Every offseason, there are a few questions that go around Twitter, where fans answer who the best five questions from who the best player is to who has something to prove the upcoming season. Who we say today may be entirely different from who ends up “taking a leap” come November during the middle of the season. Let’s take a shot at the five categories. This is me projecting to 2020, so keep that in mind before you get angry about this next answer.
Best player- Edge rusher Nick Bosa
In his second season, Bosa will unseat George Kittle as the best player on the San Francisco 49ers. It won’t be easy, as Bosa is likely to face more attention from opposing offenses in 2020 than he has his entire life. As a rookie, Bosa was already a great player. I can see Bosa taking a significant step in Year 2. Fred Warner took a similar step, but even as a dominant player in coverage, Warner could only have much of an impact. That isn’t the case for an edge rusher. Bosa will clean up some of his subtle mistakes as a rookie and transform into a superstar this season.
Key new addition - LT Trent Williams
What can we say about Williams that hasn’t already been said? The Athletic’s Mark Bullock covered Williams his entire career and believes the star left tackle will return to a top tackle in the NFL. Williams said he feels 25-years-old after having a year off from football. I’m probably most excited to see Williams and Kittle double team poor defensive ends seven yards down the field.
Could surprise - RB Jerick McKinnon
McKinnon continues to make progress running. I list McKinnon here because it’s tough to know how much the organization is counting on McKinnon in 2020. The 49ers signed two undrafted free agent running backs that both can help in the passing game. Neither are on the level of Jet, but he’s a few years removed from playing football that any production would be welcomed at this point.
Takes a leap - D.T. D.J. Jones
If the 49ers passed on Javon Kinlaw, it would have been because of Jones. We saw the importance of Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt when they were on the field for nearly a full season last year. We’ll the same with Jones this year. Adding Kinlaw takes the pressure off Jones to see a significant uptick in his snaps. That’s a good thing, so Jones doesn’t wear down as the season goes on. D.J. stays fresh and proves that he can be a stud nose tackle. I see Jones being the 49ers breakout player this year.
Prove it - QB Jimmy Garoppolo
There are a few options here, but I’m not taking the low hanging fruit of Dante Pettis or Solomon Thomas. The Niners Super Bowl window has been accelerated to now. That means Jimmy Garoppolo will have to prove “he’s the guy” now. Is that fair? No, it’s not. Your “second-year starter” shouldn’t have to face the pressure that Jimmy G will face weekly. The roster is so strong that expectations for San Francisco are to get back to the Super Bowl.
Does that mean 2020 is a Super Bowl, or Jimmy G is a bust? No. It does mean that Garoppolo needs to continue to show progress and put away all doubts that he’s the right guy under center for the 49ers for years to come. If you’re tired of the Tom Brady, Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, and whoever else will be linked to San Francisco down the line; those rumors can be put to rest if Jimmy G plays like he’s capable of in 2020.
Most excited to watch - Which receiver earns Garoppolo’s trust?
I’m excited to see guys like Daniel Brunskill and Emmanuel Moseley. I’m excited to see how the receiver battles shake out. Who earns Jimmy G’s trust? That’s what I want to see. Trent Taylor earned Jimmy’s trust last offseason. Pettis? Not so much. Those two were rarely on the same page, and Garoppolo showed his frustrations after one drop walking off the field, saying, “every f*ck*ng time.”
Deebo Samuel will have Garoppolo’s trust. It may take time to develop that with Brandon Aiyuk. It’s going to be a work in progress, especially if training camp or offseason activities don’t happen. With a young receiving core, being on the same page is the difference between a first down and an interception.