In 2019, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball 476 times. That was good enough for 19th in the NFL, right behind Patrick Mahomes. The quarterbacks that attempt the most passes are usually the ones that are trailing the most. I’d expect Jimmy’s attempts to go up in 2020, but not by much.
Heading into the season, the 49ers offense will look drastically different than it did a year ago. The team will have new starters at left tackle and right guard. There will be a new starter opposite of Deebo Samuel, and possibly a new slot receiver as well. Let’s take a look at the team’s 2019 targets before we make some projections for 2020:
George Kittle: 107
Deebo Samuel: 81
Emmanuel Sanders: 53
Kendrick Bourne: 44
Tevin Coleman: 30
Kyle Juszczyk: 24
Dante Pettis: 24
Raheem Mostert: 22
Matt Breida: 22
Ross Dwelley: 22
Marquise Goodwin: 21
Richie James: 10
Jeff Wilson: 5
Levine Toilolo: 2
What stands out from above is that Coleman was fifth on the team in targets and was only targeted four times in the final five games. There’s a reason San Francisco continues to invest in wideouts, and having to rely on your backup running back, and starting fullback is why.
The Niners lose 98 targets between Sanders, Breida, Goodwin, and Toilolo. While a fan favorite, I’d be surprised to see Bourne have 44 targets this upcoming season. That’s less about Bourne and more about the players the 49ers are getting back from injury. If Trent Taylor is healthy, pencil him in for at least 70 targets. A healthy Jalen Hurd has a better chance of seeing over 49 targets than Bourne, though I still believe that Bourne will have a role in the offense, especially in the red zone.
We haven’t even talked about Brandon Aiyuk yet. Aiyuk is likely to see around 50 targets, depending on how quickly he gets acclimated to the NFL. I doubt he’ll be as involved as Deebo was, which is more about the options the 49ers will have in 2020 compared to 2019.
Perhaps the biggest question is how the targets to the running backs are divvied up or healthy. That’ll be more of a wait and see, but we’ll take a stab at each anyway. There are three legitimate options to throw the ball to Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Jerick McKinnon. I believe we’ll see Kyle Shanahan trust Jimmy G and his young receivers more than last year. That’ll open up the offense. It can be as simple as throwing “now” screens to Aiyuk and Samuel any time a corner is in off coverage.
Here are my projections for targets this season.
These projections are contingent on health. If McKinnon plays, that number will be higher for him and lower for the other running backs. If a receiver is banged up, a guy like Jauan Jennings may be called up or activated and gave a game where he’s needed. The 49ers have a good, young problem at safety.