Not all players are created equal. At least not in a league of parity like the NFL. That’s why some players are going to contribute more than others and their absence can change things rather quickly.
ESPN’s Nick Wagoner put together a list of the five most important players to the 49ers’ success in 2018. Those five?
Keep in mind, this list isn’t a list of best players, but what are going to be the most important for the 49ers to make the playoffs in 2018. So let’s break this down.
Garoppolo is no question, if he can thrive in his first full season in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, the 49ers offense will be lethal. Joe Staley is another one that makes sense since he’ll be protecting Garoppolo’s blind side and keeping him from getting a punishing sack. Finally, Jerick McKinnon is just as important as we are yet to see what he can establish with that 49ers run game.
The defensive side is what I question. Richard Sherman is an important piece to the 49ers in general, no questions, but to their success, I’m not so sure. I’d wager more on Ahkello Witherspoon’s second season as a pro and if he can grow into what he started in 2017. It will be most important that when quarterbacks begin targeting him that he can remain poised and not do what so many other 49ers cornerbacks before him have done.
Finally Solomon Thomas—it is important that he improve this year as we all hope the 49ers defensive line can finally take the leap into an elite unit. They did spend enough first round picks on it after all. In 2018, however, I think Thomas isn’t an important person for the playoffs. Especially when they have more defensive line picks than they know what to do with. Wagoner mentioned the defense needed to step up as a whole—which is true, but I’d say the more important person is defensive end Cassius Marsh. He needs to prove he earned that extension and give the 49ers that pass rush they desperately need. If they can’t get someone who can get to the quarterback the 49ers may have a chance getting to the playoffs, but they will have a rough climb once they get in. Thomas is an ideal pick, but a lot of this is going to ride on Marsh and if he can finally generate some sacks for a team that’s had a drought of them for the last few years.
So my list would be:
1: Jimmy Garoppolo
2: Joe Staley
3: Ahkello Witherspoon
4: Jerick McKinnon
5: Cassius Marsh
Who do you think are the five most important players to the 49ers success this season?