3 dream targets for the Packers right now

Who is the best target for the Packers?

By: Jake Rajala

The Green Bay Packers need to have a strong playoff tour at all costs next season. With that said, I’m going to outline three dream targets available that would help the Packers and burning man Aaron Rodgers moving forward.

Deebo Samuel

Let’s be honest – Deebo Samuel is being held hostage in San Francisco/Alcatraz. I believe that Deebo Samuel will give his best foot forward, but I still expect him to lobby for a new, talented team. Samuel hasn’t discovered a new contract with a 49ers team that still carries Jimmy G. After the Eagles and Cardinals reeled in shiny toys, I’d love to see the Packers be aggressive and scoop up the gifted athlete.

Julio Jones

If the Packers can’t acquire Samuel or a young, talented WR via trade, the Packers should target a legend in free agency. The veteran WR Julio Jones may not drop 300+ yards in another game, but he can absolutely be a 1,000+ yard for A-Rod. Jones could have an excellent role in GB while having the opportunity to push for a Super Bowl ring. Maurice Moton of B/R believes that Jones is an ideal fit for the Pack at this point in time. Perhaps Jones and Rodgers can aspire to ride off in the sunset in the near future together.

Joe Haden

If the Packers stick with their guns at WR and feel more desperate to target a defensive player, they should write love notes to Joe Haden. The former Steeler would be a nice addition to a CB unit that didn’t bring back Kevin King this off-season. He has also expressed that he doesn’t want to retire soon. If Haden wants to stay in the North and chase a Lombardi trophy, he should head to Wisconsin.

Why the Packers need to trade for a wide receiver right now

The Packers really need to trade for a WR

By: Jake Rajala

It’s safe to say that Aaron Rodgers didn’t vision his wide receiver room to be at its current caliber on this second day of the NFL Draft after he chose to “likely be a Packer for life” earlier this offseason. The GB Packers best wide receiver at this moment is none other than the Week 1 juggernaut Sammy Watkins. I’m not sure if it would be a complete surprise if A-Rod is brewing a plan to help his team trade away Jordan Love for a WR or if he is trying to package himself in a trade to the Saints, so he can play with “Michael Thomas and Chris Olave”.

There were numerous blockbuster WR trades yesterday (A.J. Brown, Marquise Brown), but the Packers didn’t opt to slice cheese for a shiny WR. The Pack may not have lobbied for an elite WR on the trade block, but they could still target a big-name WR to help the burning man version of Rodgers win his third MVP in three seasons.

The San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel would be an excellent addition to the Packers offensive unit, to say the least. It wouldn’t be impossible for GB to still acquire Samuel. It would have been easier for the Packers to use their draft ammunition from yesterday (two first-round picks), but they can use a lot of future draft stock and potential players to push for Samuel.

There are a few other WRs that could be potential fits for GB: Robby Anderson, D.K. Metcalf, and Kadarius Toney. I honestly believe that GB should find more explosion for Rodgers, as they’ve REALLY committed to him in his final years of glory. The Packers would contradict their legendary QB’s talent if they refuse to equip him with top-tier weaponry. It may make the most sense for the Packers to act during this busy draft to reel in a top-shelf WR and true replacement for Davante Adams.

Pros and cons of the 49ers trading away George Kittle

Will John Lynch be trading George Kittle away soon?

By: Jake Rajala

The San Francisco 49ers were gifted a talented profile and energetic persona in George Kittle at pick 146 in the 2017 NFL draft. Kittle has made three Pro Bowls and garnered one All-Pro spot in his career thus far. Impressively, the Tarzan-like character managed to be PFF’s second-best player in 2019 and 2020 combined.

Nonetheless, Kittle is still human and the 28-year-old may be at his peak or beginning a slow decline in 2022. There have been bold opinions about the idea of trading away Kittle by NFL analysts. For example, Grant Cohen from 49ers Nation suggests that SF should trade Kittle ASAP.

It could be wise for Lynch to accept an offer from a desperate team in this trigger-happy trade world. Although, the 49ers need to decide if they feel close to playing on a special day in February with Kittle in the future. Furthermore, the 49ers have to ponder if they can replace Kittle’s production (and potentially Deebo Samuel’s ability) in the likely Trey Lance-led offensive attack.

With that enunciated, I’m going to outline the pros and cons of SF trading away Kittle. In the end, I will reach a verdict on the idea of Shanny shipping away Kittle.

