Heading into the 2018 NFL season, hopes were high for the San Francisco 49ers. With newly acquired QB Jimmy Garoppolo leading the team to 5 straight wins to end the year, there was good reason for optimism. However, all of these hopes went down the drain after Garoppolo went down with injury in just Week 3 of the season. The 49ers ended up finishing with a record of 4-12 and awaiting their 2nd overall pick in the NFL draft. However, with a healthy team, the optimism for the future was still there, and with a full offseason ahead of them, there was no telling what position this team would be in heading into the 2019 season.
The 49ers were able to keep their losses to a minimum this offseason, with the majority of their big ones coming in players already having hit the age of 30. One of these losses comes in the form of RB Alfred Morris. Morris started off his career hot in Washington, but for San Francisco has mostly played a role in their RBBC. WR Pierre Garcon follows a similar storyline. Garcon thrived in Washington and was solid for the Niners, but injuries and age took its toll in 2018, prompting the Niners to part ways with the former star. The last major offseason loss comes in the form of P Bradley Pinion. Pinion was the team’s starter throughout his four years in San Francisco, and led the league in punts in 2016 with 100. With a minimal amount of losses this offseason, the Niners are looking like they shouldn’t have to punt this much in 2019, especially considering their additions…
Rarely does a team lose so few pieces, and gain so many. However, that’s exactly what the Niners did. The team’s first order of business was to improve a defense that looked good, but still gave up a lot of points. The Niners managed to handle this extremely well, bringing loads of talent to bolster the unit. The biggest improvements came from the front 7, a unit that now looks like one of the best in the NFL. The most immediately impactful addition comes from EDGE Dee Ford, who posted 13 sacks for the Kansas City Chiefs last season. Ford figures to provide a huge outside threat to go along with DT DeForest Buckner’s interior pass rush threat. Playing on the opposite side of Ford is 2nd overall pick EDGE Nick Bosa, who has the potential to be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Adding to the insane front 7 overhaul is ILB Kwon Alexander who, when healthy, has proven to be a Pro Bowl-type player. Other notable additions to the front 7 include LBs Dre Greenlaw and David Mayo. Moving on to the needy secondary, the team managed to add CB Jason Verrett. When at his best Verrett is a Pro Bowl talent, however, injuries have left him hoping for a redemption year in the Bay. Switching over to offense, the Niners improved their skill positions in the offseason, especially at the WR and RB. Second round pick Deebo Samuel has shown flashes of being a star in the NFL, third round WR Jalen Hurd looks promising, and veteran RB Tevin Coleman looks to heavily contribute to the run game. Protecting Coleman will be newly added C Ben Garland, who looks to solidify himself as a quality starter in the NFL. Finally, filling the hole at the punter position is Mitch Wishnowsky, who was taken as a fourth round pick in the 2019 draft.
The 49ers have loads of upside on both sides of the ball, with their playoff spot hinging on how well this potential is filled. On the offensive end, Garropolo coming back will be a huge plus, as he is 6-2 in games in which he started for the Niners. Complimenting him perfectly is offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan, who was the OC of the high flying Super Bowl-bound 2016 Falcons. In addition, with the new receivers coming in and players such as Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin healthy, the Niners could easily boast one of the game’s best passing attacks next season. As for the run game, the ground attack looked less than stellar last year, however, both Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman are viable run options, and the offensive line looks very good once again led by LT Joe Staley and RT Mike McGlinchey. Switching sides, the defensive line and, on a broader scale, the front 7 looks like it can be one of the best units in the NFL. Buckner and Ford were among the best at their positions last year, and Alexander and LB Fred Warner are huge pluses as well. Lineman Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas are also key contributors, with Thomas still having lots of room to grow and Armstead being a huge run game presence. As for the secondary, it was arguably the biggest weakness for the Niners last year, and it unfortunately stayed relatively the same. As previously mentioned, Verrett could surprise and and be great, and Richard Sherman is still is a cornerback that any team would want to have. However, the core is aging and overall should improve very little if at all. Still, don’t let this distract you from the odds of the Niners having one of the league’s better defenses this year, as it’s something that looks exceedingly likely.
While the Niners schedule isn’t extremely difficult, it’s certainly not a push over. Outside of their well-respected division, the team plays the NFC South, AFC North, and the Packers and Redskins. The South is looking like one of, if not the best division in all of the NFL, meaning that getting a winning record there will be tough. The AFC North is another well-respected division, and there’s arguably more teams in that division that are favorites against the Niners, however, the Niners also have good chances against all four of those teams. The Packers are a game that the Niners most likely come into as underdogs, but is still very winnable. As for the Redskins, the Niners come in as heavy favorites and should secure the win. In their division, going .500 seems very likely, with 4-2 and 2-4 also not being stretches. In total, expect this team to be within the 6-10 to 11-5 range, with our projected record falling on 8-8. The Niners have a lot of upside this season, with making the postseason being a real possibility. Even if they aren’t quite ready to be a Super Bowl contender, the future is extremely bright in the Bay.