2024 NFL Season Preview: San Francisco 49ers

Christian McCaffrey

San Francisco 49ers (Last Year: 12-5)

Season Summary:
The 49ers looked like the best team at times during the 2023 season, as they destroyed several teams that made the playoffs. They were up 10 against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, but couldn’t hold on to the lead in the big game once again.

2024 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Josh Dobbs, OT Brandon Parker, DE Leonard Floyd, DE Yetur Gross-Matos, DT Maliek Collins, DT Jordan Elliott, LB De’Vondre Campbell, CB Isaac Yiadom.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Ricky Pearsall, CB Renardo Green, OT/G Dominick Puni, S Malik Mustapha, RB Isaac Guerendo, WR Jacob Cowing. 49ers Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Sam Darnold, TE Charlie Woerner, OT Matt Pryor, DE Chase Young, DE Randy Gregory, DE Clelin Ferrell, DT Arik Armstead, DT Javon Kinlaw, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, LB Oren Burks, CB Isaiah Oliver, S Tashaun Gipson, S Logan Ryan.

2024 San Francisco 49ers Offense:
The 49ers traded for Jimmy Garoppolo and then used the No. 3 overall selection on Trey Lance. The solution to the quarterback problem was apparently spending the final pick in the draft on the position. Brock Purdy took over for an injured Garoppolo in 2022 and never looked back. He was even the MVP frontrunner in the betting markets at one point during the 2023 season. He didn’t win the award, but he led his team to the Super Bowl, where he went toe to toe with Patrick Mahomes before ultimately falling in overtime.

There was some concern that Purdy’s receiving corps would be weakened this offseason via trades involving Deebo Samuel and/or Brandon Aiyuk. Neither was dealt, so Purdy will have his two talented veteran receivers at his disposal once again. Even better, the 49ers used their first-round choice on Ricky Pearsall, so the receiving depth will be better in the near term. Meanwhile, George Kittle will continue to serve as one of the best tight ends in the NFL.

Of course, the 49ers offense can’t be discussed without delving into Christian McCaffrey. The All-Pro running back is coming off a terrific 2023 campaign in which he was also one of the MVP frontrunners. McCaffrey has a bit of a checkered injury history, however, so the 49ers will have to hope for more injury luck involving McCaffrey, who had a mostly clean 2023 season.

If there’s a weakness on this side of the ball, it’s on the offensive line. This obviously doesn’t apply to Trent Williams, who is still the best offensive lineman in the NFL despite being in his mid-30s. There are holes on the rest of the blocking unit, however. This includes Williams’ bookend, Colton McKivitz, who is coming off a mediocre 2023 campaign. The 49ers used a third-round pick on Dominick Puni, who should be able to push McKivitz for the starting job.

The best blocker in the interior is easily Jon Feliciano, who can play both guard and center. The other two starters project to be Jake Brendel and Aaron Banks. Brendel is average at best, while Banks was one of the worst starting guards in the NFL last year. Banks is a former second-round pick, but he hasn’t shown any signs of development.

2024 San Francisco 49ers Defense:
The 49ers began the offseason by losing some key personnel on this side of the ball. Arik Armstead and Chase Young joined the Jaguars and Saints, respectively, so it seemed as though San Francisco would have a decline on this side of the ball after finishing third in points allowed and eighth in yardage surrendered.

Despite those departures, there may not be any regression after all. In fact, San Francisco’s defense could be even better in 2024. The team made up for the losses of Armstead and Young by acquiring numerous talented defensive linemen. Leonard Floyd is the best of the bunch, and he’ll serve as a major upgrade over Young as a bookend for the incredible Nick Bosa. Yetur Gross-Matos was also added for depth purposes. There’s also 2023 second-rounder Drake Jackson, but he hasn’t done much in his professional career thus far.

Maliek Collins was also a big addition to the defensive front. Serving as Armstead’s replacement, Collins will provide San Francisco with a capable player who will start next to the gifted Javon Hargrave. The former Eagle is coming off a phenomenal season and should continue to perform on a high level.

San Francisco didn’t just add talent to the defensive line. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell was acquired as well. Campbell is coming off a down year, but has been one of the top players at his position in the past. He was needed in the wake of the injury Dre Greenlaw suffered in the Super Bowl. Campbell and All-Pro Fred Warner will form a great duo until Greenlaw is ready to play again.

Meanwhile, the secondary didn’t see any changes beyond the departure of Tashaun Gipson. While Gipson performed well last year, he won’t be missed much because the 49ers have a gifted duo in Talanoa Hufanga and Ji’Ayir Brown. Hufanga was enjoying a stellar season before he was lost for the year with an injury in Week 11. Getting him back will be crucial. Brown, meanwhile, was a third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He has tremendous instincts and looked good in limited action.

As for the rest of the secondary, the 49ers will be hoping that second-round rookie Renardo Green can thrive right away at cornerback because he’ll be stationed at a position of weakness across from Charvarius Ward. While Ward did well last year, there was a huge issue stopping the pass across from him. At the very least, the 49ers will once again have solid play from their slot cornerback, Deommodore Lenoir.

2024 San Francisco 49ers Schedule and Intangibles:
Robbie Gould was San Francisco’s kicker for a long time, but the team has moved on from him. The front office drafted Jake Moody in the third round last year to be Gould’s replacement. Moody was mediocre, going 21-of-25. He was 2-of-3 from beyond 50.

Mitch Wishnowsky, chosen in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, had one of the worst net-punting averages in the NFL in 2022, but was just outside the top 10 last year. He often does a great job of pinning the opposition inside the 20.

