There is no doubt that the San Francisco 49ers are the favorites to win the NFC West next season. With head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive genius steering the ship, the Niners became the class of the NFC after going 13-3 in 2019.
The offense did lose a key component when receiver Emmanuel Sanders left for the New Orleans Saints in free agency, a void general manager John Lynch is hoping will be filled by first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk.
With QB Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle, running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, plus receiver Deebo Samuel returning next season, San Francisco’s offense should be able to pile up the points.
But, how the Niners’ offensive weapons stack up against the rest of the division? Dalton Johnson of NBC Bay Area ranked which NFC West team has the best player at each skill position:
Quarterback: Seattle Seahawks
Johnson: “It seems Garoppolo and Murray are vying for who’s No. 2 in the NFC West QB race. It will be fascinating to watch, as both offenses got better and both teams have offensive-minded coaches who should set their quarterbacks up for success.”
Russell Wilson is the strongest QB in the division going into 2020, that is an easy call. The Hobbit improved immensely from being a running QB when he first came into the league, to being one of the best passers at the position in the entire NFL. Wilson’s ability to extend plays with his legs has frustrated defenses for years.
Both Garoppolo and Murray will take a step this year, but it will take a lot to overtake Wilson for now.
Johnson gave the 49ers the edge at running back, and tight end. He believes the Arizona Cardinals have the best receiving group.
It doesn’t matter who the Niners have at running back, they will always have a potent rushing game with Shanahan’s scheme in place. With the running back by committee group of Mostert, Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson Jr., San Francisco tops my list at the RB position. The Seahawks added former 49er Carlos Hyde to their backfield, which already had Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, so their power-running game should be formidable again in 2020. Kenyan Drake looked rejuvenated when he was traded to Arizona last year, and if he can carry that momentum into next season, it will be a huge plus for the Cardinals. Although Todd Gurley had lost a step over the last couple of years, he is still a more proven option than newly drafted Rams’ running back Darrell Henderson.
Johnson is right to say the Cardinals have the best receiving group going into the year. Adding perennial All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins for spare parts is a huge win for Arizona. Pairing him with the ageless Larry Fitzgerald and promising youngster Christian Kirk will give Murray plenty of weapons in 2020. The 49ers hope Samuel can make the leap into the upper echelon of NFL receivers, but the players behind him are unproven. San Francisco will need one of Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Jalen Hurd, or Trent Taylor to be a reliable No. 2 behind Samuel.
I would put the Rams slightly ahead of the 49ers with proven vets Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods leading the way. D.K. Metcalf flashed some of his potential in his rookie season with Seattle, but him and Tyler Lockett rank as the No. 4 receiving group in the division.
At the tight end position, it’s easy. We have Kittle. No one else is even close.
How do you rank the NFC West teams by skill position?
Who will be San Francisco’s biggest challenger in the NFC West next season? Alex Didion of NBC Bay Area says it will be the Cardinals.
Samuel is a huge part of the 49ers’ future plans. The Post Courier’s David Cloninger says the second-year receiver is looking to build off of a strong rookie season.
The Niners should have one of the best defenses in the league in 2020. Kyle Madson of 49ers Wire projects who will be the 49ers’ starters in their base defense by position.
Kittle is the best player on the Niners. David Bonilla of 49ers Web Zone says the tight end is putting in the work this season.
There was a flurry of player movement during the NFL offseason. Brian Witt of NBC Bay Area breaks down how the 49ers were directly impacted by biggest moves from around the league.