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The Athletic ranks the 49ers as the sixth-best offense in the NFL

One spot ahead of the Cardinals, but one spot behind the Seahawks

Pittsburgh Steelers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The Athletic went through each team in the NFL to rank their offense heading into the 2020 regular season. Sheil Kapadia does great work and cites stats that have some sort of adjustment. He ranked the San Francisco 49ers sixth, which most of us would take:

6. San Francisco 49ers

Last year: 7th

On paper, they didn’t have top-10 talent, but the whole was greater than the sum of the parts last season. That’s a credit to Kyle Shanahan. After reaching the Super Bowl, the 49ers saw two starting offensive linemen retire, and they lost Emmanuel Sanders in free agency. Plus, Deebo Samuel suffered a foot injury, and his status for the start of the season is in question. But the 49ers traded for left tackle Trent Williams and used a first-round pick on wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. They have All-Pro tight end George Kittle and should again produce a creative, efficient run game. Their lack of talent at wide receiver — especially if Samuel misses an extended period of time — is concerning, but Shanahan has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Last years’ ranking was based on Football Outsiders DVOA metric.

The discussion always comes back to experience and talent at wide receiver. Many national analysts believe San Francisco lacks talent outside of Deebo Samuel. The real issue is that outside of Samuel, the majority of the wideouts on the roster are unknowns. Kendrick Bourne is hardly mentioned when talking about the group, which tells you what the media thinks of him. Bourne is a reliable target for Jimmy Garoppolo, but offensive coordinators aren’t losing sleep over KB when it comes to game-planning for the Niners.

When Raheem Mostert singled out Jalen Hurd for his physicality, that spoke volumes. Mostert was talking about Trent Williams and Tom Compton, then, unprovoked, mentioned how much of a physical specimen Hurd is. To me, Hurd is the ultimate wild card on this offense. Jimmy G having bigger targets such as Aiyuk—who has the wingspan of a wandering albatross— and Hurd will only help with his confidence and decision-making—having a security blanket such as Trent Taylor doesn’t hurt, either. Speaking of wild cards: Jerick McKinnon. Just as Mostert did with Hurd, Garoppolo singled McKinnon out for his understanding of the game.

If the 49ers are going to improve on offense, it’ll be because of the five linemen upfront. A healthy Williams is an upgrade at left tackle, which is saying something. A healthy Weston Richburg is a necessity. If Mike McGlinchey can become more consistent, and Daniel Brunskill picks up where he left off, the 49ers have a strong shot of being a top-five offense in the NFL this season. Imagine saying that without any bias a year ago.

As for the rest of the NFC West, the Seahawks were ranked fifth, after finishing fifth in DVOA last year. The Cardinals were seventh after finishing 13th in DVOA last year. The Rams were 19th, after finishing 17th in DVOA last year. Los Angele’s offensive line is in shambles, but they still have Sean McVay. The 49ers may have to win a few shootouts again this season.