Cons of trading away Kittle

  • Many years of lost production

Kittle is 28 years old, but it would be ideal if he’s dominant for 4-6 more seasons and potentially a caliber- starting TE for several more seasons. Travis Kelce was elite at 32 years old and Gronk was a stud at 31 years old for much of last season. The Saints legend Jimmy Graham also had 8 touchdowns at age 34 in 2020.

  • A big hit against SF’s offense in the near future

It will be a challenge for the 49ers to hand the keys to Trey Lance AND lose George Kittle. The SF TE had 94 targets and 71 receptions from the TE spot last season. Kittle may not have been effective in the recent playoff gauntlet, but he was instrumental in his team’s ability in the season to ultimately snag a miraculous playoff berth.

  • Deebo Samuel effect

It may honestly be sexy for SF to exchange Kittle for many early draft picks from an overly aggressive team, but they definitely shouldn’t send Kittle out the door if Deebo Samuel flees the Bay Area. I believe the 49ers are retooling their squad with a switch from Jimmy G to Lance, regardless of Samuel’s situation. If Samuel leaves, the 49ers should keep the ship afloat and allow the creative Lynch to obtain 1-2 playmakers in space for the 49ers HC wiz.

Pros of trading away Kittle

  • Lots of draft power

There have been many blockbuster trades (Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Khalil Mack) in the NFL this offseason. It may seem like the 49ers could be in awe of the ability to possess many early draft picks. Most importantly, the 49ers could potentially have multiple younger weapons via a new draft pick to build around Lance for a very long time. The 49ers could also not place all of their marbles in the Trey Lance experiment and use one of the potential early picks in a Kittle trade to select a QB.

  • more cap space

The 49ers recently restructured Kittle’s contract, but he is still on a hefty long-term contract that he signed in August of 2020. The 49ers could REALLY use some moolah to keep the 2021 All-Pro Deebo Samuel in their offense right now. The clock on a Nick Bosa extension is also ticking fast.

Verdict

I believe the idea of SF trading away Kittle is more logical than the lack of rumors surrounding the thought. Although, I believe it’s too risky for the 49ers current team to lose Kittle in the short term (and long-term). He has been a huge part of their success in 2019 and 2021. I am also not convinced that his injury concerns are real, as he’s played in 14+ games in four out of his five seasons.

The 49ers had a movie-like entrance to the playoffs with “Samuel and Kittle” last season. The 49ers should really find a way to keep Samuel and slightly young Kittle, so they can help Lance be successful for many more seasons.

Three early running back candidates for 2022 NFL offensive player of the year

3 early offensive player of the year candidates in 2022

By: Tom Rodriguez

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and the MVP award has become a quarterback award. Out of the last 15 MVP winners, 14 of them have been quarterbacks. However, offensive player of the year has become an award given to the best skill player. Four out of the last five winners have been non-quarterbacks, with three of them being running backs. With free agency winding down and the draft fast approaching, who are the three backs most likely to win the award. 

Deebo Samuel, Wide back, San Francisco 49ers

I know. I know. He’s not technically a running back. Deebo Samuel was easily the most explosive player in the NFL in 2021. He is an elite receiver and became one of the most efficient runners in the NFL halfway through the season. With a full off-season to iron out what his role will exactly be, expect the 49ers to use him even more. Samuel is the early favorite to be the player who goes over 1,000 yards in both rushing and receiving. Samuel, one of the most unstoppable players in the sport, could see a more diverse role in the offense in 2022 with the addition of Trey Lance, a young quarterback whose athleticism brings a brand new dynamic to the San Francisco offense. 

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans 

After missing a large portion of the 2021 season, Derrick Henry seems poised for a comeback season in 2022. While the Titans’ offense remains the same for the most part, Henry’s production is just something that is guaranteed at this point. Something that may help spring some more long runs is Robert Woods. Woods, one of the best blocking receivers in the NFL, was acquired from the Los Angeles Rams for just a sixth-round pick earlier this month. Improved blocking on the outside could result in more highlight-reel runs for Henry this season. Derrick Henry is always a safe bet in terms of running backs. 

Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns 

Nick Chubb is quietly one of the best players in the NFL. Chubb produces despite Cleveland having no deep threat to spread the defense out and lighten boxes. Also, Chubb has been splitting carries and catches with Kareem Hunt. Hunt has been involved in trade rumors since the last off-season and the Browns just added Amari Cooper to be what they hoped Odell Beckham Jr. would become. Deshaun Watson coming in at quarterback (depending on how many games he can play) will also make defenses respect the air attack more as well. Chubb is primed for another phenomenal season. 

