Football Outsiders releases an annual ranking every year, going through each team’s top talent under the age of 25. This time last year, the San Francisco 49ers ranked No. 19. After the seasons that Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, and Deebo Samuel had, the Niners are up to No. 5:
2019 ranking: 19
The 49ers make the Cardinals look rich in draft capital. First-rounders Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk were the 49ers’ only selections in the first four rounds of the 2020 draft. And yet, the team made the Super Bowl well ahead of schedule, seeing their defensive core of former first-rounders blossom while several key members were still shy of 25 years old.
Nick Bosa is a major part of that success and the team’s defensive star. As a rookie in 2019, he finished third in football with 62 hurries. However, the team also saw pressure from its defensive tackles, which is why the explosive Kinlaw was a perfect team fit and a critical piece to replace the traded DeForest Buckner. Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are both young starters at linebacker. Warner has not received the same recognition as the Bills’ Edmunds and Colts’ Darius Leonard, but he is a member of their class of three-down superstar. His 67% coverage success rate in 2019 was better than those contemporaries and fourth-best among qualifiers at his position. Meanwhile, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley provided his own excellent 62% coverage success rate and allowed just 6.3 yards per pass as a part-time player in 2019. A promotion to starter in 2020 could eliminate the one hole the 49ers defense suffered last season.
At the skill positions, the 49ers thrive with speed and tackle-breaking that realize head coach Kyle Shanahan’s desire for yards after the catch. Deebo Samuel finished third among heavily targeted wide receivers with 8.3 average yards after the catch in his rookie season. And with Samuel likely hurt to start this season, rookie Aiyuk and Jalen Hurd — a former college running back — can replace that production with their similar skill sets.
I’m glad the article went beyond Bosa, Warner, and Samuel because the 49ers bring so much more to the table than those three players.
Warner had better numbers against the pass across the board on a per snap basis than just about every linebacker. If there’s a stat, Warner was likely in the top-10 before you adjust. Bosa, on a per snap basis, would have had the most pressures in the NFL. Both of those players are stars, but having the Dre Greenlaw’s and Emmanuel Moseley’s of the world shouldn’t be ignored. If Moseley were drafted at all, he’d have more recognition for how well he played last season. Moseley’s 62% success rate was good for ninth-best in the NFL and that 6.3 yards allowed per pass were the 14th-best in the league. Moseley had three fewer pass breakups than Richard Sherman did in on two fewer targets. I’m telling you, he’s legit.
Deebo finished with the highest broken tackle rate per touch in the NFL last year. When he’s healthy again, I’m curious to see how his role changes in Year 2. With Samuel out, it’s a great opportunity for both Aiyuk and Hurd to get acclimated to the NFL. San Francisco has legitimate talent on the perimeter, and three of the core players are under 25.