains healthy, it won’t matter very much. He and Mike McGlinchey are an excellent tackle tandem that will protect Lance very well.

2021 San Francisco 49ers Defense:
Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Tom Compton were some of the many 49er players who missed time with injuries last year. There were numerous defensive talents who were sidelined for an extended period of time as well. There were some weeks where San Francisco was missing seven defensive starters, so last year’s rankings and stats should be completely ignored.

Two of the primary injured players were the starting edge rushers, Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. San Francisco was able to get some quality performances from its backup edge rushers, but there’s no mistaking the impact that the Bosa and Ford absences had. Bosa and Ford played just three combined games in 2020, so their presence on the field will enhance the entire defense this upcoming season.

Bosa and Ford being on the field will make some of the other defensive linemen better. This includes 2020 first-rounder Javon Kinlaw. The South Carolina product wasn’t very impressive in his rookie campaign, but things will be much different in 2021 unless there are mass injuries again. Arik Armstead will also benefit from Bosa and Ford. He played well this past season, but was less dominant than he was the prior year.

An improved pass rush will obviously aid the secondary, which also had its fair share of injuries. Ironically, one defensive back who remained healthy amid the mass casulaties was Jason Verrett, who has endured an injury-plagued career. Verrett was a first-round pick back in 2014, but he’s been a disappointment because he hasn’t been able to remain healthy. That finally changed in 2020, and Verrett was exceptional for San Francisco as a result. Verrett was retained for 2021, but the 49ers lost their other top cornerbacks, Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. Dontae Johnson could be named the starter across from Verrett unless third-round rookie Ambry Thomas challenges for the job. The 49ers will at least have a talented slot cornerback on the field in K’Waun Williams.

While the 49ers lost some cornerback talent, they were able to retain their two safeties, who also missed time with injuries last year. Jimmie Ward is a talented defender, while Jaquiski Tartt is far from a liability.

Rounding out the defense, the 49ers possess one of the top linebackers in the NFL, Fred Warner. The BYU product was a third-round pick in 2018, but has quickly emerged as an All-Pro talent. He’ll be joined by Dre Greenlaw, who has shown some potential, and Nathan Gerry, who struggled with injuries last year as well.

2021 San Francisco 49ers Schedule and Intangibles:
San Francisco surrendered a touchdown on special teams last year, while failing to score itself.

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. He was 19-of-23 in 2020.

Mitch Wishnowsky, chosen in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, finished 14th in net average in 2019 and improved to 11th in 2020.

The 49ers have six tough divisional games on their slate, but they’re lucky to have a fourth-place schedule, all while battling teams in the NFC North and AFC South.

2021 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.

2021 San Francisco 49ers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2021 San Francisco 49ers Analysis: The 49ers must be eager to rebound from their nightmare season in 2020. Countless key players missed extensive time with injuries, resulting in a highly disappointing 6-10 record. If everyone remains healthy this time, the 49ers will have a great chance of making a deep run in the playoffs, though their quarterback in such an expedition will either be the lackluster Jimmy Garoppolo, or the incredibly raw Trey Lance.

Projection: 12-5 (Tied 1st in NFC West)

2020 Projection: 11-5. 2020 Actual Result: 6-10.
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 2021 NFL Draft: The 49ers traded up for a quarterback. We don’t know who that is yet, but they’re set up to win now, even with a rookie signal-caller. They must address a few positions (primarily cornerback), but they’ll want to add as much good depth as possible after they suffered so many injuries last year.

2021 NFL Draft Accomplishments: San Francisco fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when their team drafted Trey Lance over Mac Jones. Lance has huge upside, much like Josh Allen when he entered the NFL in 2018. Jones, conversely, is an Andy Dalton with DUIs. It made no sense for the 49ers to trade up for Jones when they could have just obtained him at No. 12 (we know that for a fact now.) Lance was the no-brainer decision.

San Francisco’s next two picks were used to help Lance when he inevitably steps in for Jimmy Garoppolo. Aaron Banks figures to be an upgrade at guard, while Trey Sermon is an extra body in the backfield. I didn’t like the Sermon pick because the 49ers didn’t need to trade up for a running back, but the Banks selection was fine.

Excluding the Sermon choice, no other 49er pick scored worse than a B-. This includes some nice late-round selections to bolster the secondary. I like what the 49ers did overall, so they deserve a grade in the “B” range.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

3. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State – A- Grade
I’ve been in contact with several 49er fans who have been incredibly fearful of their team selecting Mac Jones. They can all now be at ease, as their team made the correct decision. Trey Lance is a much better prospect than Jones. Lance may not be as accurate as Jones in the short passing game, but he has much better arm strength, and he’s an incredible athlete. He also possesses high intelligence and character traits. The one concern with Lance is that he’s raw, especially after missing last season, but Charlie Campbell was told that Lance resembles Josh Allen. Give him two or three years, and he’ll likely be a superstar.