Who will win the NFC West in 2022?

Projecting the NFC West winner next season

By: Jake Rajala and Charlie Vakassian

The wild NFC West was the most interesting and talented NFL division last season. The Los Angeles Rams claimed NFC West prominence, but they were bullied and defeated by the San Francisco 49ers in both matchups in 2021. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals were the biggest surprise team in the NFL, as they won 11 games and dazzled opposing defenses with Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. It’s unclear which NFC West squad will ascend in 2022 and win the ultra-competitive NFC division next season. With that said, we will pick our favorites to win the NFC West? Let’s take a look.

San Francisco 49ers (Jake): 

There’s a lot of reason to pick the recent Super Bowl Champions, also known as the Los Angeles Rams, to the NFC West favorite in 2022. I still have my utmost confidence that Kyle Shanahan will take the league by storm with Trey Lance next season. So, I’m picking the 49ers to win the wild west in 2022. Lance has a gifted skill set and I believe Shanny will utilize his ability well in an offense featuring Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. 

If the 49ers can get a boost from their QB performance and they can add a quality CB, I believe they can take a massive swing in wins next season. They lost to the division-rival Seattle Seahawks by a combined 10 points in 2021. Jimmy Garoppolo also arguably threw the game away against the Tennessee Titans, as they lost 20-17. He missed a wide-open target for an easy touchdown on one play. 

The 49ers might have had 7 losses last season, but I believe they were the best 7-loss team in the past few seasons. Shanahan’s team beat the AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals, the Rams twice, and they also barely lost to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 30-28. 

Lance will not only look to improve his production in 2022 but his supporting cast will look to take positive steps. Brandon Aiyuk had a sophomore slump, but he’s shown his prominence in year one. If Aiyuk excels again, Samuel and Aiyuk will be a terrific pass-catching duo. The 49ers also have the 23-year-old Elijah Mitchell, who ousted 963 rushing yards in 11 games last season. 

The 49ers don’t only have the potential and bright play-calling to be a regular-season juggernaut in the NFC, but they have more confidence than the LA Rams in future head-to-head matchups. SF has edged out the Rams in six of the past 7 games. Sean McVay is basically Shanahan’s little brother. If the Cardinals take a step back without Kyler Murray and the 49ers face the Rams for a pivotal division game, I have faith in the 49ers to wreak havoc on the Rams and come out with the division title.

Arizona Cardinals (Charles):

In a remarkably strong NFC West, it is conceivable for just about any of the 4 teams to come away with the division title in a given year. While each team is undoubtedly strong, there are some question marks that leave a few of the teams short of a division title in 2022.

The Seahawks and Russel Wilson seem poised for a divorce, as Wilson scrubbed his social media of all Seahawks-related items, and has been rumored to want a fresh start. Murray has done a similar gesture, but I believe they will work things out as the offseason continues. I expect he’s filled with too much negative emotion due to the season eclipsing.

The Rams, while coming off of a Super Bowl title, have several of their prominent contributors facing free agency (OBJ, Von Miller, Austin Corbett, Darious Williams, Brian Allen) and are $-21M against the cap, with almost no draft picks to augment their core. The 49ers are in flux, with an inconsistent Jimmy Garoppolo on the trade block, and their first round pick in Trey Lance had limited experience in his first NFL season. This leaves the Arizona Cardinals as the team best suited to capture the NFC West division crown in 2022.

The Cardinals have faced their fair share of offseason questions already, as Kyler Murray was criticized within the organization for his lack of leadership. However, the two sides have taken steps to mend the bonds that were broken. Murray is the best two-way QB in the division, with his elite rushing ability, and his passing chops only rivaled by Matthew Stafford. He has one of the best big-play wide receivers in the NFL in DeAndre Hopkins, and a strong running game anchored by James Conner. The Cardinals defense was 9th against the Pass, anchored by CB Byron Murphy and stud safety Budda Baker. The run defense was admittedly more suspect but was due to prize acquisition JJ Watt suffering from a bad shoulder injury. 

Arizona will need to bring back James Conner, who ran for over 700 yards and found the end zone 15 times. Zach Ertz and Christian Kirk will also be hitting free agency on the offensive side of the ball. Chandler Jones is the primary player to resign on defense, as he is a premier pass rusher. Arizona can free up $25M by cutting or restructuring the contracts of DJ Humphries and Jordan Phillips. Armed with the 23rd pick in the NFL Draft, the Cardinals can get an edge rusher to pair with Edwards, or a corner to go with Murphy. George Karlaftis or Trent McDuffie would be amazing fits to boost the defense, as I expect free agency to be devoted to helping Kyler Murray. 

