The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!
The 2021 San Francisco team had a down and up year. After finishing 6-10 in 2020, they looked poised for another deflating season after Week 9, sitting at 3-5. They ended up storming back winning seven of their last nine games, including two over the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams. They also were one dropped interception away from beating the Rams in the playoffs. I’m talking to you Jaquiski Tartt.
The team was surprisingly good after trading the world to move up and draft a QB, and then letting him sit for the season. With an offense ranking seventh in the league and a defense ranking third, the Niners showed they can handle adversity and come out (almost) on top.
Hopefully the Niners off-season moves are not done.
The most notable change from ’21 to ’22 is going to be at quarterback. It’s Trey Day in San Fran, and I’d say not only does the team ride on the performance of their redshirt quarterback, but the jobs of John Lynch and Mike Shanahan are directly tied to his performance. They gave up far too much to get him for Lance to turn into anything but a perennial Pro-Bowler.
However, with Trey Day approaching quickly, there’s an elephant in the room. Jimmy Garappolo is still under contract for a hefty sum and the trade market for him is almost non-existent. No team was prepared to give anything up for an average-ish quarterback that was having shoulder surgery. Now that he’s healthy, his agents have been given the go ahead to find a trade partner. With Carolina getting an OKish quarterback in Baker Mayfield, there’s few other destinations he could land as a starter. His situation has been handled poorly and the Niners aren’t going to get much, if anything for him. It’s very possible he could be the most expensive back-up in league history, and on a team he led to the NFC Championship last year.
The Niners got some help in their weak areas (cornerback and special teams), but lost center Alex Mack and two others from their offensive line. They also lost Raheem Mostert, who had significant injury issues the past couple years but when healthy was one of the fastest players in the league.
Then there’s Deebo Samuel. Deebo wanted a contract. A big big contract. He split time out wide and lined up in the backfield last season and saw incredible success in both. He’s the best player on the team and he has a trade request out there. Something has to give there. The Niners would have saved $17 million by cutting Jimmy at the beginning of the offseason and then could have given Deebo whatever he wanted. Instead they have a disgruntled superstar and an incredibly expensive lame duck quarterback for which they’ll be lucky to get a Sixth Round pick.
The 49ers have a lot of love to give in fantasy. Trey Lance is going to put up numbers, even if he’s not that good. He’s fast and not scared to run. He can execute in the zone read as well or better than Jimmy, but his accuracy comes into question–basically Lamar Jackson. While that may win leagues, it may not win games and if he’s forced to throw the ball it’s anyone’s guess as to what happens.
At running back, they have Elijah Mitchell. I see big things for Mitchell this season after racking up 100 yards from scrimmage per game last year as a rookie. Another year in the offense combined with a quarterback who is probably going to need to hand off quite a bit should be good for him. As long as he stays healthy, even in a rotating system he should be the man on a run first team. Expect big things.
Wide receiver is waaaay sketchier. While they’re bringing back Brandon Aiyuk who went for 826 yards and five TDs as the second receiver. We still don’t know what is going on with Deebo. If Aiyuk is thrust into the WR1, there’s no telling what is going to happen here. He’s not as versatile as Deebo, so you’re losing those rush yards and scores on the ground. If Deebo is there, he’s a lock it in starter and Aiyuk could be a bye week filler/flex type. No Deebo and I’m grabbing Aiyuk as a probable Top 24 receiver. It was reported multiple times by multiple sources that Aiyuk was Lance’s guy. If that holds, we could see a breakout year. I mean, someone has to catch the ball, right?
George Kittle is still the tight end. If you have Kittle, you’re starting him. Pretty much all the analysis you need there.
The 49ers have the potential to win the Super Bowl. If Lance comes out and is the quarterback they’ve been missing since Steve Young retired, the offensive line finds a way to gel quickly and the defense continues it’s high level of dominance, there’s nothing to stop them. If they get Jimmy G level from Lance, they’ve still got a shot as they did last year. If Trey fails, so does the offense, the team, and everyone from John Lynch down gets the axe. I see them getting into the playoffs, and once they’re there the defense can take over. It’s not going to be an easy season by any means, but there’s a lot to be optimistic about. Until there isn’t.
I have them at 11-6, with a loss in the NFC Championship but knocking Aaron Rodgers out of the playoffs yet again.