It’s that time of the year where we make our predictions—looking back on when we did this last year and yikes. I predicted Dee Ford would be the team MVP, and Dante Pettis would be the offensive player of the year. The good news is this year can’t be any worse! This year I’ll predict the record, MVP, offensive and defensive players of the year, the biggest surprise, the rookie of the year, and a breakout player.
I’ve said all offseason that the 49ers would finish 12-4, but I’m changing my tune last minute and going with 11-5. That’s more realistic as 12 wins will be tough to come by. There are a lot of breaks and bounces that need to go your way. I still believe the 49ers will win the division and will be one of the best teams in the NFL. Predicting 12 or 13 wins feels too homer-ish for me, especially considering nine of the final 11 games are against potential playoff contenders.
Team MVP/DPOY: Nick Bosa
I struggled with this as I expect teams to dare someone, anyone, to beat them besides Bosa as he’ll receive plenty of attention from offenses this season. Bosa’s impact will go well beyond the box score in 2020. He’s so talented that I still believe he’ll be the MVP for the Niners. Bold of me to pick one of the best players in the NFL to be the MVP on his team, I know.
OPOY: Raheem Mostert
All signs point to Mostert being “the guy” this season. Of course, that’ll change Sunday when he’s not the first running back on the field. Mostert will rush for over 1,100 yards, have double-digit touchdowns, and will be the one player on offense you can rely on in fantasy football this season. My wild prediction was that Mostert would go as far as to garner MVP votes.
Comeback Player of the Year: Trent Williams
Jerick McKinnon will receive a lot of votes here as he will make an impression in the passing game, but the answer is Williams. The reason I’m so confident in Mostert is because of the addition of Williams. Jimmy Garoppolo will have the best season of his career, not because he will have more experience; it’ll be thanks to Williams. The 49ers can slide their protection away from the left tackle all season, knowing Garoppolo’s blindside is safe.
Biggest surprise: Jordan Reed
Perhaps the boldest prediction of all: We see Reed play double-digit games this season, and that takes the Niners offense to another level. Life becomes easier for Jimmy. Instead of relying on young wideouts on the perimeter, Garoppolo stays in his comfort zone over the middle of the field, and George Kittle and Reed dice up defenses all season.
Rookie of the Year: Brandon Aiyuk
It better be you, Brandon. Aiyuk has a chance to be the breakout player as well in this offense. For what Shanahan asks his receivers to do, you won’t find a better fit than Aiyuk. He’ll need to improve his consistency in contested situations as well as getting off press coverage, but he’s a rookie, and the only way to do so is by playing.
Breakout player: Emmanuel Moseley
Moseley is the easiest answer of all, for me. There is no doubt that he’ll be a target for offenses this season, considering Richard Sherman is on the other side. For the Niners, that’s a good thing. Moseley has everything you want in a cornerback. He can run—maybe the only guy that could run stride for stride with Aiyuk during camp—he has the length to break up passes, in zone, Moseley knows how to “split the difference” when two receivers are in his zone (see interception against Aaron Rodgers last year), and he has no problem coming forward to make a tackle.
There are areas where Moseley must improve. For a player that hasn’t started a full season in the NFL, you’d expect this to be the case. I’m expecting Moseley to be among the league leaders in pass breakups in 2020.