The Cardinals were not the best team in the NFC West in 2021, but have the weapons, the talent, and the skill to take the division crown. Kyler Murray will have an MVP season, and the Cardinals defense will step up to another level, anchored by a strong secondary and an improved third year by Isaiah Simmons. 

Detroit Lions secondary is undermining the team’s new attitude

The Detroit Lions secondary is full of question marks

By: Jake Rajala

The Detroit Lions suffer yet another heartbreaking loss in Week 3. The final seconds of the contest ended with Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker successfully completing an NFL record 66-yard field goal, which handed the Ravens an unbelievable 19-17 victory. After the game ended, the sports world largely reacted to two sequences: the successful field goal by Tucker and the “missed penalty on a delay of game” by the Ravens just prior to their field goal attempt. I don’t believe either of those actions should be seen as the reason why the Lions lost this game, or the main focus looking ahead. 

I firmly believe the reason why the spirited Lions lost their third straight game is none other than their achilles heel. Their biggest weakness has to be none other than their secondary and their inability to slow down an opposing team’s top weapon. I believe the biggest play of the game was when DET allowed a non-elite passing QB in Lamar Jackson to connect with Sammy Watkins on an unthinkable 4th and 18th with 24 seconds left. 

The Lions didn’t get gashed by Lamar overall, but they did break when it mattered and they continued to struggle with locking down Jackson’s main target in Mark Andrews. The Ravens TE logged 5 catches for 109 yards after notching just eight receptions and 77 yards in the first two weeks combined. Week 3 wasn’t the only contest where the Lions got steamrolled by the top opposing weapon. In Week 1, The 49ers delivered 41 points on the Lions, which was largely sent by their WR1 Deebo Samuel, who had a career day with nine catches, 189 yards, and one receiving touchdown. After the Lions got gushed by Jimmy G and Samuel, the Lions didn’t have an answer for Davante Adams in Week 2. The Packers WR1 captured eight catches for 121 yards, which helped his team unleash 35 pts in a huge divisional victory.

 

It’s been all too common for Aaron Glenn’s secondary to fold in each week this season. The Lions have been excellent in stopping the run and it’s safe to say Jared Goff has exceeded expectations in the rebuilt offense thus far. On the flip side, Glenn needs to develop a more robust plan to slow down passing attacks or acquire a talent that can match an elite skill talent. The Lions 2020 high draft pick in CB Jeffery Okudah is out for the season and their secondary also carries numerous average rookie profiles. 


It’s easy to yell at the refs (as always), but the missed call on the delay of game “by a second” is very common — it’s just uncommon to happen on a play before the game-winning field goal. As for Tucker’s record-setting field goal, it was NOT a miracle by any means. It’s a record and it’s very rare, but the elements were perfect for the Ravens elite kicker. He is unequivocally a slim amount of kickers in the league that actually could complete such an attempt & and in the very thin pool, he’s fortunate to be given an attempt of that magnitude, from the “middle of the field”, with the game on the line. It was certain that Tucker is one of the few kickers in the league that had a realistic chance of completing that field goal if he had the chance. Unfortunately, the Lions secondary crumbled when it mattered most and they allowed the historically great Tucker to have the attempt. With that being said, I believe the appropriate response from the game and looking forward has to be how they can fix their lagging secondary and prevent lapses in the first, second, third, and fourth quarter.

Why the QB situation may prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West

The 49ers QB spot is a question mark

By: Andy Davies

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. Only the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers (both 6) have more Super Bowl wins than the 49ers (5). The 49ers’ five Super Bowls all came between the years of 1981 and 1994. They have lost two since, in the 2012 and 2019 seasons. The quarterbacks that led the 49ers to the Lombardi Trophy were Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young. Three of those five wins saw Montana as the starter and Young as the backup.

Young is seen by many as the best backup quarterback in history, considering the gold jacket that he earned despite many years as the backup to Montana. He would win a Super Bowl as the starter after the franchise moved on from Montana. Ever since Young decided to hang up his cleats, the 49ers have struggled to find his replacement. Have they found the guy in Trey Lance?

Perhaps, but here is why the quarterback situation involving Lance and current starter Jimmy Garoppolo could prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West during the 2021 season.

Struggles Since Young

Jeff Garcia was the man to come in for Young. During his five seasons in the Bay, he threw for 113 touchdowns and 56 interceptions as well as 16,408 passing yards. He had a 35-36 record as a starter for the 49ers in the regular season and a 1-2 record in the postseason, meaning he never hit the heights of his predecessor.

