NFL dot com ranked the eight divisions by the quarterback, and the NFC West reigned supreme. This year should be as entertaining as it gets in the division, as each team is primed to make a playoff run.
As much as the focus is on offense, the team with the best defense should prevail at the end of the season.
The 49ers drafted QB Trey Lance to be their future starter. The only question is how soon that era begins. Conventional wisdom suggests it will happen once Jimmy Garoppolo is either injured or becomes ineffective. But NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo has maintained that Shanahan will turn to Lance once the rookie shows he’s ready. He might have a utility role before stepping in as QB1, but this offense can really expand once Lance’s diverse, physical gifts are being utilized.
No. 4: 49ers Defensive Tackle Javon Kinlaw
Some could argue 2020 rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw wasn’t quite as impressive as many thought he’d be, and those who use Pro Football Focus as a judging point might be justified with their arguments.
After all, Kinlaw’s 54.1 overall PFF grade isn’t quite what teams would like to get out of a first-year player selected within the top 15 of any NFL Draft class. And for those wishing he’d be more of an interior disruptor were probably disappointed with his mere 1.5 sacks last year.
But, according to NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger, a number of interior offensive linemen who went up against Kinlaw referred to the former South Carolina Gamecock as a “beast” in the trenches.
Under a new DC, the expectation is to play even faster on defense
It wasn’t reflected in the record, but somehow a 49ers team that was decimated by injuries still managed to finish No. 5 in defensive yards allowed (314.4 yards per game) and No. 4 against the pass (207.9 yards per game) in 2020. The performance is a testament to former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who took over in 2017. San Francisco finished 2016 ranked dead last in total yards surrendered, and under Saleh’s tutelage – and with the addition of some stars – became the second-best team in total defense and top defense against the pass by 2019.
Greenlaw, a fifth-round pick in 2019, worked his way into a starting role as a rookie and saw an uptick in workload when he took over as the Will linebacker for Kwon Alexander last season. He has good range in coverage and should carve out a starting role in the NFL for a long time. He may not make a Pro Bowl, but he and Warner form one of the league’s most dynamic linebacking duos.
No surprise here: The NFL’s most competitive division reigns supreme at the sport’s most important position. Stafford changes everything for the Rams — and the Rams change everything for Stafford. He’s a spectacular quarterback who’s finally going to get his due at age 33. With Sean McVay and the surrounding talent in Los Angeles, the former No. 1 overall pick’s a legit MVP candidate and could be a Super Bowl champion.
That’s not exactly the case with Jimmy G, who brings this group down. That said, he’s obviously been solid when healthy, as evidenced by his 22-8 record in San Francisco. Not to mention, Lance — a true dual-threat with serious arm talent — waits in the wings. His lack of experience could keep him on the bench longer than some 49ers fans would like, but once the No. 3 overall pick gets comfy in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme ... Watch out!