2021 San Francisco 49ers Depth Chart
By Nathanael Gabler
|Quarterback||C.J. Beathard||Nick Mullens||Jimmy Garoppolo*|
|Running Back||Raheem Mostert*||Tevin Coleman||Jerick McKinnon|
|Wide Receiver 1||Deebo Samuel||Trent Taylor||Tavon Austin|
|Wide Receiver 2||Brandon Aiyuk||Dante Pettis|
|Wide Receiver 3||Kendrick Bourne||Jalen Hurd|
|Tight End||George Kittle||Ross Dwelley|
|Full Back||Kyle Juszczyk|
|Left Tackle||Trent Williams||Daniel Brunskill|
|Left Guard||Laken Tomlinson|
|Center||Taybor Pepper||Weston Richburg|
|Right Guard||Tom Compton||Kofi Amichia|
|Right Tackle||Mike McGlinchey||Justin Skule|
Every offseason a team becomes the hot-button, dark-horse playoff candidate that is, realistically, one or two years away from being a real playoff contender. This San Francisco team has become the embodiment of that offseason trope. The 49ers are sexy, both in a football sense with Kyle Shanahan and anointed-MVP-candidate Jimmy Garoppolo, and in a realistic sense (just do a Jimmy G google image search). But the reality is their 53-man roster as a whole is not quite there yet.
The 49ers and John Lynch seem to get this – they only made two big free agent signings in the offseason, not exactly a win-now move. San Francisco signed former Seahawk Richard Sherman to a three-year deal with only $7 million in guarantees. Remember, Sherman is coming off a torn Achilles and is 30 years old. The other major move was the signing of running back Jerick McKinnon to a four-year, $30 million deal to fill Carlos Hyde’s role at the running back position.
Believing in the 2020 edition of the San Francisco 49ers is believing that the Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo pairing can elicit a Rams response (with McVay and Goff), which is a fair thing to believe in. It could happen. But the roster is simply not what that Rams team had – there’s some real holes. Outside of 12-year veteran Joe Staley, the offensive line is filled with three names even the most avid football fans don’t know and a rookie (Mike McGlinchey).
Garoppolo was great last season. You can’t take that away from him. However, many seem to inflate the quarterback’s numbers in their minds. Jimmy G threw only seven touchdowns in his five starts in 2020. Seven. He also totaled five interceptions in that span. I’m not here to take shots at Garoppolo, but let’s just collectively take a step back when talking about him. That said, these five starts were apparently enough for Shanahan and Lynch to make Garoppolo one of the highest paid players in the history of the NFL with his 5-year, $137.5 million contract. The 49ers have their quarterback of the future.
The addition of Jerick McKinnon is an interesting one. During McKinnon’s time in Minnesota, he never carried the ball more than 159 times in a season, but the 49ers investing $18 million in guaranteed money in him signifies that they want him to play the role of a guaranteed RB1. It’s no shocker that Kyle Shanahan loves to use his running backs in the passing game. During 2016, when Shanahan was in Atlanta, Davonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman caught 85 catches for 883 yards. McKinnon, a great receiver from the RB spot, was brought in so that Shanahan can get back to that. However, durability is obviously a concern, which is why seeing McKinnon hurt already in preseason isn’t a great sign.
Shanahan and Lynch have done a great job so far at finding and developing receivers in their short time. Pierre Garcon, who Shanahan knew from his stint in Washington, has been a great veteran presence, and seemingly out of nowhere, Marquis Goodwin has developed from an Olympic track star into a well-rounded receiver. Additionally, keep an eye on George Kittle, a little known, second year tight end from Iowa who will be starting this season.
The defense is going to be where most of San Francisco’s question marks come. The unit last year ranked 26th in efficiency by DVOA. The pass defense was especially abominable, ranking 28th and grading out at 23.1% worse than league average.
Up-front, the unit is great on paper. The front four features three first round draft picks in Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner, and Arik Armstead. In 2017, Buckner was PFF’s 4th rated pass rusher from the interior. However, Thomas was all over the place in his first year; he had some highs but in general it was a struggle. They’re going to need the former third overall pick to live up to his hype as a pass rusher coming out of Stanford if this pass defense unit is going to improve.
Rueben Foster had his offseason struggles this year, but when he’s on the gridiron this kid flashes, his ability to defend sideline to sideline and play the rush is Luke Kuechly-esque. Sherman slots in as some much needed veteran presence in the pack end of a defense that struggled last season. But keep an eye on second year corner Ahkello Witherspoon out of Colorado, who the Niners seem to be very high on this offseason.