Alex Smith was the number one overall pick in 2005, shattering Aaron Rodgers’ dreams. However, he was a good quarterback, not a great quarterback. Colin Kaepernick replaced Smith and took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. They ended up losing to the Baltimore Ravens in a game often called the ‘Blackout Bowl’. Kaepernick failed to live up to the standards he set that season.

He would be kicked out of the league for taking the knee in a protest against police brutality in 2016. He has not played a snap in the NFL since. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded from the Patriots to the 49ers midway through the 2017 season. He gave hope to the organization after winning all five of the games he started in 2017. The fanbase had hope going into the 2018 season.

Many non-49ers fans had San Francisco down as their dark horse for the season. A season-ending injury to Garoppolo in Week 3 saw the starting role shared between Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. However, the 49ers finished 4-12 as they went into 2019 with the second overall pick. Nick Bosa was selected and transformed the defense of San Francisco and Jimmy G had the best season of his career. He threw for 3,978 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Despite these stats, Garoppolo saw his production limited in the NFC Championship game as the coaching staff decided to use more of their running game. This led to many questions leading to the Super Bowl. The 49ers threw away a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter as they would end up losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54.

Garoppolo was criticized heavily for an overthrown pass to Emmanuel Sanders that would have given San Francisco back the lead. His 2020 season saw a mixture of poor form and injury. During the 2021 offseason, the 49ers traded up with the Miami Dolphins to gain the number three overall pick. They took Lance with the pick, showcasing their intentions to eventually move off from Garoppolo. There is now talk of whether San Francisco and head coach Kyle Shanahan will start Lance in week one. The other scenarios discussed are either Lance coming in mid-season or sitting out the whole campaign as the backup to Garoppolo. The uncertainty will have a significant impact on the 49ers’ season.

The Strength of the NFC West

This is a problem that will affect all four teams in the best division in the NFL. There is a chance that all four teams can make the playoffs. Los Angeles has an exciting new quarterback in 2009 first overall pick Matthew Stafford. Both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals have quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray that they would never dream of trading away. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ starting quarterback is largely unpopular by fans, due to a mixture of the overthrown pass in the Super Bowl, his poor 2020 campaign and his injury record.

San Francisco has the least trusted quarterback in the division. With the position being one of the most crucial in all sports, it does not bode well for a team when there is uncertainty in the position. Garoppolo may be benched at some point during the season for Lance. However, the 49ers would be putting a rookie that will still be learning the system into the toughest division in the NFL.

Learning From Mahomes, Jackson, Tua and Burrow

If San Francisco are to help Lance succeed, they will need to take some lessons from recent draft classes. Patrick Mahomes, widely seen as the best quarterback in the league, spent all but one game of his 2017 rookie season as a backup to Alex Smith. The Chiefs then traded Smith the following offseason and Mahomes has never looked back. In his first three full seasons as a starter in the NFL, he has reached two Super Bowls, winning one. He has also been crowned MVP and Super Bowl MVP and reached three successive AFC Championship games. All three have been at home. On the flip side, 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow started in week one of his rookie year. He wouldn’t last the season, only playing ten games before injury curtailed his first NFL campaign. He was impressive before his injury but there are no guarantees he will be the same player when he returns.

Lamar Jackson was a backup to Joe Flacco during his 2018 rookie year but won the starting role midseason. He has since gone on to win an MVP award and is the future of the franchise. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins brought Tua Tagovailoa in mid-season but he struggled in his rookie season. He is seen to already be on the hot seat, with many feeling the Dolphins rushed him in. These examples all show there are reasons for the 49ers to be hasty when it comes to choosing when to bring Lance into the starting role.

Lance Or Garoppolo In 2021?

The 49ers will have to decide soon who their starter will be in 2021. Considering Lance has only played one full season (2019), he is likely to start the season as the backup. He only threw for a combined total of 31 passing attempts, two touchdowns and 1 interception across the 2018 and 2020 seasons, albeit the latter campaign being disrupted by the pandemic. He is likely to be a work in progress but his 28 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in 2019 mean that he is one for the future.

Garoppolo will likely start in week one but it was clear from the NFC Championship game that Shanahan doesn’t completely trust him.

Jimmy G is a capable quarterback but his health is a concern. Expect Garoppolo to remain as the starter provided the 49ers are winning games but for Lance to come in should Garoppolo either be injured or start the season poorly.

