We are just over a week away from the official start of the 2020 NFL season. The San Francisco 49ers will contend for a championship with a deep and talented roster.
ESPN released its predictions for who will be the Top 100 players in the NFL this season, and four Niners made the list. Tight end George Kittle is the highest-ranked San Francisco player at No. 9 on the list. Nick Wagoner had this to say about the 26-year-old:
“Kittle already has more receiving yards than any tight end through his first three seasons in league history, so what could possibly make him better in Year 4? Fresh legs and a deeper connection with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, to name two. The addition of Jordan Reed could help spell Kittle in addition to complementing him and creating more favorable matchups. Having a second full season with Garoppolo should also serve the duo well, meaning more big-play opportunities for Kittle.”
I agree with Wagoner that having another proven receiving threat in Reed will give Kittle the opportunity to put up better numbers as a pass-catcher, something that wasn’t going to happen with Ross Dwelley as the second tight end. ESPN is projecting Kittle to have 80 catches for 998 yards and 6 TDs in 2020.
The next Niner to make the list is defensive lineman Nick Bosa, who is ranked 15th. Wagoner mentioned what Bosa focused on to be even better during his sophomore season:
“Despite his rapid ascent to this spot on the list, Bosa is his own biggest critic. He spent the offseason self-scouting and came away believing he could have done more. That counts as harsh criticism considering Bosa was second in the NFL in total pressures (60) as a rookie. But Bosa says he wants to do a better job finishing his rushes and going into games with a better plan, both of which should allow him to improve on the 9.0 sacks he had as a rookie and solidify himself as one of the game’s best young edge rushers.”
Bosa is the third-highest ranked defensive lineman, behind only Aaron Donald (No. 2) and Myles Garrett (No. 12). ESPN is predicting the Ohio State product to put up 58 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 forced fumbles in 2020. Bosa’s projected sack total is a little low to me. Bosa was in the backfield a ton last season, and if he can sharpen up on finishing his rushes, I can see him having closer to 15 sacks in 2020.
The final two San Francisco players who made the list are Richard Sherman (67th) and Arik Armstead (93rd). Sherman is criminally low on the list. Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White, Jalen Ramsey, Marshon Lattimore and Darius Slay are all ranked ahead of Uncle Sherm, who had a higher PFF grade in 2019 than all five of them. Sherman’s game is built on positioning and football IQ. He may lose a step in terms of speed in 2020, but I don’t expect his overall performance to suffer. He’s the key to the 49ers’ secondary.
Two San Francisco players who should be on the list are left tackle Trent Williams and linebacker Fred Warner. Each player is among the best in the NFL at their position, and I anticipate they will both prove that this season.
The 10 players on ESPN’s list look this: 1) Patrick Mahomes, 2) Donald, 3) Lamar Jackson, 4) Russell Wilson, 5) Michael Thomas, 6) Christian McCaffrey, 7) Gilmore, 8) DeAndre Hopkins, 9) Kittle, 10) Deshaun Watson.
The NFL’s Top 100 players list came out earlier this offseason. The top 10 in its rankings are: 1) Lamar Jackson, 2) Wilson, 3) Donald, 4) Mahomes, 5) Michael Thomas, 6) McCaffrey, 7) Kittle, 8) Hopkins, 9) Gilmore, 10) Derrick Henry.