Why 49ers road to Super Bowl LV just got tougher after 2020 NFL Draft

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers addressed every position it needed to during the weekend of the draft. Yet the road to get back to the Super Bowl in 2020 simultaneously got much harder.

The San Francisco 49ers did what they could to replenish the roster with the limited amount of draft capital that the team had going into the 2020 NFL Draft. Niner Noise’s own Jeremy Wohlfart graded the Niners draft a B-plus, which I believe is a fair assessment. That article can be viewed here.

The first-round additions of South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw and Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk to replace the departures of former 49ers standouts, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and wideout Emmanuel Sanders, is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Both players figure to make their ways into the Niners starting lineup from day one. The other big addition didn’t come in the form of a draft pick but rather in a trade for former Washington Redskins left tackle, Trent Williams. This again was a position of need since longtime 49ers Pro Bowler Joe Staley announced to the team Super Bowl LIV was the last time he would put the pads on in the NFL.

All these moves make sense for the long-term health of the franchise, which should have Niners fans pumped up. Namely, Kinlaw and Aiyuk on rookie contracts provide much better value than paying top-dollar free-agent money to Buckner and Sanders. The financial situation of the franchise was definitely improved, but did the roster improve as well?

As great a job as 49ers general manager John Lynch was able to do over the draft weekend, the realistic best-case scenario is that the team’s talent gained was equal to the talent it lost this offseason. San Francisco is a great team right now, but some might say if you aren’t getting better, then you are getting worse in this league.

With all that being said, the 49ers are an extremely well-coached, talented team that has a great chance to go deep into the postseason in 2020 as long as it remains healthy. This optimism is shown in the early NFL power rankings, which have the Niners ranked as the second-best team heading into the new season behind only the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

The tough road to Super Bowl LV exists because of the other teams gunning for the 2019 NFC Champions.

NFC West Improvements

The already tough NFC West just got tougher this offseason. The Seattle Seahawks will always be a nuisance for as long as quarterback Russell Wilson and head coach Pete Carroll are with the team. Seattle mainly addressed the defensive side of the ball, adding a talented outside linebacker in Jordyn Brooks from Texas Tech who figures to start right away.

The Arizona Cardinals continue to improve as the versatile Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons somehow fell through the cracks to No. 8 in the draft. If kryptonite for Niners super tight end George Kittle exists, then it’s in the form of Simmons. The former Tiger is strong and fast enough to shut down tight ends and slot receivers. He significantly improves the Cardinals defense that struggled last year.

The Los Angeles Rams are the only team in the division which did not necessarily improve upon entering the 2020 season. Still, they are a team that cannot be taken lightly as they are just over a year removed from a Super Bowl appearance themselves.

NFC Improvements

The NFC was considered the tougher conference last season and it seemed to improve as well. Longtime New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who dominated the AFC for almost two decades, now finds himself under center in the NFC South with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The already potent New Orleans Saints offense brought back quarterback Drew Brees and stole the aforementioned Sanders from the Niners to line up opposite of arguably the best wide receiver in the game, Michael Thomas.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys both significantly improved through the draft. The Eagles added a legitimate No. 1 wideout in TCU’s Jalen Reagor. The Cowboys got a steal on possibly the most talented receiver in the draft with Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.

The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings look to stay atop the NFC North led by Pro Bowl quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins, respectively.

It’s extremely tough for a team that lost in the Super Bowl to make it back the following year and it will not be an easy task for the Niners this upcoming season.

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All of this doesn’t mean that the 49ers are doomed come playoff time next season. A healthy Jimmy Garoppolo in his second full season under head coach Kyle Shanahan should help put San Francisco right back into the middle of the playoff mix. The road to a Super Bowl any year is tough but the bar is incredibly high for the NFC in 2020.