Should this happen, this will be the end of Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco. Depending on timing, he will then be traded either before the deadline or in the 2022 offseason.

Can The 49ers Returning Players Avoid A Repeat Of 2020?

This is key if the 49ers are to challenge for both the NFC West and the NFC. After earning the number one seed and reaching Super Bowl 54 during the 2019 campaign, San Francisco finished 6-10 in 2020 and bottom of the division. A ‘Super Bowl Hangover’ played its part but the main cause of such a decline was down to a colossal amount of injuries the team suffered. Along with the aforementioned Garoppolo, the 49ers also saw Bosa, Dee Ford, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel and Solomon Thomas miss large chunks of the 2020 season due to injury.

San Francisco had 33 players reported questionable and there were 186 occasions when the 49ers reported a player on injured reserve. They had the second-most injuries of any team in the NFL over the past twenty years. Should all these players come back, then this 49ers roster will be one of the best in the league. This will make life much easier for whoever the San Francisco starting quarterback is.

However, from the strength of the division to the uncertainty at quarterback, San Francisco will find it tough to win the NFC West.

3 reasons why the 49ers could return to a top 5 offense: New RBs arrive

49ers draft two running backs in the 2021 draft

Kyle Shanahan’s offense exited the 2020-2021 season with the 15th ranked offense and question marks presuming key positions on offense. Due to the lackluster offensive display and a fourth-place finish in the division, Shanahan made retooling the offense a high priority in the off-season. Now, at the eclipse of the NFL draft, it’s safe to say the new look offense is a major upgrade over the 2020 version. Not only did Shanny impress the NFL world with his additions to the offensive unit, but I believe he put a spark into the unit that can return it to being Top 5 in the league — as it was in 2019. 

Below are three reasons why:

  1. Return of George Kittle

George Kittle, the prolific TE, may have just proved in 2020 he’s one of the most indispensable players in the entire league. Kittle showed his worth to the 49ers when he was standing on the sideline for eight games and their offense was abysmal. 

In 2019, Pro Football Focus ranked Kittle the top player in the NFL. So, you may expect serious hurdles when he went down — but nobody would have foreseen the offense looking flat and being a third-down avalanche. Kittle is the key to the run game and pass game. In the past when Kittle went down with an injury, it was revealed that the 49ers YPC went from 4.9 with Kittle in the game, to 3 with him on the sidelines. Kittle flat out demolishes and laughs his way to crushing defenders for the success of the 49ers run game.

In the passing game, Kittle is one of the fastest and “arguably toughest to bring down” skill players in the NFL. Kitlte isn’t just a stat machine, but he also has a knack to making plays at the biggest moments. 

It’s hard to ask much more from a tight end than to be an elite run blocker and an elite pass catcher when the player’s team needs it the most. 

  1. Brandon Aiyuk entering year two 

The ceiling of the offense will rely heavily from explosion on the perimeter. Former rookie Brandon Aiyuk is the most talented wideout and they need the former first round pick to show out next season. Aiyuk missed four games last year, but his 16 game average would’ve been very impressive for a rookie: 

  • 997 yards
  • 7 touchdowns
  • 80 receptions

It’s also important to point out that Jimmy Garoppolo missed 10 games last season. Aiyuk performed well with one of the worst QB situations in the league. If Aiyuk is being the electric player he is, it will help his QB play beyond his abilities, create more opportunities for George Kittle from the TE position, then ultimately it will help the team in “tough divisional and playoff games”. 

Aiyuk simply can be the home run hitter and offer what they need to complement methodical drives and a strong running game. 

  1. Kenneth Gainwell and Elijah Mitchell 

1991. That was the last time prior to 2021 that the 49ers drafted two RBs in the same draft. Shanahan drafted Trey Sermon AND Elijah Mitchell in the 2021 NFL draft. The 49ers selected Sermon early in the draft (third round), while the 49ers got a steal with Mitchell in the sixth round. 

Sermon clocks a 4.58, which isn’t great for a RB, but the 6’1 220 bruising RB will be a good complement to Mostert’s speed. It can be lightning and thunder in the 49ers backfield. Mitchell is an elusive RB that’s been compared to Alvin Kamara. Kamara may be a stretch and Tarik Cohen may be a better comparison, but Mitchell will likely be involved in the passing game and a nice sprinkle as the RB3. 

The two rookie RBs will look to make an immediate impact in Kyle Shanahan’s orchestra that likes to be very precise with the running game.

