During the offseason, everyone has bold predictions. Some aren’t so bold, while others come off as scorching hot takes. Today, we’ll come up with six predictions that could fall into either category.
To give you an idea of how this exercise worked, Rob Lowder and myself went through scenarios where we asked each other, “what will be saying come midseason that the 49ers should have done this past offseason?”
That was the train of thought, along with sprinkling in some boldness. So here is what we came up with.
KP: “They should have never let Bourne go”
I’ve been watching some 49ers games from this past season, and Kendrick Bourne signing a contract that only guaranteed him $1 million wasn’t adding up. Bourne’s drop rate for the ‘20 season was a career-high, and they came at some of the worst times. Add in that his lack of size hurts him when it comes to blocking, but that ignores many quality, tangible traits that a young quarterback could rely on.
Jimmy Garoppolo had a great rapport with Bourne during 2019. Despite playing with backups last season, Bourne finished with a career-high in receptions, yards, catchable ball percentage and managed to turn 71% of his receptions into first downs.
Bourne was open on deeper routes, but the ball wasn’t thrown to him. Bourne’s in New England now and is sure to get more of an opportunity with the Patriots. By midseason, we’ll be asking why the team didn’t re-sign Bourne or a free agent to replace him.
Rob: Jason Verrett will be an All-Pro in 2021
Now, this is a take that qualifies as bold. Verrett is coming off a dominant year. To me, his 2020 season was better than Richard Sherman’s ‘19 season when you use context. However, health and opportunity are what would prevent Verrett from being named an All-Pro this season.
A better pass rush should help, as should the 49ers being on the right side of the scoreboard. Last year, teams weren’t playing catch up. If San Francisco is better, offenses will have to face Nick Bosa and company while they get a chance to pin their ears back. That’ll make life for Verrett and the secondary much easier.
KP: Signing Alex Mack was the biggest addition of the offseason
Going from a player who was on an AAF roster two seasons ago to a player who was an All-Pro four seasons ago and a Pro Bowler three seasons ago is the definition of an upgrade. Mack will bring a consistency that’ll have a trickle effect on everyone on the offense.
The running backs won’t have to worry about avoiding defenders in the backfield as Mack knows where to go and who to block. Also, say goodbye to free runners up the middle as the 35-year-old center allowed one sack all season. Aaron Banks’ job just got easier, as did the quarterbacks.
Mack takes something off everyone’s plate, which is why we’ll look back and say what a bargain he was this offseason.
Rob: The 49ers will finish with a top-5 offense and defense
Rob was drinking the Kool-aid, but we’re not even at his wildest prediction yet. During ‘19, the 49ers finished seventh in offensive DVOA and tenth in yards per drive, ninth in drive success rate, and fifth in points per drive.
This year, there isn’t a veteran like Emmanuel Sanders yet, but you hope to get a healthy Deebo Samuel back and that Brandon Aiyuk dips his toes into stardom. The offensive line is better, and the quarterback play could improve and be more aggressive.
Fifth feels rich, and a lot of things would have to break the 49ers' way. Having a runner like Raheem Mostert available each game would help. There’s no replacing his big-play ability. Still, the offense would have to outperform their Super Bowl run.
The Niners' defensive stats in ‘19 were silly. Second in yards per drive, fourth in points per drive, and success rate. Second in third-down percentage and defensive DVOA. Which will be more difficult for the 49ers to finish in the top-5 on offense or defense?
KP: How did they not invest at cornerback?
The good-cop-bad-cop routine continues, as I’m on the other side of the coin as Rob here. You’re thinking, “they drafted two cornerbacks and a safety.” I’m not banking on Day 3 picks being able to come in and contribute right away, and you shouldn’t be easier.
This isn’t a knock on Verrett. I’m not sure it’s a knock on Emmanuel Moseley, either. There’s too much “hope” at this position for my taste. We know about Verrett’s history, but Moseley is on a one-year deal after essentially being benched for multiple cornerbacks last season.
The 49ers chose to invest in the trenches this offseason, and you can never go wrong with that train of thought. The problem here is that you’re one injury away from a guy you picked in the 100s to start, or Dontae Johnson.
Rob: There will be no more injuries from now to the end of training camp
Perhaps the boldest prediction of all. The team had somebody injured from standing up in his chair. The injuries that occur on this team always seem to leave you scratching your head, wondering, “how?”
Let’s hope that Rob is right and the bad juju from the injury gods are no longer a thing in 49ers land.