The 49ers have a handful of difficult opponents on their schedule like the Lions, Bills, Dolphins, Jets, and Chiefs. However, they also battle a number of soft opponents, such as the Cardinals (twice), Seahawks (twice), Patriots, and Vikings.

2024 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.

2024 San Francisco 49ers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2024 San Francisco 49ers Analysis: The 49ers will continue to be one of the better teams in the NFC. For a while, it seemed as though they’d regress this year, but there’s now a legitimate chance that they’ll be even better than they were in 2023, thanks to all of the excellent moves their front office made during free agency.

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

2023 Projection: 12-5. 2023 Actual Result: 12-5.
2022 Projection: 11-6. 2022 Actual Result: 13-4.
2021 Projection: 12-5. 2021 Actual Result: 10-7.
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:

C Grade

Goals Entering the 2024 NFL Draft: Outside of Trent Williams, the 49ers did not have great blocking last year. They’ll have to focus on finding a couple of offensive linemen to help Brock Purdy next year. The secondary and receiving corps must be addressed as well. Of course, the defensive line won’t be neglected, as the 49ers love bolstering their pass rush each draft.

2024 NFL Draft Accomplishments: John Lynch stated that he won’t be trading Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel, but his actions say otherwise. Lynch, who loves addressing the trenches in the early rounds, spent his first choice on receiver Ricky Pearsall. The Florida prospect wasn’t viewed largely as an opening-round prospect, but he wasn’t a major reach either.

San Francisco, however, did commit a major reach in the second round, taking Renardo Green when the Florida State product would have been better served going in the fourth frame. And speaking of the fourth round, the 49ers used a pick there on Malik Mustapha, who is considered a career backup and a potential core special teamer.

There were far too many examples of San Francisco squandering picks on reaches like Green and Mustapha. The team also failed to address the defensive line, and only looked at the offensive line in the first five rounds with third-rounder Dominick Puni. The Kansas product was a quality pick, but he wasn’t enough to fix an ailing blocking unit.

This was certainly a surprising result. I expected much better from Lynch. Instead, half of his picks graded C+ or worse, and none were better than B+.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

31. Ricky Pearsall, WR, Florida – C Grade

I guess Brandon Aiyuk is on the move. The 49ers drafting a receiver is not a surprise, but Ricky Pearsall in the first round is something I haven’t seen. I don’t hate this value, but I think it’s a bit too early for Pearsall. I wish San Francisco would have traded down instead.

64. Renardo Green, CB, Florida State – C Grade

This is a bit too early for Renardo Green, whom we had tabbed as a fringe second-day prospect. I don’t hate the selection because Green potentially fills a big need at cornerback, but Green didn’t produce very much at Florida State.

86. Dominick Puni, OT/G, Kansas – B+ Grade

The 49ers have Trent Williams, but the rest of the offensive line is underwhelming. They needed a right tackle to replace Mike McGlinchey and a future blind-side protector when Williams leaves. Dominick Puni can play both tackle spots and also guard, so the 49ers can use him everywhere.

124. Malik Mustapha, S, Wake Forest – C- Grade

This is an underwhelming pick by the 49ers, as Malik Mustapha projects as a career backup and a potential core special-teamer. The 49ers could have made this or a similar pick two rounds later.

129. Isaac Guerendo, RB, Louisville – C+ Grade

Wow, what a total shocker that Kyle Shanahan used a mid-round pick on a running back! I don’t think the 49ers needed to trade up for Isaac Guerendo, but they’re getting an under-the-radar prospect. Guerendo is a big back who tested much faster than some people thought. We had him around this fourth-round range.

135. Jacob Cowing, WR, Arizona – B+ Grade

A second receiver to the 49ers makes sense, given some impending trades at the position. Jacob Cowing is a very fast receiver with upside who makes sense here at the end of the fourth round.

215. Jarrett Kingston, G/OT, USC – B Grade

Jarrett Kingston needs to get stronger for the NFL. However, he has nice position versatility to play tackle and guard if he does bulk up a bit. Adding more blocking makes sense for the 49ers, and Kingston was expected to be drafted around this area.

251. Tatum Bethune, LB, Florida State – B- Grade

I’ve never seen anyone mention Tatum Bethune as a draftable prospect, but we’re in the final 10 picks here, so I don’t blame the 49ers for getting ahead of everyone for the UDFA surge.

Season Summary:
The 49ers looked like the best team at times during the 2023 season, as they destroyed several teams that made the playoffs. They were up 10 against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, but couldn’t hold on to the lead in the big game once again.

Offseason Moves:
  • 49ers acquire DT Maliek Collins from Texans for 7th-round pick

    Team Needs:
    1. Three Interior Offensive Linemen: Despite all their success in 2023, the 49ers didn’t have a very good offensive line. In fact, they need to retool the entire interior of their front.

    2. Right Tackle: Right tackle is an issue as well with Colton McKivitz as well, though less so than guard and center.

    3. Cornerback: Defensively, the 49ers’ biggest problem was covering. Cornerback was a weakness for them that must be improved.

    4. Wide Receiver: The 49ers don’t have any receiving depth, so it wasn’t a surprise that they struggled this year when Deebo Samuel was injured.

    5. Defensive End: San Francisco traded for Chase Young, but he’ll be entering free agency in March. Signed Leonard Floyd and Yetur Gross-Matos

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2024 NFL Free Agent Signings:

    San Francisco 49ers Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

    Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

    2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

    NFL Picks - Feb. 12