The 49ers took the field for their first preseason game of the year against the Kansas City Chiefs and lost 19-16 in the Super Bowl LIV rematch. Head coach Kyle Shanahan would have surely preferred to start the 2021 season with a victory, but as with any preseason game, the result is far less important than individual performances. As the coaching staff and front office look to solidify their depth chart and roster for the regular season, which players saw their stock most impacted by their opportunities?
Stock Up: QB Trey Lance
Lance’s final stat line might pale in comparison to other rookie quarterbacks like Justin Fields, but his 5 completions on 14 attempts far from tells the full story.
Playing with the second-string offense, Lance had three great passes dropped that probably could have added another 50 yards to his final 128-yard tally.
More importantly, he showed off the big-play ability the 49ers have lacked under center ever since the franchise moved on from Colin Kaepernick.
There were some clear hiccups, five sacks that probably could have been prevented with a quicker trigger, and a pass or two late in the first half that should have been intercepted.
But Lance’s supporting cast didn’t do him any favors. The fact is, it remains difficult to make a case for Jimmy Garoppolo to be ahead of Lance on the depth chart when all the criticisms of Lance (holding onto the ball too long and forcing throws) have been consistently true of Jimmy G without the upside.
Stock Down: WR Richie James
James was one of the big winners when the 49ers opted to pass on drafting a wide receiver, but it seems like the 2018 seventh-round pick has been surpassed by free-agent signing Trent Sherfield and possibly other internal options.
James dropped a fantastic third-down throw from Lance on an out route and finished the game without a reception. While he’s made an impact on special teams over the years, he also was underwhelming on a pair of kick returns, averaging just 17.5 yards a runback.
Stock Up: WR Jauan Jennings
Jennings fell victim to a stacked wide receiver class in the 2020 draft and fell all the way to the seventh round, where he immediately became a sleeper to make an impact for the 49ers.
While that never came to fruition last season, the first game of the preseason suggested he could finally feature in a prominent role. Jennings finished the day with an impressive 26-yard reception on an overthrow by Josh Rosen and two rushes for 23 yards on quick hit screens.
With Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel set to lineup outside and Sherfield emerging as a deep threat, Jennings looks to be in the lead to be the Niners' big slot.
Stock Down: OT Jaylon Moore
Singling out any player on the offensive line might be unfair. Second-round selection Aaron Banks was beaten several times inside before leaving the game with a shoulder injury, and the entire unit struggled all game to keep a clean pocket.
However, with swing tackle Shon Coleman mysteriously on the sideline, Moore served as the left tackle most of the game. The 49ers' fifth-round pick out of Western Michigan has earned significant praise throughout training camp, but he was clearly overmatched by Kansas City’s pass rushers. While it shouldn’t be an issue come the regular season, Moore looks a ways away from adjusting to NFL edge rushers.
Stock Up: S Talanoa Hufanga
Unlike Moore, Hufanga’s strong impression throughout training camp carried into the preseason opener. Hufanga was all over the field on defense and special teams. It seemed like every kick return, or third-down featured the USC alum swarming whoever had the ball.
Given the long injury histories of 49ers safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt, Hufanga could very easily see significant playing time this year. However, if Saturday is a sign of things to come, that would be far from the worst possibility.
Stock Down: Special Teams
The 49ers missed an extra point, committed several special teams penalties, and recorded a one-yard kickoff return. James’ aforementioned mediocre returns and a pair of bad punts by Mitch Wishnowsky just added to an already ugly all-around day on special teams.
Nsimba Webster, responsible for the one-yard return, redeemed himself (and the unit) a bit with a huge 43-yard kickoff return to set up a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. However, special teams coordinator Richard Hightower still has plenty to work on over the next week after an abysmal all-around performance.