Top Draft Targets for 49ers

Is Jimmy Garoppolo the long-term answer at quarterback?

By: Mike Obermuller

The San Francisco 49ers franchise has not had the best year and change since losing the Super Bowl in February of 2020. The injury bug came back during the 2020 season after its momentary respite (the Niners had been hit hard by injuries the previous two seasons before their NFC Championship run). Then, after going from first to worst in the NFC West with a 6-10 record, the capper was losing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and a large chunk of their staff to the New York Jets. Passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur and offensive line coach John Benton were amongst the notable coaching losses.

NFL free agency has come with mixed results as well. Here are some of the more important ins and outs for the Niners this March:

Re-SignedAdditionsLossesUnsigned
Trent Williams, LTAlex Mack, CSolomon Thomas, DLRichard Sherman, CB
Jaquiski Tartt, SSamson Ebukam, OLBKendrick Bourne, WRTevin Coleman, RB
Jason Verrett, CBTavon Wilson, DBKerry Hyder, DEJerick McKinnon, RB
Jeff Wilson Jr., RBZach Kerr, DTAhkello Witherspoon, CBJordan Reed, TE
Emmanuel Moseley, CBRonald Blair, DENick Mullens, QB
D.J. Jones, DTBen Garland, C/G

After their most recent moves, San Francisco should have a little less than $18 million in cap space, and a total of nine draft picks to work with in filling what holes they have left. The biggest questions marks are undoubtedly still at quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and guard.

As you can see, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have much more room to operate in the 2021 NFL Draft than they did a year ago. Here are a few players that the 49ers may target in the first couple rounds.

4. Wyatt Davis, G (Ohio State)

The fourth ranked offensive guard on WalterFootball, Wyatt Davis, excelled as a run blocker in college. The 6’4″ Buckeye helped pave the way for Trey Sermon and Master Teague III last season, but was less reliable in pass protection. This fits the Niners M.O. though. Shanahan loves to pound the ball on the ground, and assuming San Francisco keeps all their picks, they may be able to grab Davis with that third round selection.

If another team nabs Davis, a secondary option might be Notre Dame guard, Aaron Banks, another interior lineman that loves to creates gaps for his running backs.

3. Greg Newsome II, CB (Northwestern)

The Niners definitely need a cornerback to replace Richard Sherman. Rather than signing one, they should get younger at the position and build through the draft. That second rounder could definitely nab a quality corner like Greg Newsome II out of Northwestern. Newsome is 6’1″ 190 pounds, and he’s known for his intelligence and toughness as a shut-down corner in college. He had some injury issues during his time at Northwestern, but his 2020 stats were really impressive. Off 34 coverage targets, Newsome only allowed 12 catches and 93 yards through the air. Here’s the Wildcat in action.

2. DeVonta Smith, WR (Alabama)

San Francisco could also use another offensive weapon, especially if they stick with Jimmy Garroppolo at quarterback. Early mock drafts had wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Ja’Marr Chase going in the top five, but that ludricrous notion has since gone with the wind. Wide receivers rarely get drafted that high, even ones that are as skilled as Smith and Chase, and the fact is even franchises that want them may have the option to trade down and draft them anyway. One team that may be in the market for a wide-out is the Miami Dolphins, who currently sit third in the draft. The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions may also be in the mix at this position (number six and seven in the order), but both teams have other needs as well.

The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner has dropped below Chase in positional ranks due to his size (and some analysts also have Jaylen Waddle ahead of Smith). That means he could fall to 12 overall, which would make the perfect fit alongside Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel in this young wide receiver core. Smith is thought to be the best pure route runner in the draft, with incredible hands and effortless talent. That sounds like a Shanahan scheme fit that could drive opposing teams mad (considering they already have to guard excellent route runners like Aiyuk and Samuel).

1. Trey Lance, QB (North Dakota State)

The 49ers could also go all in on a quarterback in the first round. Some analysts have Trey Lance getting selected as high as number four overall now, as the typical quarterback hype gains more and more steam heading towards draft night. The North Dakota State QB has been compared to Josh Allen due to his physical attributes, but his lack of experience against top talent may be a concern for some NFL teams. San Francisco has also been tied to Justin Fields in mocks, but at number 12 it seems even less likely they get their hands on the Ohio State star.

Whether it’s Lance or Fields, the Niners would probably have to trade up to get their guy if they choose this route, costing themselves future draft capital. This doesn’t appear to be an issue for Lynch though. The GM has been very active in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes this offseason, and Deshaun would cost just as much (or more) as it would take to move up in the first round.