48. Aaron Banks, G, Notre Dame – B- Grade
I’ve said this multiple times, but I’m always a fan of teams adding to the offensive line to protect a young quarterback. Trey Lance is raw, so he’ll need all the protection he can get once he takes over for Jimmy Garoppolo. I had Banks slated as a third-round prospect, but I don’t hate this value in the middle of the second frame.

88. Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State – D Grade
I’m surprised the 49ers traded up for a running back in the third round because it seems as though Kyle Shanahan can draft a running back in the eighth round and turn him into a star. Trey Sermon is a powerful runner, but he has poor vision and anticipation, which concerns me. He’s also not good in pass protection, which is also a problem.

102. Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan – B- Grade
The 49ers lost multiple defensive backs this offseason, so they had to address both positions during the 2021 NFL Draft. Ambry Thomas is a fine selection. I had him slotted early on Day 3, so taking him at the end of the third frame isn’t too bad.

155. Jaylon Moore, OT, Western Michigan – B Grade
Trent Williams was re-signed, but his health is unreliable. The 49ers needed to find an insurance policy for Williams, and this is a fine one. I had Jaylon Moore in the fifth or sixth rounds of my updates, so the range makes sense for Moore.

172. Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon – B Grade
This is the 49ers’ second cornerback, which is a logical pick because of the players they lost at the position this offseason. I’ve had Deommodore Leonoir around this range in my mock draft, so this is a fine selection.

180. Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC – B+ Grade
Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Matthew Stafford… the 49ers obviously needed to address the secondary. Talanoa Hufanga was someone I mocked in the fourth round, so I’m definitely a fan of this value.

194. Elijah Mitchell, KR, Lousiana – B Grade
Elijah Mitchell is a pure kick returner who won’t do much else. There’s not much to analyze here beyond the 49ers getting a dynamic threat on special teams. I didn’t have Mitchell drafted, but only because I didn’t know where to slot him.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The 2020 campaign was the Murphy’s Law of seasons for the 49ers. Nearly all of their starters suffered injuries, yet they were still able to be competitive in many of their games. Unless they suffer simimar misfortune, they’re due to bounce back in 2021.

Offseason Moves:
  • 49ers sign S Tony Jefferson
  • 49ers sign DT Maurice Hurst
  • 49ers sign RB Wayne Gallman
  • 49ers sign LB Nate Gerry
  • 49ers sign WR Mohamed Sanu
  • 49ers sign S Tavon Wilson
  • 49ers sign C Alex Mack
  • 49ers sign DE/OLB Samson Ebukam

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo held back the 49ers in 2019, and he would have done so again in 2020 had everyone not gotten hurt. Perhaps the 49ers will do something to improve this situation.

    2. Three Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, Ahkello Witherspoon, K’Waun Williams and Jamar Taylor are all impending free agents. Mass re-signings are required. Re-signed Jason Verrett and K’Waun Williams

    3. Offensive Tackle: The 49ers are planning to re-sign Trent Williams, which would fill this need. Re-signed Trent Williams

    4. Center: The 49ers have a huge hole in the middle of their offensive line. Signed Alex Mack

    5. Guard: Ben Garland and Tom Compton are also free agents, so one of them must be retained.

    6. Safety: Jaquiski Tartt is another free agent-to-be. Re-signed Jaquiski Tartt; signed Tavon Wilson

    7. Running Back: Jeff Wilson Jr., Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman are also seeing their contracts expire. Signed Wayne Gallman

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Alex Mack, C, Falcons. Age: 35.
      Signed with 49ers

      Alex Mack was once the best center in the NFL – I argued he should have been MVP in the Super Bowl prior to Tom Brady’s comeback from down 28-3 – but at 35, he has regressed in recent years.

    2. Nate Gerry, LB, Eagles. Age: 26.
      Signed with 49ers

      Nate Gerry played poorly in 2020, but was bothered by an Achilles injury all year. He should be better in 2021.

    3. Maurice Hurst, DT, Raiders. Age: 26.
      Signed with 49ers

      It’s unclear why the Raiders cut a talented player like Maurice Hurst. He’s a solid rotational player with upside.

    4. Wayne Gallman, RB, Giants. Age: 26.
      Signed with 49ers

      Wayne Gallman did a solid job in place of Saquon Barkley, rushing for 682 yards and six touchdowns, while catching 21 passes.

