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NFC West Outlook: The top player at every offensive position in 2020

Are there any surprises on the list?

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers offense should improve in 2020 as Jimmy Garoppolo gets his second full season in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. How do the 49ers stack up against the rest of the NFC? Or even the NFC West? Let’s take a look and see how the 49ers starting offense compares to the rest of the division. You won’t see any rookies on the list.

Quarterback - Russell Wilson, Seattle

Why even resist it? He’s a great player, and the lone reason Seahawks games will be competitive this year. There isn’t much of an objective argument here, so we won’t spend a lot of time on quarterback. Jimmy G was second last year, can he fend off Kyler in 2020?

Running back - Raheem Mostert, 49ers

Chris Carson was one of the league leaders in broken tackles last season and is underrated, to an extent. The Cardinals and Rams will have new running backs. There isn’t a player in the division I’d take over Mostert at running back. Imagine saying that this time last year? Mostert led the NFL in DVOA at 26% last year. The next closest player was Mark Ingram, at 19.8%. I don’t think we appreciated how easy Mostert made it look last year. It was big play after big play, but it wasn’t as if Mostert was “all or nothing.” He had the ninth-highest success rate.

Kyle, if you’re reading this, Mostert can handle the bulk of the carries. I promise.

WR1 - DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals

Like quarterback, there isn’t much of a discussion here. San Francisco and Seattle have up and coming second-year wideouts that will challenge stardom in 2020. D.K. Metcalf should have never fallen in the draft as far as he did, but both he and Deebo Samuel landed in perfect spots. Both will be their team’s top threat this year, I’d assume. Cooper Kupp is good, but benefits from the offense he plays in. The answer is Hopkins.

DeAndre likely won’t have the same high-volume usage he had in Houston, but it won’t be too far off. He’s bound to get the NFC West secondaries fits all season.

WR2 - Tyler Lockett, Seattle

The 49ers’ second option is a rookie, though I expect Brandon Aiyuk to have similar success as Deebo last year. The Rams’ Robert Woods, who is another wideout that is undervalued across the NFL. Woods is a receiver every team can use. Arizona’s second option is either Larry Fitzgerald or Christian Kirk. I’d take Lockett over all of the options above.

Lockett is as efficient as Mostert, in a sense. We should be thankful Seattle relies on the run as much as they do, because Lockett could easily average 1,300 yards with Wilson if they opened their offense up.

Slot WR - Cooper Kupp, Rams

Kupp is dangerous in the middle, especially in a play-action offense that opens up the field for him. Fitzgerald is still a threat, but, at his age, Larry isn’t the same player he once was. The 49ers didn’t have a designated slot receiver last season. That player is Trent Taylor, who had a chance to really help Jimmy G on third downs but suffered an injury before the season. Taylor will need to show his value in 2020, or the Niners may give up on him.

Tight end - George Kittle, 49ers

Kittle had more yards than Tyler Higbee, and Will Dissly combined. Kittle also missed a game against Arizona, where he likely could’ve padded his stats even more. I still don’t think we’ve seen Kittle at his best.

Offensive tackle - Trent Williams, 49ers

Left tackle is arguably the strongest position in the division with Duane Brown and Andrew Whitworth. Both players are still near the top, even as they get older. The Cardinals have D.J. Humphries, who isn’t in the same class as the other three.

On the right side, Arizona will have rookie Josh Jones, the Rams have Rob Havenstein, and Seattle will play either a former first-round bust or a defensive line convert. Mike McGlinchey is the fourth-best tackle, in my opinion, in this group, regardless of what side the tackles play.

If Trent Williams were playing in Seattle, he’d be the answer. Thankfully, he isn’t. The Athletic’s Mark Bullock believes Williams will be a top-three tackle in the game in 2020. I’m excited to see 49ers’ fans reactions once we see Williams play. Williams is the A.J. Green of left tackles, to compare him to another position and put his talent into perspective. Green is widely thought of as one of the best receivers in the NFL, even at his age. Injury is his lone issue.

Offensive guard - Laken Tomlinson, 49ers

Guard is such a strange position to evaluate because there seems to be four or five studs in the league, then there is everyone else. Justin Pugh was the highest-graded NFC West guard in 2019 at 66.8. Laken Tomlinson was the next highest at 64.7. No other guard in the NFC West cracked PFF’s top-50. Pugh’s pass-blocking grade was 55.1, so do we side with the more valuable player? Yes, yes, we do.

Daniel Brunskill is on this list next year.

Center - Weston Richburg, 49ers

If you’ve been following along, you know there is a bias I have toward Richburg. Why? Because he is good at football. Seattle’s center Justin Britt was graded as a 62.0. Rams’ center Brian Allen was graded as a 58.7. The Cardinals A.Q. Shipley was graded as a 57.6. Richburg was graded as 62.5, but he was not a below-average player. I promise. Richburg gets the top spot here due to the lack of competition. He has to stay healthy, or it doesn’t matter how well he plays.