San Francisco 49ers 2021 Season Preview: Can they top the best division in football?

The 2021 San Francisco 49ers are projected to win more games than the rival Seattle Seahawks. But does our 49ers season preview agree?

The San Francisco 49ers are the darlings of Las Vegas oddsmakers, but does their 2021 season preview show eventual division winners? There are many unknowns with the 49ers, and those questions start with the quarterback situation, which is far from fleshed out. However, they’ve proven effective when healthy, and now they have two quarterbacks to run the gauntlet with.

San Francisco 49ers 2021 season preview

Part of the Vegas love affair comes from the 49ers’ lenient schedule in 2021. According to Vegas win totals, they project to have the easiest schedule in the NFL. They have to face the NFC West, which is six decently difficult games. However, the totality of their situation is ideal.

Additionally, the 49ers face seven teams projected to win less than seven games in the 2021 NFL season. The 49ers have the Lions, Texans, Bears, Jaguars, Eagles, Bengals, and Falcons on the 2021 slate. These are contests they should win relatively easily.

Offseason additions and losses

The 49ers certainly had a busy offseason. They lost wide receiver Kendrick Bourne to the New England Patriots on the offensive side of the ball. Tevin Coleman also walked away from the franchise, heading to the New York Jets on a one-year deal.

Defensively, their losses were a tad more significant. After 2020 saw his contract expire, Richard Sherman is no longer with San Francisco (and still a free agent) after a disturbing incident at his in-laws. Additionally, San Francisco lost Kerry Hyder, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Solomon Thomas in free agency. Yet, their biggest loss came when defensive coordinator Robert Saleh joined the Jets as their next head coach.

The 49ers signed Alex Mack away from the Falcons. He’ll provide a veteran presence on the offensive line. They’ll need to look to the draft for his eventual replacement, but he’ll provide an immediate upgrade.

They moved a lot of bodies on the defensive line. San Francisco signed Maurice Hurst, Samson Ebukam, and Zach Kerr to help bolster their defensive line.

GM John Lynch and Co. also secured essential extensions and re-signed key players. The team extended left tackle Trent Williams for six years. They also retained Kyle Juszczyk, Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley, and Jaquiski Tartt, maintaining some continuity in the back end.

2021 NFL Draft

Before the draft, the San Francisco 49ers made waves. They traded from No. 12 to No. 3 to select the quarterback of Kyle Shanahan’s dreams. There was wild debate surrounding which quarterback they’d choose — Trey Lance or Mac Jones. Eventually, it became clear Lance was their guy, and it’s easy to see why.

Lance is a well-built quarterback with outstanding athletic ability and a 240 mm howitzer connected to his right shoulder. His offense at North Dakota State relied on heavy personnel and run-heavy sets. Lance played a lot from under center, and the passing attack was littered with play-action concepts and bootlegs. He’s inexperienced but supremely talented.

The 49ers spent their next two picks on offense, drafting interior offensive lineman Aaron Banks and running back Trey Sermon. Sermon is the highest-drafted running back of the Shanahan era. Most of the work done in San Francisco has come from late Day 3 or UDFA backs.

Their next selection, Michigan CB Ambry Thomas, is a high-upside pick. He possesses great lateral mobility and fluidity along with explosion. He’s built in the mold of the modern cover corner at 6’0″, 190 pounds.

Day 3 selections

On Day 3, the 49ers selected Jaylon Moore, a great scheme fit in Shanahan’s outside rushing attack. He provides depth and upside at the tackle position. After Moore, the 49ers went with Oregon CB Deommodore Lenoir. He’ll be in a battle with multiple others to secure a roster spot.

The 49ers rounded out their draft with USC safety Talanoa Hufanga and Louisiana running back Elijah Mitchell. Hufanga is a violent safety, but his overall game left a lot to be desired. He plays like a linebacker, but he weighed in at under 200 pounds on his pro day. Mitchell fits the mold of a Shanahan back. He’s incredibly explosive and a weapon as a pass catcher.

Where do San Francisco players rank in PFN’s Top 100?

The 49ers don’t have any players ranked from 50-100, but they still have four names in PFN’s Top 100 NFL Players.

49) Trent Williams

Williams wasn’t given an All-Pro nod in 2020, but he was arguably the best left tackle in the game. Despite his advanced age, he was awarded a massive extension after the season. He’s also still one of the freakiest athletes we’ve seen at the position.

46) Fred Warner

The PFN staff named Warner the top linebacker in the NFL entering 2021. He covers like one of the top-end safeties in the league from his linebacker spot. He’s not invisible to quarterbacks — they simply can’t fathom he’ll make it to the passing lanes he does. Warner has also improved against the run, becoming a more consistent processor and tackler.

26) Nick Bosa

Like his older brother, Nick Bosa was one of the cleanest draft prospects of the past few seasons. They were professional pass rushers in college, and that ability immediately transferred to the pro level. He’s not an athletic marvel like Chase Young or Myles Garrett, but Bosa blends athletic ability with unbelievable technical proficiency.

18) George Kittle

There is no better all-around tight end in the NFL. Kittle’s ability as a blocker is what makes him so special. He’s also a physical specimen, which is something of a prerequisite at the tight end position in modern football. Kittle is a monster after the catch, and he is the king of the middle of the field.

49ers 2021 prediction

Kyle Shanahan receives considerable praise for his offenses, despite being 29-35 as a head coach. However, many of those games have come with Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard under center. Now, with his hand-picked quarterback waiting in the oft-injured wings of Jimmy Garoppolo, Shanahan will quickly run dry of excuses if this team doesn’t succeed in 2021.

Offense

The 2021 San Francisco 49ers offense previews to be one of the more efficient groups. Their receiving talent is perfect for the offensive construction. If Deebo Samuel remains healthy, he’s going to show how impressive he is with the ball in his hands. In 2020, he averaged the most yards after the catch of any player and 4 more yards than the next-closest receiver.

Defense

Losing Saleh could end in a bit of an adjustment curve to begin the season. Like Samuel, Javon Kinlaw is a superior talent that struggles with injury. His knee will always be a concern, as it has already popped up in camp. Bosa also struggles to stay on the field. They’ll need both to aid their somewhat downgraded secondary.

2021 49ers record prediction

The 49ers might win the division in 2021, but it won’t be easy. Despite their easy schedule, this team simply has more unknowns than the Seahawks or Rams. The 49ers bring Lance in to play, and they go 10-7 with a Wild Card berth in this 2021 season preview.

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