    5. Samson Ebukam, OLB, Rams. Age: 26. — Signed with 49ers (2 years, $12 million)
    6. Tavon Wilson, S, Colts. Age: 31. — Signed with 49ers
    7. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Lions. Age: 32. — Signed with 49ers (1 year)
    8. MyCole Pruitt, TE, Titans. Age: 29. — Signed with 49ers
    9. Arden Key, DE, Raiders. Age: 25. — Signed with 49ers
    10. Senio Kelemete, G, Texans. Age: 31. — Signed with 49ers
    11. Nate Sudfeld, QB, Eagles. Age: 27. — Signed with 49ers
    12. Marqise Lee, WR, Patriots. Age: 29. — Signed with 49ers

    San Francisco 49ers Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Kyle Juszczyk, FB, 49ers. Age: 30.
      Re-signed with 49ers (5 years, $27 million)

      An elite fullback, Kyle Juszczyk does everything for the 49ers. His age (30) is beginning to become a slight concern.

    2. Trent Williams, OT, 49ers. Age: 33.
      Re-signed with 49ers (6 years, $138 million)

      Despite sitting out all of 2019, Trent Williams was amazing in his return to action. He was a great replacement for Joe Staley. Age is the only concern.

    3. K’Waun Williams, CB, 49ers. Age: 30.
      Re-signed with 49ers (1 year)

      K’Waun Williams is an excellent slot cornerback. He is entering his 30s, but he should still be able to perform on a high level for at least two more years.

    4. Jeff Wilson Jr. (RFA), RB, 49ers. Age: 25.
      Jeff Wilson Jr. was terrific down the stretch, rushing for 183 yards against the Cardinals in Week 16. He finished with 600 yards and seven scores on the season because he split the workload with Raheem Mostert and others. It’s fair to wonder, however, how effective he would be outside of Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

    5. Jason Verrett, CB, 49ers. Age: 30.
      Re-signed with 49ers (1 year, $5.5 million)

      Jason Verrett was excellent last year, which was surprising because he actually stayed healthy for the first time in many seasons. The question is if he can remain healthy going forward. He’s now 30 as well, so that’s another factor that must be considered.

    6. Richard Sherman, CB, 49ers. Age: 33.
      Richard Sherman played in just five games last year. He struggled, as he wasn’t healthy when he was on the field. He’s 33, however, so he could continue to regress.

    7. Jaquiski Tartt, S, 49ers. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with 49ers (1 year)

      Jaquiski Tartt is a quality, well-rounded safety. He played just seven games in 2020.

    8. Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, 49ers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Seahawks (1 year)

      Ahkello Witherspoon has been incredibly inconsistent throughout his career thus far. He played well in limited action last year, but struggled in 2019. He’s only 26, and the upside is there, so perhaps Witherspoon is undervalued right now.

    9. Ben Garland, C/G, 49ers. Age: 33.
      Ben Garland has played well the past couple of years for the 49ers. He’s capable of starting at both center and guard. However, he’s now 33, so he could begin to decline in the near future.

    10. Kerry Hyder, DE, 49ers. Age: 30.
      Signed with Seahawks (3 years, $16.5 million)

      Kerry Hyder played well in relief of the injured elite 49er defensive ends last year, logging 8.5 sacks. I don’t know if that’s sustainable, but Hyder deserves a chance to play significant snaps in 2021.

    11. Tom Compton, G, 49ers. Age: 32.
      Tom Compton entered the year as a backup offensive lineman, but he played very well in relief of some injured players. He’s a passable starter for now.

    12. Jerick McKinnon, RB, 49ers. Age: 29.
      Signed with Chiefs

      Jerick McKinnon can’t stay healthy, which is a shame because he’s a dynamic receiver out of the backfield when he can play.

    13. Solomon Thomas, DE, 49ers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Raiders (1 year)

      Solomon Thomas is a bust as a former No. 3 overall pick, but he’s still a solid run defender. If he were a third- or fourth-round pick, his career would be seen as a success.

    14. Jordan Reed, TE, 49ers. Age: 31.
    15. Dontae Johnson, CB, 49ers. Age: 29. — Re-signed with 49ers (1 year)
    16. Ronald Blair, DE, 49ers. Age: 28. — Re-signed with 49ers
    17. Kendrick Bourne, WR, 49ers. Age: 26. — Signed with Patriots (3 years)
    18. Dion Jordan, DE, 49ers. Age: 31.
    19. Jamar Taylor, CB, 49ers. Age: 30.
    20. Hroniss Grasu, C, 49ers. Age: 30.
    21. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, 49ers. Age: 32.
    22. Jordan Willis, DE, 49ers. Age: 26.
    23. Tevin Coleman, RB, 49ers. Age: 28. — Signed with Jets (1 year)
    24. C.J. Beathard, QB, 49ers. Age: 27. — Signed with Jaguars
    25. Nick Mullens (RFA), QB, 49ers. Age: 26. — Signed with Eagles
    26. Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers. Age: 30. — Signed with Bears
    27. Joe Walker, LB, 49ers. Age: 28.
    28. Tony Bergstrom, C, 49ers. Age: 35.

    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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