The Niners did take a big hit in the talent department, losing defensive lineman DeForest Buckner via trade, receiver Emmanuel Sanders in free agency and All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley to retirement.
General manager John Lynch didn’t waste any time finding their replacements. San Francisco picked defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the 14th pick, traded up to get receiver Brandon Aiyuk at No. 25 and traded for another All-Pro left tackle, Trent Williams.
On paper, this team looks poised to make another run at winning the NFC and hopefully this time, the Lombardi Trophy.
Here is what writer Dan Hanzus had to say:
“Kudos to general manager John Lynch, who further cranked open the Niners’ Super Bowl window with the acquisition of seven-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams, who takes over for the retiring Joe Staley as Jimmy Garoppolo’s blind-side protector. It only cost Lynch a pair of mid-round picks spread out over this year and next. If Williams is anything close to the same player he was before he dropped off the grid in Washington, this trade is a heist. Speaking of Jimmy G, things ended up just fine for the quarterback. He survived the Tom Brady rumor storm, received public backing from his team, then gained a Hall of Fame-level left tackle and a first-round receiver (No. 25 overall pick Brandon Aiyuk). And he’s handsome as hell. Gross.”
I can’t argue with the top-four teams on Hanzus’ list. The Chiefs and Ravens should be the best teams in the AFC over the next few seasons, although nothing is guaranteed in the NFL.
San Francisco’s biggest threat in the NFC is the Saints. The two teams will play at the Superdome once again in the regular season, which should go a long away in deciding who gets home-field advantage in the 2020 playoffs. Whenever the two teams play, the game always seems to have a crazy finish.
Dallas should be better with Mike McCarthy taking over for a coach whose best skill was clapping. The Cowboys bolstered their defensive line by signing Gerald McCoy and have a ton of talent at receiver with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and the newly drafted CeeDee Lamb. Still, with Dak Prescott at quarterback, and a lack of a demon pass rusher (unless Aldon Smith goes into a time machine,) I don’t think they will be consistent enough to hang with the big boys in the NFC.
The 49ers own Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, so I am not worried about them. The one wildcard team in the conference is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tom Brady signing with Tampa is a huge news story, but on the field, he looked his age at several points last season. Adding Rob Gronkowski to a pass catching group that includes Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will give Brady plenty of weapons, but who knows how that will play out. It is either going to go really well, or really poorly for the Bucs.
With the NFL adding one team to the postseason per conference, rounding out the playoff picture for me is the Arizona Cardinals. I was tempted to put the Seattle Seahawks here, because they have been a perennial playoff team since Russell Wilson was drafted. Arizona adding All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the pennies on the dollar and Isiah Simmons at the draft will be a big-time help on both sides of the ball.
Of course, injuries are the biggest variable of any NFL season, but as things stand, here are my top-seven NFC teams:
With the NFL Draft in the books, who do you think will be the seven NFC playoff teams?