So is Garoppolo the long-term answer in San Francisco? The 49ers brass definitely don’t seem to think so, begging the question, who does?

Buy or Sell? Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk

By: Austin Ebersole (@EbersoleAustin)

With one of the most dynamic receiver groups in the entire National Football League, the San Francisco 49ers are going to be an exciting team to watch in 2021 and beyond. Even though we are unsure at this point who will be under center out in the Bay next season, we do know that he is going to adore the plethora of play makers that will be surrounding him.

Wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are looking to set the league on fire next season. After just playing in five games together in 2020, the hope for the 49ers is that both players will be healthy and ready to terrorize defenses next Fall. Not only are the Niners excited about their wide receiver duo being on the field at the same time, but “the Faithful” get pumped up when they are on the field together as well.

As the rest of the world is excited about these two studs, dynasty football managers should be as well. Both players are young, capable of running the entire route tree, and possess the ability to score every time they touch the ball. Looking ahead, I want to share with you all why I believe you should buy or sell these dynamic receivers in your dynasty leagues.

Tyshun Raequan “Deebo” Samuel

DEEEEBO is not only a fun name to announce, but one hell of a football player. Selected in the 2nd Round of the 2019 draft out of the University of South Carolina, the all around receiver has been a joy to watch. In his rookie season, Deebo brought excitement to his fantasy owners by finishing as the 32nd ranked reciever in PPR leagues.

With a WR3 finish in his rookie campaign where he played in 15 games, Samuel has shown that he can be productive. From Weeks 8 to 16 in 2019, Deebo averaged 14 points per game in full point ppr. Even in 2020, the five games where Deebo was healthy and played over 60% of the offensive snaps, he averaged 14.5 ppg.

Now I understand that there’s a lot of concern about Deebo’s durability as he was limited to just seven total games in ’20, but his consistency when he plays as shown above and talent makes him a buy for me. And if there’s one thing that every good dynasty owner knows, is that you buy low and sell high. There’s no better time to buy a young, stud receiver than when he misses some time the season before.

Other than only being 25 years old and a great buy low candidate after a disappointing season, the wide receiver in a running back body is tough to bring down. Since 2019, Deebo averages 9.8 yards after the catch which is the best across the NFL in that span. With this league leading ability, it’s easy to see why the Niners also get the swiss army knife receiver involved in the running game as he averages 8.4 yards per rush in his career.

I can’t say that I don’t blame managers for wanting to move on from the big bodied receiver after this past season, but the return you would get doesn’t match the potential that he still possesses. I view Deebo as a “poor mans” AJ Brown, and honestly there’s a real chance that he finishes as a top 24 WR in 2021. Buy now while you still can, and before we know who will be throwing him the ball next season.

Brandon Aiyuk

Out of Arizona State University, the former Sun Devil showcased his talent in 2020 and showed football fans why the 49ers moved up in the first round to draft him. In his rookie season, the 6’1 receiver finished as the 35th ranked wide out in in ppr leagues, and 33rd in standard. His 12.5 yards per reception and 12.8 yards per carry are big time numbers, and justify why his owners are excited for his future.

What is exciting about Aiyuks outlook, is that he was still productive last season when all three of the 49ers top receiving options saw the field. Weeks 4 through 7 saw Kittle, Deebo, and Aiyuk play together, and the first round pick saw 21 targets while hauling in 13 of them for 189 yards and a score. When you throw in his 38 yard touchdown run in week 4, he averaged 12 ppg.

However, I find myself struggling to want to buy Aiyuk in my dynasty leagues. Even though he finished as WR5 among the rookie receivers, I have concerns about him always being the third option in San Francisco’s passing attack. The Niners finished last season as the 16th highest team in regards to pass attempts, but that was with a 6-10 record. I don’t expect them to pass the ball as much as they did this past season as the defense will be healthy again putting them in more winning situations.

As you can see above, the impressive rookie receiver is capable of helping out his fantasy owners, but a few dominoes have to fall for him to be the weekly starter you may want him to be. When both Kittle and Deebo play, Aiyuk’s production was that of a WR3, but those numbers may be hard for him to sustain as his team will be vastly improved in 2021.

I do love Brandon Aiyuk the player, and I believe in his talent, but I’m willing to be bold and see what I could get for him. If I needed help at another position, I believe you could dangle the soon-to-be second year receiver out there to address your team’s needs. His first round pedigree and impressive rookie season warrants a nice return.

Please feel free to follow me on Twitter @EbersoleAustin

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